At The Picture Show
'Timecrimes' wraps itself into an irrational riddle
Director: Nacho Vigalondo
Screenplay: Nacho Vigalondo
Starring: Karra Elejalde, Candela Fernandez, Nacho Vigalondo, Barbara Goenaga
and Juan Inciarte
Rated R / 1 hour, 28 minutes
Now playing in limited release
(out of four)
Ah, the paradoxes of time travel. The Terminator. Back to the Future. Primer.
The possibilities never end, do they?
Sometimes you just ignore the logical holes and let that be that. Sometimes you
offer up new questions and paradoxes of your own. And sometimes you make
those paradoxes the central function of your film. Which is what makes
Timecrimes so puzzling . . . and so unsuccessful.
The feature-length debut of Oscar-nominated
short-film director Nacho Vigalondo, Timecrimes uses the time-travel device to
wrap around on itself. Things go increasingly awry - though, of course,
"increasingly" isn't quite the right word. Everything that happens had to happen
for anything to happen in the first place. It all occurs in a continuous loop. It only
appears to be escalating through the eyes of our protagonist, who would realize the
futility of his actions if he only had a brain.
The problem with Timecrimes is that it relies so much on specificity. Hector
(Karra Elejalde) sees something in the woods, follows it, discovers a mysterious
house, gets sent back in time (a few hours or so). He then proceeds to spend the
rest of the film recreating, in agonizing detail, everything that led up to his original
arrival at the house. He goes back in time over and over again to accomplish this,
creating multiple versions of himself that of course were all destined to be there in
the first place.
Because everything is so specific, so calculated, so timed, it forces us to think
about Hector's actions and the logic behind everything he does. When we do, the
entire story unravels.
Anyone with any kind of logical-reasoning
mechanism would know that the events Hector desperately tries to recreate would
happen anyway . . . because they already have. You've seen the proof. It brought
you here. If you simply do nothing, everything will turn out the same way. I know
it's not human nature to do nothing in the face of adversity - how many people
actually stop and stay in one place when they're lost? - but in the case of this
character, it goes far beyond that. He knowingly, and zealously, digs himself (or
himselves) into a hole whose destination he already knows.
Eventually, we must come to a realization. All of this happens because this one
man is a complete imbecile? Then he's certainly not the tragic hero the film wants
him to be, is he? He's the jester.
I give Vigalondo credit for mounting a storyline that gets increasingly complicated
as time moves on (or doesn't, if you will) as the different versions of Hector
multiply and events he could never have foreseen take place, forcing him to
reconsider his plans.
If only Hector wasn't a complete idiot - a slave
to a screenplay and a concept. This is a common horror-movie trap, but this time it
isn't just for one scene or one plot obstacle - this is Hector for the entire movie.
There is not a thinking person on the screen; there is a puppet acting completely
without sense - and the problem is, we are supposed to think that he is acting
logically. Or at least somewhat logically.
What Vigalondo (and Hector) appears either unable or unwilling to grasp is that
cause and effect are irrelevant terms here - because everything has already
happened. He may want us to just ignore that and go along for the ride - which, I
freely admit, is not without its arresting sequences - but he chooses to make this
story as specific and detailed as possible, and thus we can easily see the gaping
In Back to the Future, for instance, this kind of flaw didn't matter because it
simply wasn't the point. In Timecrimes, it is the point, and therefore the film pulls
Read more by Chris Bellamy