This week we explore the much loved and discussed sci-fi sub-genre of time travel.
We’ve chosen not to focus on blockbusters like Back to the Future in order to bring you some of the lesser known films of the genre; although films like those arguably deserve their place as well.
Although this device is often used it is rarely mastered; as attested to by hundreds of posts on blogs and IMDB ‘goofs’ pages. The true time travel fan will not be fooled if the time travel concept is ill thought out or if there are obvious problems with the time-line. Similarly, the best examples of this genre will explore the consequences; both positive and negative, of travelling through time; pushing them almost to the extremes whilst at the same time avoiding convenient plot devices.
Primer is the independent, ultra-low budget directorial debut from visionary director Shane Carruth (Upstream Color). Filmed for around $7,000 and featuring a cast of two for the majority of the picture (including Shane Carruth himself); it does not on paper sound like the recipe for a sci-fi hit but the film was well received; winning a Grand Jury prize at Sundance in 2004.
The plot centres on a group of struggling inventors working out of their garage. Whilst working on one of their projects they accidentally create a device capable of sending an object through time. Cautiously at first, they create a full scale version and experiment with the benefits time travel can bring; but as is always the case with these films they take things too far. While very little actually happens during the film, there is a growing sense of dread and it is a deeply unsettling experience; which is added to by the films ‘lo-fi’ look and feel. It is worth noting the film does suffer from its low budget in that the dialogue is hard to make out at times(you may want to watch this with subtitles). The time travel concept used is baffling. Forget string theory; you will need to watch the film several times to fully understand it. The film serves as an excellent exploration of how the relationship between two friends changes with their new-found power.
Los Cronocrimenes – ‘Timecrimes’ (2007)
From Spanish director Nacho Vigalondo; this film is unlikely to win any awards for the cinematography or special effects and the performances are not all that spectacular, however the screenplay is compelling. Karra Elejalde plays Héctor, a middle-aged man who has moved to a country house that he is renovating with his wife. A series of events unfold that lead him to the house of a local scientist(played by director Nacho Vigalondo) seeking refuge after he is attacked by an unknown assailant. As the plot develops, we discover that Héctor is actually in conflict with himself. This is a trip to the darker side of time travel and the evil that is potentially inside all of us; the extents that an individual will go to in the belief of self-preservation.
From director Louis Morneau(Bats) and starring James Belushi & Kylie Travis this is more of a fun retro thriller than a serious genre film. Karen(Travis) hitches a ride from the violent and abusive Frank(Belushi) who is travelling with his wife. Fearing that frank will harm her she seeks the help of a scientist with an experimental time machine. This film uses the ‘Groundhog Day’ plot device as Karen goes back multiple times to try and alter the events of the day.
What do you think of this genre? What are your favourite time travel films?. Let me know your thoughts.