Wednesday, June 9, 2010

Timecrimes (Los Cronocrimenes 2007 Review)

Have we seen this before? Sure we have, but never so succinctly. When considering all of the films concerning characters becoming lost within an endless timeloop. A neverending examination, and re-examination of previous events has been a standard of modern narrative ambition since the beginning of the medium. Never letting it past the format's ability to tantalize with hints ever complimenting our memories, as well as playing with them in an only sometimes convincing editorial sleight-of-hand. Particularly since films such as Chris Nolan's brain-racking milestone, MEMENTO (2000) and even Harold Ramis' Groundhog Day(1993) have made playing with order, and expectation a tempting enterprise. And to see spanish newcomer, Nacho Vigalondo take on the perils of time travel in the most up front fashion imaginable with Timecrimes (Los Cronocrimenes), to fun but in places laborious results.

On what appears to be a quiet late afternoon, seemingly mild-mannered husband, Hector (Karra Elejalde) is at rest within the lush, green yard of his & his wife's new home, relaxing on an easy-chair and viewing the scenery with binoculars in hand when he scopes something unsettling. And it isn't merely the almost faceless young woman disrobing in the trees yards away, but also the macabre figure sporting a trenchcoat, some bizarre pink bandages over his face, and a pair of scissors seemingly threatening her. Upon going into the woods to further investigate, he is quickly attacked and injured in the arm via the shears, and is sent running in terror. This peaceful day gone horrific soon becomes a surreal exercise in increasingly entangled fate as our protagonist investigates further, leading him to a seemingly abandoned home nearby containing what seems to be a prototypical time machine operated by a lone scientist (played by Vigalondo himself with intern-esque naivete) and deceptively lured into it as the bandaged fiend closes in on them. Now back one hour before the chase began, the real troubles unfold.

Taking what seems already to be a clever spin on Rear Window(1953), with a little slasher thrown into the mix, one may not figure how the theory of time paradoxes would fit into this tale, and yet somehow the film dives into it gleefully, taking full advantage of the film's location and story consisting of merely several hours in which our protagonist is forced to make startling decisions in order to undo the predicament he has fallen into, without inflicting greater damage to everything he seems to touch.

Divulging any more would be truly unfair to new viewers. And even as the film at times suffers from bogging itself down within it's own logic, and even some iffy pacing from the first-time director, the film never loses grip on the fragility of reality from Hector's perspective. Even as the time travel conceit of the film comes dangerously close to derailing the film, Vigalondo's script and sharp collaboration with Elejalde gives us a creepy, multifaceted hero whom we'd just as soon run from as work with. Also gracing the small film with solid performances are Barbara Goenaga as the mysterious girl in the woods, as well as Candela Fernandez' brief but potent work as Hector's wife. Filmed within what seems to be only a square mile, and brimming with twists, it's a piece of work that begs for multiple viewings.

And even as Hector's troubles begin to pile up via an absurd fluke to end all absurd flukes, it's hard not to see the entire nightmare logic working as a counterpoint to time travel movies of the past. In Vigalondo's world, the great minds behind our worst fortunes remain faceless as ever, while those who'd inflict it be among the most ordinary. It's a scary idea simply because it rings terribly true.

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