Crimson Quill’s Appraisal #498
Number of Views: One
Release Date: September 20, 2007
Country of Origin: Spain
Box Office: $553,198
Running Time: 92 minutes
Director: Nacho Vigalondo
Producers: Eduardo Carneros, Jorge Gómez
Screenplay: Nacho Vigalondo
Special Effects: Óscar del Monte
Visual Effects: Marcos Onaindia
Cinematography: Flavio Martinez Labiano
Score: Eugenio Mira
Editing: Jose Luis Romeu
Studios: Karbo Vantas Entertainment, Fine Productions, Zip Films, Arsénico Producciones, Ibarretxe & Co. S.L.
Distributor: Magnolia Pictures
Stars: Karra Elejalde, Nacho Vigalondo, Candela Fernández, Bárbara Goenaga
Suggested Audio Candy
 Huey Lewis and the News “Back in Time”
 Eugenio Mira “The Counterfeit”
I have always been fascinated with the concept of time travel. Ever since Marty McFly hopped in his DeLorean without a thought for its flux capacitor and gatecrashed the past, I have been waiting for the first fully patented time machine to hit the marketplace. While regrettably this is unlikely to occur during my lifetime, movies continually touch on this procedure and that’s the next best thing as far as I’m concerned. All things considered, we watch films primarily for escapism, first and foremost. The ability to be transported to another place and time and watch some other poor sap’s life through a lens is what makes it such an appealing proposition. When the usual boundaries are stretched, so too are our imaginations, and this is why science fiction figures so prominently in most film lovers’ wish lists.
Spanish filmmaker Nacho Vigalondo makes no secret of his infatuation for time travel. Primarily known for his A is For Apocalypse entry for The ABCs of Death, he recently kept the floundering V/H/S: Viral afloat almost single-handedly with his mesmerizing Parallel Monsters segment. It told the story of a garage scientist who unwittingly opens the gateway to an adjacent dimension and offered a brief and ominous guided tour into how the other half live. Until then I knew little of Vigalondo’s other work but, the very moment the end credits rolled, I made it my personal quest to do some digging around. Turns out that I already owned his debut effort Timecrimes and it had been sitting in my closet gathering dust for a number of years. One look at the sleeve was all it took as the words “time travel” were like a good hard fisting to a dime store hooker.
Vigalondo already had years of experience directing shorts before the opportunity for Timecrimes presented itself. Moreover, for a first attempt at telling a taller tale, he took to the challenge like a seasoned veteran. It’s one thing to start off light with a one-tone horror flick but entirely another to attempt to breach something as complex as time travel and do so convincingly. However, his vision was shared and a $2.6 million budget is some show of faith for an unknown quantity such as he. Clearly, his screenplay struck a chord and he was off to something of a rolling start. Now all he had to do was to make a decent movie. No pressure Nacho.
Timecrimes tells the story of Héctor (Karra Elejalde), a fairly unremarkable middle-aged man with an uneventful life and seemingly precious little to offer in the way of heroism. He lives with his wife Clara (Candela Fernández) in a rural home they have recently moved into to and the most spectacular part of his day is most probably his lunch time bowel movement. We spend the first few minutes getting acquainted with Héctor in his natural environment and there seems precious little reason to be taking notes at this point. However, the moment he peers through his binoculars and spots a beautiful young woman (Bárbara Goenaga) stripping off in the nearby foliage, his humdrum existence receives a well-needed shot of adrenaline.
If curiosity killed the cat then you can imagine what it does to a fast-fatigued nobody like Héctor. He cannot resist further exploration and, given the fact that a babe in the wood is currently exercising her God given right to sunbathe naked, we can’t really blame him. We have the impression that this is the closest he will ever get to a little danger in his otherwise repetitious life and he’s all too aware of this fact also so heads off clutching his binoculars to see if he can relocate his fading pulse. It is imperative that we are paying attention here as every last one of his actions has a repercussion once his conundrum reveals itself. Before long, the full extent of his predicament becomes clear, as he stumbles across lone scientist El Joven (played by Vigalondo himself) and is introduced to his very own hot tub time machine.
Any hopes that he can reverse travel to 1955 and hit on his mother are swiftly dashed as the curious contraption only has the capability to send him back a solitary hour. While an hour can seem like an eternity when you’re waiting in the rain for public transport to show, it isn’t a great deal of time when attempting to retrace every last one of your steps and right every wrong, so as not to fuck up the entire time continuum. By the time we meet Héctor 2, it all feels mighty familiar and suddenly even his most seemingly insignificant actions have ominous relevance. Vigalondo keeps things moving briskly and it is left to the audience to keep up as the plot continues to thicken.
This is where Timecrimes begins to falter somewhat. There is so much going on that we are required to take note of and one view is unlikely to provide the answers we crave. While this is all well and good, food for thought if you like, and would ordinarily encourage returning to the fray, Vigalondo’s direction is a little flat and not helped by its rather washed out color palette. The intrigue is there and Elejalde does his level best as our repeat offender, but he falls some way short in the charisma stakes and struggles to carry the weight of the entire film of his shoulders. Interestingly, the most interesting character here is his unwilling assistant El Joven and Vigalondo pretty much ends up stealing his own show.
Having said that, anyone with a penchant for time travel movies will find much here to tickle their pickle. Timecrimes has one pretty significant thing in its favor and that is its compulsive core concept. Watching Héctor 3 valiantly attempting to outfox Héctor 2 while Héctor 1 is still right in the thick of it is decidedly novel and, at a brisk 92 minutes, it never outstays its welcome. I didn’t watch this film alone and it is worth noting that my cinematic spotter was far less enamored by Vigalondo’s time travel oddity; so this evidently isn’t for everyone. However, as a first effort, it shows enough of the ingenuity with which his recent work has been credited to make it a trip worth taking.
Crimson Quill’s Judgement: 7/10
Grue Factor: 2/5
For the Grue-Guzzlers & Pelt-Nuzzlers: Grue is not really part of the deal here. There’s a dash of violence but it’s brief and hardly pronounced. Meanwhile, Vigalondo mirthfully fulfills our skin quota with Goenaga becoming at one with nature barely five minutes in. Fret not if you miss her tantalizing strip as she’ll be at it again soon enough. It’s almost enough to make me want to rush out and purchase my own set of binoculars. However, I have a feeling that Keeper 2 already bought the last pair. If I ask him nicely enough, I’m sure he’ll lend them to me.
Richard Charles Stevens
Keeper of The Crimson Quill
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