On The Edge Films

Cinematic Thoughts for Cinematic Minds



2004/ USA

Director: Shane Carruth

Starring: Shane Carruth, David SullivanCasey GoodenAnand UpadhyayaCarrie Crawford

It’s safe to say that no matter what kind of film you’re interested in watching Primer will have a profound effect upon you. If you have already seen it you will know what I mean and if you’ve not seen it well it’s probably the best film you’ve never seen.

Primer is the story of two engineer/ scientist friends Aaron (Carruth) and Abe (Sullivan) who accidentally stumble upon the invention of time travel whilst trying to build error checking devices in Aaron’s garage. They take their discovery safely at first only using it to go back in time each day in order to earn money on the stock market. However as “time” goes on Aaron and Abe both begin to deceive each other building new devices in order for them to travel around in time in secret. This becomes even more complicated with the presence of their “doubles”. For several hours each day both Aaron and Abe inhabit the Earth at the same time as their doubles (them having traveled back in time) and before long we as the viewer begin to lose track of who we are really seeing and the two men begin to forget which version of themselves they are… the present day Aaron and Abe or the future Aaron and Abe… and from there it get’s really complicated.

Actor/ director/ producer/ editor and composer Shane Carruth can pinpoint the success of his debut feature to his “lived-in” almost David Lynch approach to film making. The film was shot in his own home and cost him a grand total of $7000 to make. Since then he’s been relatively underground cropping up in the credits of Rian Johnson‘s ‘Looper’ with a THANKS attached to his name and his next film ‘Upstream Color‘ is set to be released in a few weeks.

This really is a stunning film for the way in which it approaches a realistic representation of time travel. The implications of having to inhabit the world with someone who is your exact double is shown in expert fashion. When the doubles eventually cross paths that’s when you lose sense of what you’re watching. It’s also difficult to pin point whether it’s Aaron or Abe who first breaks the rules that they set for themselves. They both begin to betray each other and events spiral out of control and sense.

The running time for the film is staggeringly short 77 minutes if we consider what the film covers. I felt my self compelled to go watch the film again and again to really concentrate of the cinematography and dialogue. Carruth crams the film’s short run time with beauty and chaotic editing. Where you may think some of the dialogue is rather dull and uninteresting you find with multiple watches that things are said as off hand comments that hold distinct meaning later on in the film.

If you’re a fan of unconventional narratives then Primer really is one for you. If you want to go and see a film about time travel that will really make you think about whether the concept itself is a good idea then you will love Primer. I’ve seen a lot of films in my life but nothing has intrigued me so much, it makes you feel like you have really been a witness to something out of the ordinary and special. All I can say for now is that I cannot wait to see what Shane Carruth comes up with next.

The film would also work well as a double feature along with Darren Aronofsky’s ‘Pi


-Josh Senior


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