Dir. Nacho Vigalondo
Premiered at Fantastic Fest September 20, 2007
I don’t remember how I first heard of Timecrimes, but it was well before I started this project, and was thrilled to see it on the list of 2007 releases.
Middle-aged couple Héctor (Karra Elejalde) and Clara (Candela Fernández) are spending their weekend at home in the woods of northern Spain. Looking through his binoculars, he sees a a young woman (Barbara Goenaga) disrobing in the woods. Going out to investigate, he is stabbed in the arm with a pair of scissors by a strange man whose face is covered in pink bandages. Pursued by his attacker, he stumbles across a mysterious laboratory, where a technician (director Nacho Vigalondo) hides him in a mysterious chamber. Héctor then emerges…several hours earlier. The chamber is a time machine.
Seeing his past self at home in the distance, Héctor tries to go back, but gets into a car accident, and events spiral out of control, with bizarre and bloody results
Timecrimes is not terribly impressive visually, but the story is tight and controlled, and throws enough twists that it’s never clear how things might turn out, but never so much that it stops the story from making sense– that tightness defines the film as a promising start for Vigalondo and as a product very much of its time. The resulting film is an austere but rewarding thrill-ride with some unexpected moral subtext, and an audacious debut from a director that has impressively managed to keep working in science fiction– and in Spain.
Signs This Was Made in 2007
Timecrimes was shot and takes place in 2006. However, the film uniquely dates itself by its understanding of time travel. The 2000s were the golden age of the Closed Time Loop, the idea that time travel is a self-fulfilling prophecy, and that its effects have already taken hold on the past. Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban had a climax revolving around this concept, as would the fourth and fifth seasons of Lost in 2008-09; and just three months before Timecrimes’ debut, the classic Doctor Who episode “Blink” aired in Britain, an episode revolving entirely around circular cause-and-effect. Like “Blink,” literally all of the plot causes itself to happen through time travel. In the decade since, theoretical physics has moved on from worrying about paradoxes, and so has Hollywood.
How Did It Do?
Timecrimes entered what could charitably called wide release only in Spain, Mexico, and the United States, more than a full year after its Fantastic Fest premiere. It grossed just $553,198, but earned the devotion of critics (87% fresh on RT). Roger Ebert in a 3-star review (our of four) praised the film’s deviation from the typical “paradox” plot (he famously didn’t watch a lot of TV, and might have said otherwise if he did). But despite its fashionable approach to time travel, it’s certainly found a place in the canon of films on the subject. Nacho Vigalondo was able to build off it and make yet more science fiction features, as well as become a fixture of genre anthology films.
Next Time: Things We Lost in the Fire