Primer (Shane Carruth, 2004)

Guess who was the driving force behind
this movie? Clue: it was not David Sullivan
What's it about? Aaron (Shane Carruth, who also wrote, edited, directed, produced and composed the music. Lazy bugger) and Abe (David Sullivan) are engineers who accidentally invent a homemade time machine. As they decide how to handle their discovery, their trust of, and loyalty to, each other is tested. ensues shenanigans travelling Time.

Is it any good? If you struggled with the time-travelling mechanics of Looper or Back to the Future, or if the structure of films like Memento or Inception flummoxed you, then give this a wide berth, as your head might just explode trying to understand it. In fairness, I've yet to meet a single person who actually managed to understand this first time round, or even second. Anyone who says they did is either a liar or Rain Man. Carruth, an engineer with a degree in maths, is not afraid to tackle the complexities and countless possibilities that a time travel plot device affords, resulting in a devilishly complicated plot, which simply comes at you too fast to fully grasp. This isn't helped by the non-simplified technical dialogue or amateurish production values which makes some of the conversations hard to hear. Admittedly, this gives it an air of authenticity, but it also requires much concentration to follow what's going on. And despite that, I absolutely guarantee you'll get lost in the flurry of exposition about halfway through, which means a second or third viewing will be required if you really want to work it all out. To be fair to Carruth, I think it all does pull together and he deserves much credit for taking his big ambition and smart themes and packaging them into a film on an ultra-low budget (it was made for around $7,000). However, the overall impression is of a very smart, motivated bloke, who can't quite put his ideas across in an accessible way to a wider audience. Primer is a clever head-wrecker, but hard to recommend whole-heartedly due to those flaws in the presentation. It will be interesting to see if Carruth has improved his storytelling skills with his second film, Upstream Color, which is released this week, a whole nine years after Primer was made. Told you he was lazy.

Anything else I should know? Absolutely. You should know what actually happened in this film, shouldn't you. Never fear, help is on hand from various sad bastards fans of the film, who have provided a summary of how all the various timelines intersect. There's an explanation here and a frighteningly detailed blog here, which discusses various elements of the film in more-than-strictly-necessary detail, whilst the most impressive map is available here (it's too big to insert here and you'll need your zoom handy for it). Below are two of the simpler graphs depicting the events of the film. Spoilers naturally, although less so in the second one, admittedly.
Primer Explained #1

Primer explained #2
What does the Fonz think? I've already watched this later this evening.

Buy it on Amazon

1 comment:

  1. Thanks for the link to Primer Universe.