- Jose Guzman
In Case You Missed It: Timecrimes (2007)
Sometimes a film stays with you a few days and lingers. Perhaps you have been a witness to cinematic brilliance like Moonlight or BlackKklansman. Perhaps your sides are still hurting with laughter after seeing Young Frankenstein or Airplane. Perhaps it’s a horror film that has unnerved you like The Descent or The Babadook. Or perhaps a film has many levels to unravel like Memento or Matchstick Men. It’s completely subjective and we all have our own respective tastes but sometimes a movie just gets to you and stays for a while.
2007’s Timecrimes is an eerie time travel thriller that takes the concept of paradoxes and turns them on their head…..then it tosses them into a centrifuge. Here is a film so low key and matter of fact that it may sneak up on you, the same way it did on me. Time travel is central to the action, and like many time travel films, Timecrimes cannot avoid paradoxes. Instead, writer-director Nacho Vigalondo ratchets up the tension and embraces them. Additionally, this is film low on special effects. Much like 2004’s Primer (another missed gem), we never see any flashy process and never get a clear explanation of how and why things work. Time travel is just a tool, and in this case filmmaker Vigalondo wields it with skill.
As the film starts, we see Hector (Karra Elejalde) return home after a long day at work. He’s so tired/bumbling he scatters groceries into the house. He exchanges pleasantries with his wife Clara (Candela Fernandez). They make love, fall asleep and are awaken by an apparent “wrong number” phone call, but that and many details will develop. Clara goes to the store and Hector bides his time by spying the nearby forest with his binoculars. After a few moments, he spies on a young naked lady (Barbara Goenaga). When he tries to get a better look, he then finds himself in the gaze of a seemingly disfigured and bandaged figure – looking right back at him. Hector springs forth into action, struggles with the figure and gets stabbed in the leg. Now, just looking to survive, he makes his way across the woods and finds an empty home. Hector eventually stumbles into the lair of an unnamed scientist (played by the filmmaker Vigalondo). Without hesitation, Hector finds himself in a device that looks like a sensory deprivation tank and awakens to find himself near the beginning of the previous day.
From here, the film becomes something of a horror version of Groundhog Day with Hector unable to stop the cycle that leads to the death of his wife. We never get a clear explanation of why the scientist is there in the first place or why he is so eager/terrified to help Hector. As time goes on, Hector finds himself going further, going darker and unable to avoid increasing mistakes, mostly at the expense of the unnamed young lady who is also a pawn in this time loop. In the end, Hector must make a sacrifice in order to move on, and it may not be that obvious.
Timecrimes, more than anything, is a successful morality play. We watch as Hector, “the everyman,” keeps trying to use logic in a situation that is immune to it. It’s like watching someone stuck in quicksand, and the harder Hector struggles, the more he drowns. By the end, he makes a choice and we in the audience wonder if we too would make that same choice.
Like I said, this one stuck with after I saw it. I tried to make sense of all of the paradoxes, to no avail. I tried to understand if there was more to Hector and his unexplained connection to the film’s scientist. In the end, I had to wonder if I were willing to go as far as Hector. But instead I just decided to never spy on anyone with binoculars. That’s were most trouble starts.