Recommended Viewing Situation:
In a storage locker with an alternate version of yourself.
Running Time: 77 Minutes.
Format: 35mm Film.
Director: Shane Carruth.
Writers: Shane Carruth.
Cinematographer: Troy Dick.
Awards: Alfred P. Sloan Feature Film Prize at Sundance Film Festival, Shane Carruth; ‘Dramatic’ Grand Jury Prize at Sundance Film Festival, Shane Carruth; ‘Best First Feature’ VVFP Award at Village Voice Film Poll.
In a quiet suburb in America, two friends accidentally build a time machine. While working on superconductors for their start-up hardware business, Abe and Aaron realise that they have stumbled upon a device that can unhinge objects from time. As many scientists have done through out history, they secretly use themselves as guinea pigs, hoping to test the capabilities of the machine and figure out it’s commercial possibilities. They’ve been duped before, and don’t want to under-sell their invention before comprehending it’s power.
Primer (2004) is a small scale examination of how two men deal with the power to travel back through time, and the consequences their discovery has on their friendship, their bodies, and time itself. The time travel is confined to a small space and time. The travel itself takes place in quaint industrial settings, a home garage or a storage facility, far removed from the regular sci-fi tropes of huge hidden government labs or the remote lairs of eccentric scientists. This isn’t a case of what would happen if you went back in time and killed Hitler, but what it would mean for you to be able to redo today with hindsight. How many times would it take for you to get it perfect? Would you ever be able to stop? And how would you make sure you don’t change the future in unanticipated ways?
The film is a disorientating journey through a multi-layered timeline, and Carruth throws the audience in the deep end as they eavesdrop on technical conversations between scientists who themselves are struggling to comprehend what they have found. As you stare into the screen, you are watching an experiment, each man tests the machine for their own ends with their own motivations. Paradoxes come to light and some questions are simply unanswerable.
Primer tells a story that has already happened but is constantly being changed. It is a dense puzzle box for you to step within, but don’t expect to fully comprehend it after one watch. If you enjoy films that challenge you to keep up, or if you’re just curious how a time travel film could be made on a micro budget of $7000, this film is for you.