Fantastic Fest is a festival of a few big premieres, true. We got to see the first secret screening last night which was Richard Kelly's Southland Tales, but that's a tale for later (I got to finish figuring it out first). The true joy of the festival is discovering all the smaller and foreign films that Tim League and company have discovered. Some of these films due to the attention they get here go on to bigger and better things. Some, only the attendees of the festival may ever see screened in a theater. Either way, it may be a mixed bag, but one that tends towards the good.
Timecrimes is a Spanish film from first time feature director Nacho Vigalondo. This was the world premiere of the film. The movie is a simple and low budget look at a man who is accidentally transported an hour into his own past. How much mischief could one guy get into from being one hour overlapped? According to Timecrimes, quite a bit.
A man is having a quiet day at home with his wife. He sits in his backyard, bird watching through a pair of glasses. As his wife is leaving to go shopping (or whatever it is wives go do when they leave) he sees a flash of color in the woods. Then, a beautiful woman taking her shirt off (got your attention now? It made me stand at attention) and then the same woman on the ground looking like something was wrong.
Being the kind of good Samaritan who wanders through the woods looking for possibly injured naked hotties, the man sets off to find her. Eventually he comes across the clearing where she sprawls nude and unconscious or possibly dead. As he timidly creeps towards her, almost certainly already formulating his Dear Penthouse Forum letter in his head, a man in a heavy trench coat whose head is covered with pink bandages jumps out of the bushes and stabs him in the arm with a pair of scissors.
A chase ensues and the man finds a mysterious complex out in the woods and a walkie talkie from which he communicates with a strange scientist who works there. The scientist directs the man to a building at the top of the complex as the bandaged killer gives chase. When he reaches the scientist, he is urged to hide inside a giant machine. Our protagonist is unsure but the bandaged man appears banging at the window and his fears of him allay any fears of the unknown and he enters the mystery device as the scientist closes it shut with him inside. Bad call, brother.
Unfortunately it's a time machine the man has entered and he emerges an hour in his own past. When it becomes clear how bad it would be if he did anything to change what had happened before, it becomes a marathon of trying to keep track of all that had already happened to assure that it happens again just the same way. It sounds like my average day.
I don't have the most exciting life in the world.
Timecrimes at first feels like a dream, mysterious and scattered with primal desires and fears. It grabs you almost immediately and sucks you into it's questions. Who is this woman? Who is the bandaged man? Why is he chasing the protagonist? What is the complex? Where is that large automobile? This is not my beautiful house! This is not my beautiful wife! My God, What have I done?
Sadly, after he enters the second timeline, the film slows down considerably like the dream was that of an extremely rational person who's mind is saying Hold on now, this is all just too silly. Now, we need to sort this thing out. It actually becomes kind of mundane watching the man retrace his steps making things happen that never would have in the first place if he hadn't gone out of his way to make them happen in this second version of himself in the timeline. I know that sounds kind of confusing but it's all actually pretty straight forward here. I'd say too straight forward, but then again, I'm the kind of guy who likes puzzling these things out. I buy the jigsaws with no edge pieces.
As he works his way through the time travel rules the film has set up, he causes himself even more problems and gradually gets more and more beaten up until he's just one big bloody mess running around trying to dodge himself as he repeatedly goes back and tries to fix what he screws up. As anyone can tell you who jumps through time, it's not for pussies.
Thankfully, the final act really picks up again and has a twist that works, but begs to ask some moral questions the film chooses not to address. Suffice it to say, if this was a Twilight Zone episode or Tales from the Crypt, things would have ended much differently. No lack of moral or ethical comeuppances on those shows.
Overall, Timecrimes is a welcome addition to sci-fi with some inventive ideas but it still is an unpolished gem. I look forward to what comes next from Nacho Vigalondo.