RePrimer

I'm back from Primer. This is the most confusing movie I've ever seen. I doubt even repeated viewings would make it any easier to understand.

The story begins with a group of four young engineers working on various inventions in their garage during their spare time. It's not quite clear what they are working on, but they seem strapped for cash, strapped for free time, and desperate for venture capital so they can quit their dull day jobs.

Two of the four split into their own group because of some poorly explained power struggle, and begin constructing a new device. What they hope to accomplish with this device is left unsaid; first they create it, and then they try to figure out what it does.

So far, so good. This first part of the film is like a cross between Boiler Room and the science portions of Ang Lee's Hulk. Clearly, this a build-up for something greater.

Then we discover that whatever is put inside this transmogrifier-like device travels back in time. After testing this phenomenon will smaller objects like wristwatches, the two engineers build a device large enough to contain a person, and move it from their garage to a U-Haul storage facility.

The characters quickly realize that the device is worth far more if kept secret then if released to the public. So they strike it rich by playing the stock market. Use the device before you go to work in the morning, spend 12 hours in a motel room killing time, find out which stocks did well that day, go back in time to earlier that morning, purchase the stocks, and go to work as if nothing out of the ordinary has happened.

This is where the movie veers off course. Strange things start to happen when the characters interact with their past selves. They become suspicious of each other, and accuse each other of letting their mutual secret slip to friends and family members. Both of them become unable to write legible notes; words written in their right hands are as muddled and sloppy as words written with their left. Why this is so is never explained.

The tagline of the film is "If you always want what you can't have, what do you want when you can have anything?" I suppose this is meant as some kind of implicit criticism of greed or jealousy - how powerful new technologies can foment distrust and break apart friendships. But I was too caught up in trying to understand what the hell was going on to care about the characters' personal woes.

The Radio D.J. hosting the event recommended that we read Robert Heinlein's short story "By His Bootstraps," which shares much in common with another Heinlein story, "All You Zombies."

"All You Zombies" fans created this nifty flowchart to help readers follow the story better. Perhaps the producers of Primer should have done the same.

Share this