Primer (2004) dir. Shane Carruth
Starring Shane Carruth, David Sullivan
“Primer” is one of the great success stories of the indie-film world. Shane Carruth, a former electrical engineer, with a steady, high-paying career, quits his job to make movie. He’s never made any kind of film before, never taken a film course and three years later he wins the Grand Jury Prize at Sundance, and receives an international distribution deal. The film he made, is not just good, but it’s one of the great indie-sci-fi films of all time and is mentioned in the same breath as “2001: A Space Odyssey” and “Memento.” It’s intelligent, stylish, thought-provoking and wholly original. But it’s also ambiguous, confusing and frustrating.
The story is about 2 young engineers (Abe and Aaron), who, on their spare time conduct their own scientific experiments in their garage. One day, they accidentally discover an anomaly in physics, which they inadvertently develop into a time machine. The machine is not of the Jules Verne variety, but more “Junk Brothers” than anything else. Abe and Aaron describe the process to each other with the most complicated scientific jargon. It’s impossible to understand what they’re saying, but you don’t have to, because what they say sounds so plausible you just believe it could happen.
The men are careful using their new toy. They’re smart, and they know the pitfalls of manipulating the future. They play the stock market and make lots of money. But when they decide to do a good deed, and save a friend from being shot by an abusive boyfriend, their system gets fouled up. Their precautions fail, and are forced to go back and repeatedly correct their mistakes. Their mistakes compound, until they and the viewer just can’t keep up with the confusion. The time loops are confusing, but wikipedia will help you out. By the end the film will not make any sense, but that’s not the point. The film is about the breakup of a friendship and the dangers of exploiting science before understanding its ramifications.
Shane Carruth, himself, is a marvel. He not only wrote and directed the film, he also shot it, cut it, sound designed it, scored it and acted in it. Only Robert Rodriguez's "El Marachi" rivals this story. For filmmakers, the most interesting footnote is that he used a strict 1:1 shooting ratio, which means absolutely nothing was left on the cutting room floor.
Again, the film is definitely not for all tastes, but is a must-see for filmmakers, film buffs, sci-fi die-hards and techno-geeks. Please see it, you’ll either be amazed and confused beyond belief.