Causality shuffles into casualty

Film Before you go to see Shane Carruth's film Primer can I make a suggestion? Do not drink anything beforehand - do not give yourself any reason that you might want to go to the toilet at any time during the film. I inadvertently rushed to the men's room about eight minutes before the end, and I've a horrible feeling that in the thirty seconds I was away from the screen something vitally important happened because I totally missed or misunderstood what happened at the end.

Which is a shame because on the whole I quite liked the film. It's how I'd imagine Whit Stillman might attack the making of a sci-fi adventure. With all my mainlining of Doctor Who these past few months, it's quite a shock to see time travel treated in such a mundane (realistic) fashion. No dimensionally transcendental blue boxes here, just a large metal case which at one point is referred to as a coffin. No popping in and out of a time vortex - this is hard work as the traveller has to sleep in that box for six hours so that they can go back in time six hours.

Shot on Super-16mm this is not a pretty film. It has the look of a 70s British Government Information film crossed with Steven Soderbergh's the maddest excesses of the South American scenes in Traffic. This grittiness creates an atmosphere of taking a sneak peak at a transgression in the fabric of the universe, of two people being given a power they really shouldn't have. The acting style is also fairly understated - even when bad things start to happen the characters take it in their stride. It's quite disconcerting really.

Whilst I enjoyed all this, and it's probably one of the best films of the year I did leave with the sense that it didn't quite work. I'd like to think that my bladder's effected my judgment again, but it feels as though there are problems with the edit. I'd love to know what footage didn't make the final cut because ninety minutes isn't long enough. The film makers have obviously made the admirable choice of withholding information to give the audience the chance to fill in the blanks themselves - a narrative version of keep the monster in the shadows during a horror film.

The trouble is that after an opening hour which meticulously sets up the world and the rules of the game, we're presented with an increasingly fractured story in which vital events which should make an impact shuffle past before the viewer has had a chance to take them in. Causality shuffles into casualty. This inevitably creates an instant audience for a second viewing (and the cinema I saw the film at mentions that the viewer should be prepared to see it twice) but the experience needs to make sense for the one timers. It's important to layer information for people who want to see a film more than once so that they can be amazed, and although I understand what the what's been attempted here, in my opinion a film can't effectively be the trailer for itself this tries to be. Unless I missed something. I'll wait and see it again on dvd. Ooh -- you see what they did there?

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