One of the gifts I gave Eleya for Christmas was a DVD of the superb ultra-low budget indie film Primer, a film we saw a couple years ago which made a very strong impact. Made by Texan engineer-turned-auteur Shane Carruth, who also starred, edited, scored, and so on, it’s a brilliant science fiction film that stands head and shoulders above any of the entries in recent memory from the little California town that couldn’t. Carruth recruited friends and family and wrangled a miniscule budget of $8,000 to tell a story simultaneously about trust, power, entrepreneurial innovation, and the intricacies of paradox in under eighty muscular (if somewhat confusing) minutes.
The film is ostensibly about two central characters, a pair of engineer friends who discover time travel purely as a spinoff of their attempt to tackle superconductivity at closer to room temperatures. Primer really pays off with repeated viewings, and the commentaries are very illuminating as well. Ultimately the confusing final twenty minutes becomes clearer as we realize that — just as would occur in any reality that allowed time travel into the past — our experience of the film, practically from its outset, is not necessarily what we thought it was.
One of the most insightful observations from Carruth in the commentary is that at some point the protagonists are, in the final analysis, vying for the position to experience an authentic past. The erosion of trust between the two friends comes not as a moral judgment on either character, but as the inevitable effect of the frightening power that comes with control over history.
Highly recommended, preferably more than one viewing.