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Monday, January 21, 2008

Sundance Film Festival 2008: Time Crimes

It's time for my first film recommendation of the 2008 Sundance Film Festival: Nacho Vigalondo's Time Crimes.

Time Crimes is a thrilling story about time travel. Though it starts out rather light-heartedly sedate, it quickly intensifies into a constant adrenaline rush. The film is in Spanish with subtitles, but the subtitles are well written, and most of the action is unspoken anyway. Besides, with all the adrenaline pumping through your system, you won't even feel as if you are watching a subtitled film.

Hector and his wife, Clara, have moved into a house at the edge of a wooded area. While looking through binoculars in his backyard, Hector sees a woman hiding in the woods. He goes to investigate, while Clara goes out to buy dinner. In a clearing, Hector finds the woman naked and apparently sleeping, and he tries to get her attention by tossing sticks toward her body. But then, just as the woman appears to stir, Hector is stabbed in the arm by a man with pink bandages wrapped around his head wielding a pair of scissors. Hector runs into the woods and, as the sun goes down, he stumbles upon a secluded laboratory, where he decides to hide from his pursuer.

Inside, Hector finds a walkie talkie that connects him to a lab worker in a nearby silo. The lab worker tells Hector to follow a lighted path up to the silo, where it will be safer for him to hide. As Hector makes his way along the path, the lab worker radios that he can see the bandaged man in pursuit. Hector runs up the path, and finally makes it to the silo. The lab worker tells Hector to hide inside a mysterious tank, but Hector hesitates until the bandaged man's face appears in the window. Hector jumps into the tank, and when he reemerges, it is daylight, and the lab worker doesn't seem to remember who Hector is. The two exit the silo, and Hector looks through his binoculars towards his house, where he sees himself exit his house into his backyard to greet Clara. Now there are two Hectors living in the same time line!

Trying to calm down the distraught Hector, the lab worker draws a diagram to explain the theory of time travel. It looks something like this:

This diagram of time travel is composed of a single time line, only the time line isn't linear, but Z-shaped. At the end of the top part of the time line, Hector 1 travels back in time along the diagonal and thereby becomes Hector 2, but Hectors 1 and 2 are now existing parallel to one another in the same time line, thus they can see each other and interact with each other.

Now Hector 2 has to try to fix the situation by luring Hector 1 into the tank so that he can go back to his wife. But meddling with time always seems to make things worse. And in this movie, it seems that time and events are much less controllable than one might think.

Unlike in the movie Primer, which monotonously relives events over and over after each time travel, in Time Crimes, you see the same series of events, but each time from a different Hector perspective. And in each shift of perspective, Hector plays a different roll: victim, perpetrator, and savior. If you want to look at it symbolically, you might say that these different rolls represent the inner potential we each have as humans to play these rolls ourselves: the potential for innocence, corruption, or heroics. Of course, this could be reading too much into it, but I like the interpretation.

I'll leave the rest of the movie for you to see, and I can tell you that what I've already told you is only the beginning of a very interesting chain of events. This is one of the best time travel movies I've ever seen. I wholeheartedly recommend that you try to catch one of the last three viewings, if you can:

See Time Crimes:
Wed. January 23, 11:59pm @ Broadway Centre Cinemas V, (300 S. State Street, SLC)
Thu. January 24, Midnight @ Egyptian Theatre, (Main Street, Park City)
Sat. January 26, 6:15pm @ Holiday Village Cinema III, (near Albertson's, Park City)

Update: Apparently United Artists has bought the remake rights for Time Crimes, so unfortunately, there will probably be an American production. This will probably be a much worse film, since the Spanish version is perfect, and Hollywood has a way of ruining perfect things. I wish people would just get over their fear of subtitles. Then maybe the remake market would die out.

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Sarahbellum said...

I had tickets but after reading the synopsis decided to date my couch and send my brother. Who reported back with, "It was okay, I guess. Didn't have a beginning or an end but if you're into movie middles, it's good."

It's nice to hear a better review.

Sra said...

That's interesting that your brother doesn't think it had a beginning or an end. I disagree, but I think I can understand where he's coming from.

Time travel movies are cyclical and not linear, and thus they don't seem to have a beginning or an end. There are three Hectors in this movie (well, technically there are an infinite number of Hectors each going through the three stages -- and infinity definitely doesn't have a beginning or an end). But you stick with only one Hector, and therefore get to see all three viewpoints.

Even though the cycle of Hectors goes on infinitely, each individual Hector experiences a sort of linear progression, and Hector 3 does not get into the time machine again, so there is a resolution once Hector 1 gets all the way to Hector 3. I think it's a rather brilliant resolution, myself.

Sovknight said...

Ack! It most definitely had a beginning and an end. What movie did this brother guy see? Maybe he was out getting popcorn, and then left early. Or something.

Spectacular movie from start to finish.

Sra said...

Yeah, I think it has a beginning and end too. The movie has a resolution, which is definitely an end. And it obviously has a beginning, because it starts somewhere before he gets in the machine. So, yeah, I don't really know why he thinks that.

Sra said...

Yeah, I think it has a beginning and end too. The movie has a resolution, which is definitely an end. And it obviously has a beginning, because it starts somewhere before he gets in the machine. So, yeah, I don't really know why he thinks that.

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