Sunday, April 26, 2009

Cinema Obscura: TimeCrimes

Nacho Vigalondo's "TimeCrimes" made a small splash in cult cinema circles last year, most notably from its inclusion in Fantastic Fest hosted by Ain't It Cool News. Granted, anytime a small independent film chooses as its subject time travel, the accolades come hard and fast due to the film's scruffy, intellectualized subject (see "Primer" from a few years'a go... a film whose praise was lost on me after finally seeing the film's baffling concept. It was filmed in Dallas though) But Vigalondo's film does deserve the praise. Visually unoriginal (since it was filmed for Spanish TV), "TimeCrimes" relies on a twisting, highly original idea to carry the film for its brisk but near perfect 95 minutes. I suppose if you think too hard on the film's structure, a few plot holes exist her and there. But really, what time travel idea isn't riddled with holes? "TimeCrimes" mounts doppelganger upon doppleganger until the film begins to hurt the brain as the viewer hastily tries to piece together the various timelines and switcheroos. It's all terribly exciting and handled with restrained tempo by Vigalondo through careful camera composition and an unnerving sound design.

Without going into too much plot detail, "TimeCrimes" loops some very serious questions around it's heady time travel scenario. What would we do if we were seemingly invisible and adverse to cause and effect? Are we destined to repeat our circumstances or do we have the power to change the seemingly hidden pull towards the inevitable? As Hector (Karra Elejalde), one of only 4 characters in the film, the beating compass of morality and choice lies with him. After a serene opening in which he and his wife have moved into a new house in the country, he takes up gazing across his backyard with a pair of binoculars. A few minutes later, he's beginning to become wrapped up into a mystery that echoes the razor sharp economy of image and sound inherent in Hitchcock's cinema of voyeurism. He sees a half naked girl posing for him. A wrecked vehicle. And Hector eventually comes face to face with a looming figure, complete with bloody-bandaged face and all, who forces a game of hide and seek through the woods. From there, "TimeCrimes" opens up a pandora's box of future and past timelines as Hector desperately tries to erase and manipulate the horrific events.

Based on one short film and now "TimeCrimes", it's clear the wave of Spanish invention in cinema is far from over. Del Toro, Amenenbar, Bayona... these guys are taking up the genre picture (horro and sci-fi specifically) and churning out refreshing spins that continue to grow upon repeat viewings. Now add "Time Crimes" to that list. I look forward to whatever Vigalondo does next.

2 comments:

Bob Turnbull said...

I really liked the film as well. I thought one of two decisions didn't quite seem realistic early on, but as things picked up pace it seemed to flow very nicely.

I would add "[rec]" to that list of Spanish films - I don't know if the directors have much promise moving forward, but that was one effective horror movie.

I really liked "Primer" by the way. I can certainly see how the characters in that story could turn people off, but I thought the plot was very tightly constructed and held together as well as any time travel story could.

Joseph B. said...

Bob,

I agree that early on it does threaten to fall apart. The great thing about this film is the discussion it breeds. Check out the IMDB movie boards for that.

Also, I read the "[rec]" is finally receiving a DVD release. I'm anticipating that one.