Home Entertainment Cinophile: TIMECRIMES


3 min read
[column size=one_half position=first ]When it comes to time travel, nobody has clear advice. Should you do nothing or else risk throwing time out of wack? Or will things only happen if you mess with time? Does it really matter: does time just reset itself? And what if the harder you try to fix things, the worse you make the situation?

Time travel is a fun trope that many films have wrestled with, from Back To The Future’s charms to the maddening complexity of Primer. The thing about time travel is it takes a simple situation and makes it very complicated. Eventually nobody knows if they are coming and going.

In Timecrimes our main character does not set out to change the world. Instead he sits in his lawn, looking at the world through binoculars. He spots something strange in the nearby forest, so sets out to investigate. But a masked man attacks him and he runs away to a nearby villa. Here he meets a scientist who hides the man in a machine. But it’s a time machine and the man is sent back an hour. So he tries to stop the masked man, but has to do so without creating time paradoxes.

Time travel movies are generally clever affairs, but few exist to be completely circular. When you start watching Timecrimes, the character motivations aren’t quite clear and things only make sense when you get to the end.

Then it becomes apparent: there is some kind of loop going on here. The characters are being motivated to undo things that they actually caused themselves. It’s hard to explain without spoiling too much, but the result is a clever science fiction tale and unintended consequences.

This movie is surprisingly no-frills. There are no special effects and very few characters. The script does not spoonfeed, expecting the audience to keep track of the events. Even if the premise is pretty obvious, this movie packs a few surprises at its end that pull classic time-travel mind-bending on the audience. The director set out to make a movie about crime where the victims and perpetrators are not necessarily the innocent and guilty parties.

Timecrimes raises questions about just how our actions change our lives and how little or much control we actually have over our fates. But even putting the philosophy aside, this is one of the smartest time travel tales released in years.

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Timecrimes was director Nacho Vigalondo’s first full-length feature. He has gained renown for his short films, including an Oscar nomination. Using this clout, he got funds for the movie. But this was still hard: science fiction is not a big genre in Spanish film making and the movie still had a tiny $23 million budget.
One challenge of filming a time-travel movie was continuity. Several scenes replay as different versions of the characters repeat events, so the crew constantly had to make sure that the lighting, costumes and even time of day were in sync. The director said it was a nightmare, as you could never be sure things connected properly until seeing the footage later. As a nod to this one character’s shirt has an image of a cat on it, representing that icon of paradox: Schrödinger’s cat.
The film was shot in the forests of Northern Spain. Shooting outdoors came with numerous challenges, including weather: a nearby movie set for a different film was actually destroyed by a tornado during Timecrimes’ production.

 Cinophile is a weekly feature showcasing films that are strange, brilliant, bizarre and explains why we love the movies.

Last Updated: February 2, 2015


  1. Sounds awesome. I hope it’s more viewer-friendly than Primer? That movie made no sense to me. 🙁


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