Thursday, October 28, 2004

Primer Directed by Shane Carruth

It seems almost puerile to reduce a film to its budget, as if one were a child staring in awe at either a flea or an elephant – marveled by the size of both. Yet I completely understand how many do that very thing with Primer (whose budget is decidedly of the flea type - $7000.) Primer is a difficult film to write about. In my opinion, outside of the complete bafflement that one feels after seeing the film, one can choose to write about its production mechanics (aforementioned budget, freshman director, guerrilla methods), its labyrinthine storyline (which leads to a didactic plot analysis – which is nigh impossible to do right with this film), or its thematic elements. For emphasis, I restate: Primer is a difficult film to write about. Therefore, I can hardly discredit those who harp on its budget because, frankly, it is the most apparent aspect of the film to write about while still conveying a sense of What It Is. Forgive my failures ahead of time, but I will try to avoid further discussion re: the fiscal allowance of Carruth and Co.

Basic plot summary: four guys (late-20’s) are working on some type of invention (computer cards of some sort, + various other projects) in a garage. Two of them, Abe and Aaron stumble upon an invention that provokes their interest far more than the get-rich-quick ideas they had been working on. Namely, a variant on the venerated time machine. Naturally – because, let’s face it, we will never have a complete handle on causality if/until an actual time machine is invented, and even then, not until after some heavy tinkering - various situations of general turmoil occur. Within this extremely puzzling framework, Carruth, by his own admission, fleshes out a theme that aims right at the heart of today’s greed-driven society – trust. Specifically, Primer deals with the inverse relationship between the level of trust and the value of what is riding on that trust. He leads the viewer to this conclusion: absolute power corrupts absolutely. If one has the power to travel back in time, one has the power to amass an incredible amount of money (via, to use an example from the film, the stock market) and to alter the events of the future/present in one’s favor. Abe and Aaron are, as the film enforces time and again, close friends. They begin the trust break cycle by excluding the two other garage inventors once they realize what they have. Why split 4 ways what can just as easily be split in 2? The trust is further shattered when both Abe and Aaron decide that half is not enough.

This sentiment seems bitterly apropos in a society where the primary focal point is gain at any cost. Enron, Martha Stewart, et al is one thing – we are now at a place where corporate distrust is expected – but the dissemination of greed and distrust into populous society is another thing entirely. Even our entertainment - Survivor, The Mole, et cetera - is focused on greed and distrust. Add to this boiling cauldron ludicrous preemptive lawsuits, the necessity for a prenuptial agreement, and the popular opinion of any person in power, and it seems that Primer is a film perfectly positioned in time and place.

2 Comments:

Blogger nope said...

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12 October, 2005 01:27  
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13 October, 2005 22:22  

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