Timecrimes

English Title: Timecrimes

Original Title: Los Cronocrímenes

Country of Origin: Spain

Studio: Karbo Vantas Entertainment, ZIP Films, Fine Productions.

Director: Nacho Vigalondo

Producer(s): Eduardo Carneros, Esteban Ibarretxe, Javier Ibarretxe

Screenplay: Nacho Vigalondo

Cinematographer: Flavio Martínez Labiano

Art Director: Arturo García 'Biaffra', José Luis Arrizabalaga

Editor: José Luis Romeu

Runtime: 92 minutes

Genre: Crime and Thriller

Language: Spanish

Starring/Cast: Karra Elejalde, Nacho Vigalondo, Candela Fernández, Bárbara Gonzaga

Year: 2007

Volume: Spanish / Portuguese

Synopsis:
Héctor and his wife Clara have recently moved to a house in the Spanish countryside. On returning home one night, Héctor receives a silent phone call, doubly unsettling as no one knows their number. Whilst relaxing in the garden and watching the surrounding woods with his binoculars, he spots a girl stripping off in the bushes. On investigation he finds the girl lying naked and motionless and is immediately attacked by a stranger whose face is covered in bandages. Fleeing the scene, Héctor stumbles upon a mysterious private facility and meets a scientist who convinces him to hide from his assailant in a strange contraption.
When Héctor emerges he discovers that he has travelled back in time by an hour. The scientist, claiming that the machine is a prototype, seems to have no idea who Héctor is and how he came to be there.
Ignoring the scientist's advice to lie low until events catch up with him, Héctor leaves the facility, confused and disorientated by his experience. He is then plunged into a desperate situation involving the girl, his wife and the scientist where one wrong move could spell disaster for all of them.


Critique:

Award-winning short-film director Nacho Vigalondo's feature length debut is an expertly-crafted and riveting addition to the science fiction genre. Vigalondo writes, directs and appears in Timecrimes and has laid down an impressive calling card; this intricately-constructed tale also contains elements of the thriller, crime and action genres and delivers on all fronts. Featuring just four characters, three locations and a pared-back plot, it is an exercise in tightly-focused storytelling with a healthy dose of tension, fantasy and black humour. Whilst it shares the theme of temporal paradoxes seen in recent films as diverse in style as Shane Carruth's Primer (2004) and Gareth Carrivick's Frequently Asked Questions About Time Travel (2009) Vigalondo's movie feels entirely fresh, and further strengthens the canon of contemporary Spanish genre movies that have caught the attention of International audiences.
The economic script has Héctor unwittingly sucked into a nightmare scenario of multiple versions of him that have created the very situation he walks into. He then spends the rest of the movie trying to extricate himself from it and avert a fatality; every seemingly-innocuous incident is riddled with significance. Set over just a few hours, the narrative performs multiple loops on itself with scenes replayed from different angles at different times from Héctor’s altered viewpoints. As Héctor is confronted with his multiple selves, he has to execute a rigorous plan to keep the time-line in order, and Vigalondo anchors the sense of when things occur through clever aural and visual reminders. Brief flashbacks and repeated conversational voice-overs similarly help to secure the narrative in place. The action always stays with the Héctor we see at the film's outset even as he becomes Héctor 1, Héctor 2, and eventually Héctor 3.The ever-decreasing circles he finds himself manoeuvering through continuously increases the tension; once events are set in motion there is no respite. The narrative is complemented by Chucky Namanera’s evocative staccato string and piano score that would not be out of place in a Hitchcock thriller.
Karra Elejalde plays Héctor with a winning mixture of grim resignation, steely determination and gallows humour as he is thrown headlong into a time-travel conundrum, appearing in virtually every scene and becoming increasingly more bloodied, battered and bruised as events unfold. Alternating only between his house, the surrounding woods and the research facility gives the film a Russian-doll-like structure; it is a hermetically-sealed Universe with no backstory or character development save for Héctor's own increasingly frantic desperation. The supporting roles are similarly sketchy in depth but essential to the plot – the girl's confused meetings with the multiple Héctors, the scientist who knows more than he initially lets on, and Clara, absent for most of the running time but pivotal to Héctor's dilemma.
Timecrimes  is a creatively- and logistically-impressive feat of writing and direction; physically demanding for the actors, intelligent in its treatment of the fantastic, relentlessly gripping and stylishly inventive; it rewards multiple viewings to garner the sense of just how meticulously Vigalondo and his cast and crew must have worked to produce such an exhilarating puzzle of a movie.

Author of this review: Neil Mitchell