Any suggestions that cinema goers don’t want to see an intelligent and complex film in this day and age can be quashed with the release of Primer. Sure, this is a film that will only enjoy a cult success at best, but this incredibly low budget film is bound to have people talking for years.
This feature is an outstanding piece of filmmaking. It’s astonishing just how much of an achievement this film is, and here are the reasons why:
1. the crew seemed smaller than most of the crews I’ve enlisted in my amateur short films (the end credits seemed to roll for less than a minute) and yet it looks and feels like a proper feature;
2. the narrative is predominantly concerned with advanced physics, philosophy and mathematics (I haven’t been witness to so many equations since Pi) and yet somehow the film is still fast-paced and brimming with tension; and
3. the characters spend the vast majority of the time talking about such theories, yet still bring to the screen dynamic and enthralling performances.
How did they do it? Well, I can only surmise so much considering a good portion of Primer (particularly towards the end) went over my head. Shane Carruth was the mastermind behind this production, directing, producing, editing and starring in this film. Together with fellow cinematographer/star Anand Upadhyaya, Carruth kept the camera moving constantly, which was imperative considering how much dialogue we had to get through. Also the screenwriters were very careful to not let the audience catch on too early. I spent most of the film only barely keeping pace with the narrative, as concepts far beyond my understanding whizzed by in a surprisingly coherent manner. The music was integral to the film also, as Carruth’s score thrummed away at regular intervals, aiding the flow immensely. And finally, I can only guess that the actors actually knew what they were talking about, which surely would have been imperative in selling such complex theories to myself, who by the end of high school was getting 13 percent on his physics tests.
The short running time of Primer worked in its favour also. If I’d been stuck there for two hours of such ‘hard’ science fiction, then I’m sure my head would have exploded. This is definitely a film that not only deserves, but probably requires a second or third viewing. In terms of the amount of exercise my brain was receiving, Primer lapped Memento somewhere around the 40 minute mark.
The mindf*ck of 2005. And possibly the next five years.Rating: