As I watched the film, I tried to keep track of what I knew and where it was going. I finished the film and proceeded to think about how I was going to write this blog post. I sat down to watch Primer, for probably the fourth time. That’s not as easy as it sounds.
If that last paragraph made any sense, then you my friend, are probably primed for Primer!
Primer, which was written, produced, starred and edited (holy Orson Welles!) by Shane Carruth is easily the most confusing time travel film since Donnie Darko. If you have never seen this film – heck, if you’ve only seen this film once – I implore you to watch it again, or for the first time before reading on. There will be SPOILERS BELOW!
The entirety of the film takes place over about 4 days. It is about two friends who accidentally discover time travel. And it may be the smartest film about the subject. Ever. (Oh and the guy made it for only $7,000!!)
It’s really no surprise that this made it to #2 on Time’s Top 10 Time Travel Films list from 2010. It’s beauty is it’s apparent simplicity. It’s ‘hook’ is that it’s not that simple a film. And from there on, you and your friends will be having endless discussions about it’s ramifications, meanings, and events.
So, on the outside: Guys discover time travel, guys use it for financial gain, guys use it to alter personal events and perfect a moment, guys get paranoid and dissolve their friendship. It has so many moments of raising the moral and ethical questions associated with traveling into your past; it reads like a philosophical treatise on what not to do should you ever discover time travel. And the thing that continues to draw me to this film is, I’m not quite sure I get it.
I mean, I’m a smart guy. I keep watching it, holding onto the handy guides from the internet of people (with more time and gumption than I) who have dissected the multiple recursions (this has, and only ever is, one timeline). But I still don’t think I quite have it. And even if you like a hypothesis that’s out there, that doesn’t mean it’s correct. Carruth has constructed a film for only $7,000. And the one thing that money didn’t buy, was your input. He actually wants you to invest yourself in this film! He doesn’t hand you all the answers. He doesn’t make it easy. And he doesn’t want to tell you what happens, exactly. Because at the end of the film, it’s not so much a film about time travel, as it is a film about man and his primal instincts.
This is a smart film. Almost too smart. But every time it grabs me. And I think, “this time I got you!” but as the characters learn in the film, even when you know exactly what’s going to happen, something happens to alter you ever so slightly. Maybe I can get it right, if I go back. Just one more time. I’ll just watch it once more. Once more. Once.
And finally, I’ll reconstruct the opening paragraph for you. How did you do? “I sat down to watch Primer, for probably the fourth time. As I watched the film, I tried to keep track of what I knew and where it was going.That’s not as easy as it sounds. I finished the film and proceeded to think about how I was going to write this blog post.”