Now that we’re all done recovering from Dear Zachary two weeks ago, it’s time to dive headfirst into something heavier. Not heavy emotionally, but mentally. This week’s film is the independent mind-bending time travel movie Primer.

Written, shot and completed for only $7,000, the film by former engineer and mathematician Shane Carruth won the Grand Jury prize at the Sundance film festival in 2004. Theh film follows two friends who, while attempting to build a superconductor in their garage, accidentally create a time machine. But the more they use the machine, the more they begin to distrust one another, worrying that the other is using the machine for nefarious purposes or to double-cross them. Primer‘s real claim to faim, however, is the fact that Carruth wrote the film intent on not “dumbing down” any of the technical jargon. Much of the dialogue in the beginning of the film is nigh incomprehensible, but is written and delivered in such a way to keep the audience excited, despite being in the dark. The film is also renowned for being, at least on the first viewing, absolutely impossible to fully understand. As the film progresses, the time-jumping plot becomes more and more tangled within itself, mirroring the duo’s relationship spiraling out of control at the same time. The film is told in a non-linear fashion–or at least I think it was. After multiple viewings and plenty of time to mull it over, I’m still not sure exactly how things happened. However, even after I saw it the first time, I knew that it was one hell of a watch, even if I wasn’t sure what was going on.

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14 Responses to Film Festival Week 5: Primer

  1. damo says:

    Thanks for picking this one Mitch as one of this summer’s movies, because there’s probably no way I would have seen it otherwise. Even though I was as confused as you while watching Primer, by the end I could really see the kind of craziness that was going on between the two main characters.

    I really thought they were working together and doing things for mutual benefit, but then about 3/4 of the way through the movie I had this realization that they could just be fucking each other over. That’s when the possibilities for the film really opened up for me, and made it that much deeper. By the end, you could see that the characters themselves were totally confused about their own lives, wondering what day it was and what the other person had changed.

    This one really made me think about what it would be like to be able to go back and replay a day or few days as many times as you want, changing things around. Could you trust someone else with that power? Would it be worth it? Awesome movie.

  2. Bob says:

    This is indeed one of my favorites. I originally saw it about a year ago and I purposely try not to read up on a film before i see it so when i started to watch it, i had no idea it was about time travel. As you can imagine that made the first… 30-45 minutes even more of a mystery. Still it sucked me in.

    After having seen it upwards of 10 times, I still enjoy it and usually notice something new that I hadn’t before.

    The movie takes on another roll for me though, as I am in broadcasting and the idea of making a film of this caliber alone and for 7 grand would be a dream come true. I’m currently investing in my own Independent film and though I have no delusions about its amateur nature, It does give me hope that something great can come from anything.

    Great choice.

  3. Ryker XL says:

    According to Wikipedia, those who calim to fully understand what is going on the first time they watch this film are either geniuses or lairs. I for one chose to rewind and rewatch this baby right away so I could understand what was going on better. I say better because I’m not totally sure I get all of it. Especially the dude in the truck who shows up about 1/2 way through.

    I DO appreciate the film for what it is, a masterpiece in low budget filming and editing. Every shot has a purpose and is edited in such a way to keep pacing just right. I also LOVED how the dialogue made time travel…seem to make sense. I don’t understand the subtle nuanses of the theory, but the technical way it is described sounded plausable, and I didn’t need a flux capacitor to get there. :)

  4. Apoch says:

    This is a great movie that I watched for the first time about 6 months ago and being the Sci-fi nerd that I am I just loved it. Much like Ryker suggests it does take a lot to map this one out from the get go. Without being a spoiler I suggest doing the math from the beginning. Follow every small detail. Your mind will tell you something with the math is not adding up as it did to mine but rest assured a climactic moment will come and assure you the numbers are correct.

    I had an inkling to it and you may have to stop the film and process it. I suggest doing so as the following scenes will help you calculate the equation.

    A great low budget film that I wish there were more like.

  5. Mitch says:

    I think that the timing of this film in the festival worked out great, because this is like the anti-Transformers 2. Whereas that film probably kills brain cells from being so stupid AND awful, this film is so intricately plotted that trying to fully comprehend it is like untangling Christmas lights. I’m still not entirely sure why things were happening when or where and to who, but the film is excellent at conveying tone through complex technical dialogue.

  6. John says:

    Wow…that movie was an absolute mind-fuck! But in a great way. You’re right: it’s incredibly intricate and insanely well-written.

    Question, though: where was Aaron at the end?

  7. Last year I took part in nearly ever movie but this year I haven’t seen a single one. Last year must have been a fluke because I either had the movie, knew someone with the movie or it was on TV before it’s week came. This time I have no access to any of the movies so far. :/

  8. Lard says:

    I was fine for the first hour on my first time through, and then it lost me. I liked this film but I’m going to give it a second play tomorrow.

  9. Wolf-Bot says:

    This movie Kicked Ass I love indie films that are this good. I didn’t find it hard to follow. There was a lot of twists and turns in the movie and there are a few unanswered questions.

    @john: I thought that Aaron was in france at the end, he was building a much larger box, one the size of a room.

  10. Mitch says:

    Rusty, you may be able to find some of these at a used game store that also sells movies. I’ve seen it at plenty of Gamestops (back when I still shopped there) and I still see plenty of copies of Primer at a few others, and this is one of the harder to find ones of the festival. I know I picked up Kiss Kiss Bang Bang at Best Buy the other day for six bucks. (TOTALLY worth it. I can’t wait until we get to that one.)

  11. John says:

    How awesome is this: David Sullivan, the guy who played Abe, just posted this on our Twitter feed:

    “@DGRadio Thx a lot for tweetin about Primer. Really cool knowing people are still seeing it and enjoying it. Thank You.”

    Awesome, eh?

  12. Mitch says:

    Yeah, he’s pretty cool about that. He started following me a few months back after I tweeted that Primer would be in the festival. Seems like a nice dude, wish he was in some more stuff.

  13. carrotpanic says:

    The last 15 minutes or so totally lost me. Once the dad was following them I couldn’t really keep track of what was going on. It’s short enough that I could go rewatch it sometime though.

    Enjoyed it.

  14. Zinswin says:

    This was a cool movie. We watched it a few weeks back and then I had a dream last night that I had a similar time machine. Certainly up there with the likes of Momento in terms of quality and confusion.

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