Monday, August 24, 2009

Primer

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I can't write about this movie without spoilers, because I'm not sure what happened, any more than the characters are.

This is a dark, impenetrable film, in which the impenetrability seems to be the point. A jargon-heavy story about four white collar drones with dreams of garage startup glory, Primer doesn't even attempt to help the viewer into the world of casual technical interplay between these hopeful future titans of industry. In fact, I can't figure out what on earth they are actually trying to invent when two of them (first-time actors David Sullivan and director Shane Caruth are impressive) discover that they've accidentally invented what is, essentially, a time machine. Having made this nifty discovery, they quickly realize that they can start thinking much larger than start-up investment money. And with that, they begin a meticulous plan to ensure their fortunes while taking great pains to see that they don't mess with the historical timeline. As they discover (or at least I think that they do) that they already have messed with the timeline, identity and reality themselves start to bleed into one another, until you're not sure who you are watching, or from when, or to what purpose. The script seems to portend that we are watching a Twilight-Zone type morality play about the horror of men meddling with forces that they shouldn't know, but to me it's real strength is the casual and quotidian way it has of inserting us directly into the unknown itself. What would it feel like to be in the middle of a time paradox, anyway? It couldn't be much more disorienting than Primer's final sequences.

I will put it this way. If you didn't like Season 5 of Lost? Run away.

1 comment:

Astin said...

I saw this at TIFF years ago, and walked out thinking I liked it. I was the only one among my friends who did. The entire audience had the same glazed "what did I just watch? Was it good?" look on their faces.

Once you figure out how the time travel works, you realize it's pretty brilliant.