Wednesday, 28 July 2010

Timecrimes (2007)

Temporal paradoxes confuse me. Back to the Future confuses me. I’m ok with the first one, but after that I’m out of my depth, or bored, I may have just got bored. Now, I hasten to add, my mama didn’t raise no fool, I’m a smart broad, even though I do do a mighty good impression of an abject idiot quite a lot of the time, but, nonetheless, I have to confess, when this time travel malarkey kicks off I have to concentrate so hard I’m in danger of popping and eyeball or having something prolapse.

That said, I did thoroughly enjoy Nacho Vigalondo’s Timecrimes, which I originally watched purely because I was ridiculously over excited after watching Predator, knew I wouldn’t be able to sleep, and it was on next.

Timecrimes begins with Hector (Karra Elejalde),Hector appears to be blissfully happy with his lovely wife Clara (Candela Fernández) and to compound this happiness the couple have seemingly just moved to a beautiful rambling house in the middle of the lush Spanish countryside and are now in the process of renovating it into their dream home.

This idyll, however, is soon to be shattered when Hector decides that, rather than help his wife with the many jobs left unfinished on Project Dream Home, he will instead indulge in a little afternoon lounging and gazing into the middle distance through a pair of binoculars. Now, really there are only two conclusions I can draw from this; Hector is either a birdwatcher or a naughty little voyeur. I went with the latter, but you decide for yourselves.

Either way, the first thing Hector spies in the undergrowth is a young lady peeling her top off and, in further evidence to my earlier conclusion, after sending his wife off to buy dinner Hector then decides that the best course of action for him at this juncture is to go into the woods and further investigate this naked nymph sighting.

What Hector’s logic is here or what the desired outcome of this little venture was remains unclear, but as he scrabbles through the undergrowth he does finally find the naked young lady, this time more naked and sprawled in a clearing apparently unconscious and he decides to throw sticks at her. I’d like to think here that he’s concerned for her safety, but, frankly, from the little we’ve seen of Hector as this stage, god only knows what he thinks of as a sound plan, so as he looms over her, maybe preparing to give her rousing prod, it does come as something of surprise to him when he is stabbed in the arm with a pair of scissors by a third party.

In the most sensible decision he’s made so far Hector flees into the woods to escape this crazed madman and seeks refuge in the first building he comes across, well, more breaks and enters than seeks refuge, but given the circumstances we can let that slide. Terrified for his life Hector desperately tries to find a place to hide and believes his luck to be turning when he finds a radio that puts him contact with another person in the building. This stranger guides Hector to him and the safety of the silo in which he is presumably working. Meanwhile, the demented loon refuses to give up his pursuit of Hector and, with minimal trepidation Hector is persuaded by the man in the silo (writer and director Nacho Vigalondo) to climb into an odd looking machine to hide from his pursuer. And that’s when his troubles really start.

It transpires that what Hector actually unwittingly climbed into was an untested time machine and he has now travelled back to earlier that same day where a somewhat surprised, but not altogether shocked given the nature of his work, scientist greets him.

Now things start to get to get complicated. As it is earlier that same day there are now two Hectors, one not helping his wife and staring at naked chicks in bushes and one struggling to comprehend the complexities of time travel and staring at the other Hector staring at naked chicks in bushes. While by any stretch of the imagination this would be bad enough, Hector (now relegated to Hector 2 since his unscheduled reappearance back on his own timeline) is soon to discover that in the interim between his chasing after naked ladies and climbing into a time machine to escape a masked psycho a tragedy has occurred at his home and his wife is now dead.

I think you probably see where this is now going. Armed with a reluctant accomplice and a still pretty much untested time machine, Hector sets about a desperate attempt to save his wife and return himself to her as the rightful Hector. But he soon learns that messing about in time is not as easy as certain Timelords lead us to believe. With multiple Hectors popping up all over the place our original Hector must negotiate and manage all his failed attempts in order to restore the most favourable outcome.

Timecrimes essentially presents us with a tale of fractured identity. We see the story coalesce through the perspectives each progressive version of Hector and see the tragic inevitability of his futile struggle as his every preventative action seemingly facilitates the same ultimate tragic outcome.

Timecrimes deals with familiar themes and ideas that we have seen previously and since, Primer (2004) and Triangle (2009) spring to mind, but it does have a charm that sets it apart from other films of a similar ilk. The small cast is effective and competent and rather than feeling like the small number was merely a technique to assist ease of understanding of the more complex factors, it equally served to foster an effective atmosphere of tense and claustrophobic intimacy as a man’s desperately attempts to manipulate unwitting players into his own personal drama. Despite being a tad predictable, Timecrimes is a well paced, tight thriller that is worth catching and not just if you find yourself over stimulated and unable to sleep of an evening. However, for future reference, a lot of time, trauma and temporal paradoxes could be saved if rather than perving on the neighbours through binoculars we all just help our wives assemble tables.


  1. I'm glad you watched that. I don't know anyone else who has even heard of it and it was a great little film. I think the ending made Hector out to be pretty coldblooded really and not a very likable character at all. It's weird how we want him to succeed all the way through though.

  2. A good film, but hampered by the inbuilt repetition of the central concept. Another mind bending time travel flick I'd recommend is PRIMER.

  3. Hey, Doc. Yeah, I was pleased I watched it. I had heard of it months before and made a mental note but had never gotten round to it. Poor old Hector, he did start off as a bit of amiable idiot so that progression was quite startling, but you're right, you did weirdly want to him to succeed.

    Well Hello, Shaun. You do have a point there, but a for a first feature from the writer/director it still had a lot going for it. Must find out if he has done anything else since.
    I too was reminded of Primer. I saw it ages ago so I think I may have to give it a rewatch now. I think it probably benefits from a couple of watches anyway. Thank you for the recommendation.

  4. I love horror movies with a sci fi twist like this. Touchy business, time travel. You go back and step on the wrong plant and all human history as you know it changes.
    One of my favorite time travel films isn't a horror movie at all, but the oh so romantic Somewhere in Time. Sigh....even zombies like me have a and decaying, but a heart never the less.
    Dreaded Dreams
    Petunia Scareum

  5. Oh my, is Somewhere in Time the Christopher Reeve/Jane Seymour one? I remember that! It's all really weepy and tragic. Awesome, I'd entirely forgotten about it till just now. Aw, you are a tender hearted little zombie, Petunia.

  6. I had a lot of fun with this one, even though I didn't exactly click with its atmosphere. I have not seen "Primer" yet, but I did love "Triangle" more than this one, but that's just a matter of taste I guess.

    Anyways, great review and I gotta say how much I love these kinds of movies that deal with time travel.

  7. I'll have to check this one out, it sounds quite up my street. Not mad keen on the title though, sounds like a Van Damme movie!



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