I had forgotten the name of this small sci-fi film that made me believe that time travel was actually possible by gearing up a contraption in my garage with the help of an IIT genius. This morning I decided to type in the very words that mark the title of this blog on Google. Hand it to Google, the first link that appeared was for the film ‘Primer‘ developed and directed by Shane Carruth.
Armed with a degree in Mathematics and engineering experience, Carruth made Primer on a $7000 budget. Now forget about a sci-fi flick, this would not be enough to arm even a c-grade romantic comedy meant to go straight-to-video. But with Primer, Carruth has given us one of the most engrossing sci-fi, time travel movie ever without the use of any cheap special effects. It’s the thrills and the twists and turns that make the film so engrossing.
Besides writing and directing, Shane Carruth stars with David Sullivan as the duo who accidentally come up with a time travel device in their garage and the movie traces their experiences while trying to manage this device in the best way that they can for their mutual benefit. The movie is believable from the point of view that it is the ‘Blair Witch…’ of the Sci-Fi genre. There are no sound effects, no dark alleys and renegade machines trying to entrap you. It’s just the characters who go through a complex lifecycle process while trying to go back in time and benefit from what they know happened. I won’t say I understood everything in the movie the first time I watched it, but there was a palpable thrill when the developers of the machine nearly came face to face with their body doubles from the past. Instances like this, create the tension in the film adn there is a climactic sense everytime the main characters use the machine. You wait for something bad to happen till the very end and this is what keeps the viewer on tenterhooks.
This movie deservedly received a Grand Jury Prize at the 2004 Sundance film festival. Other mainstream sci-fi awards like the Saturn Sci-Fi Film Awards completely missed this cracker of a film. Checking up on Shane Carruth on Wikipedia, I noticed that he hasn’t made any movie since. I guess the studio execs found this guys number crunching skills too complicated especially when it came to realigning the share of the box office profits and otehr profit sharing ratios, which are now decided before a movie is made. From fractals to geometrical and algebraic patterns, Carruth is one guy who can turn numbers and element symbols into a 3 hour long masterpiece on celluloid. I hope someone is listening.
Watch the trailer here.