Tuesday, July 8, 2014

Time Travel Time #6: Timecrimes

"Timecrimes" ("Los Cronocrimenes") is a 2007, Spanish science-fiction film, written/directed by Nacho Vigalondo, who's also one of the leads. In many respects, it's a subtle time-travel excursion, devoid of Eloi or Morlocks, super-charged cars or warping tunnels, but that doesn't make it any less intriguing. Despite its humble confines, "Timecrimes" remains a surprising, event-looping sojourn. 

The story starts innocently enough, with an average joe named Hector (Karra Elejalde) unable to nap. As a result, he fiddles with his binoculars and gazes into the nearby woods, only to catch (of all alluring sights), a slender brunette (Barbara Goenaga) undressing. When she moves from sight, he feels compelled to track her and upon locating her, finds her dead, mysteriously propped against a rock. 

As he inspects the scene, a bandaged headed man scissors him in the arm, causing Hector to flee and inadvertently come upon a neighboring house, where a walkie-talkie conveniently awaits. The device allows him to communicate with a man who hesitatingly agrees to help, leading Hector to apparent safety inside a station behind the house and the baffled voice's bearer: a young scientist (Vigalondo), who just happens to have access to a most peculiar, cylindrical machine, distinguished by two halves: the bottom filled with liquid.

The scientist assures Hector that the pursuing madman won't find him if he hides inside the structure, and so the frantic Hector consents. The top portion closes in, submerging him in the liquid, but when it opens, Hector discovers he's miraculously arrived hours prior to the frantic events he just experienced.

The scientist, now relegated to the past, expresses ignorance of what has played out, but when he accompanies Hector back to his home and sees the earlier version of Hector conversing with his wife (Candela Fernandez), he insists on helping to set things right. This leads to a series of further experiments, consequently generating several Hectors (logically identified as Hector 1, 2 and 3) and a startling revelation regarding both the swathed man and the murdered lady.

The "crimes" of which the title refers are the constant, looping foibles that spring from Hector's jaunts, with one version eventually trying to beguile the other in an attempt to reinstate normalcy. There's also the question of the scientist's intent: is he honestly helping Hector or is he instead a catalyst of trickery?

Though the events of "Timecrimes" don't necessarily appear world-altering (as those in "Planet of the Apes" or "Terminator"), Hector's collective dilemma still spawns reverberating results: his attempts to make sense of the overlapping mess always mounting the tension. How will he, in his various guises, remedy the matter, when each attempt only seems to spring more problems?

On the down side, "Timecrimes" is blatantly sparse of succinct explanations (why the time machine is stationed unguarded so close to Hector's home and the precise purpose of its strange, liquid content are never explained), but Vigalondo's character-fueled formula (whether viewed subtitled or dubbed) rises above such ambiguity. Inevitably, you'll empathize with Hector and the scientist, and because this journey is essentially human-based, it's quite easy to believe and engage in the confounding shenanigans. Indeed, on the visual level, "Timecrimes" may be small-scale, but when it comes to stimulating the senses, it's pure CinemaScope. . 

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