Cambridge Film Festival review – Time Crimes

Time Crimes (Los Chronocrimines) (2007)

Dir. Nacho Vigalondo (Spain)

88 mins

Screened: Thursday 25th September 2008

Anyone who knows anything about writing will be familiar with Chekhov’s quote about the gun on the wall in the first act that must be fired by the third. In this time-bending Spanish thriller, Chekhov’s gun signifies almost anything onscreen, as seemingly innocent objects and events become pieces in the grand puzzle that is the film’s plot.

Hector, relaxing in the garden of his new house, catches sight of a naked woman through his binoculars. He goes into the woods to investigate, and is attacked by a man whose face is swathed in pink bandages. Fleeing from the stranger, he takes refuge in a nearby research institute, and seeks the help of a young man, whose motivations remain unclear. The man convinces Hector to hide in a mysterious chamber, which sends him back in time to before his nightmare began. But in fact, it is only just beginning.

From here on, the film stops being a straight chase thriller and becomes entertainingly loopy (in both a temporal and mental sense). Post-time travel, “Hector 2” is forced to retrace his steps and undertake actions that will affect “Hector 1″‘s behaviour, causing him to get in the machine and travel to the past, thus creating Hector 2. Cause and effect become their own opposites, or the same thing. Or something.

While I saw from a mile off the obvious twist [SPOILER ALERT] – that Hector would become the bandaged man – this development does interesting things with the sense of tension created in the film’s first section. We see our protagonist become the terrifyingly blank assailant, and some of the efficient jump scares are repeated, but this time played for laughs as we know who is inside the bandages.

Although the timeline loops back on itself several times over, the narrative remains linear, charging along on sheer energy as Hector tries desperately to repair the mistakes made by his past selves. It’s also worth mentioning the amount of damage he takes, as the progressively spreading cuts and bruises he sports help to distinguish the versions of him running around on the same stretch of hillside.

This kinetic quality makes the film terrific fun to watch, as you’re figuring out what Hector will do/has done in the future/his past. But it also leads to a certain shallowness, as it never stops to allow serious examination of the moral consequences of his manipulation of events. The ending sees him relaxing at home with his wife, seemingly never considering the misdeeds he has committed to save them both.Time Crimes flies when it’s having fun, but unlike Hector, once it’s finished you will have little motivation to go back to the start.


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