Clarifying Primer

7th September 2008 – 9.29 am

I watched the excellent budget sci-fi film Primer again recently. By the way, although referring to it as 'budget' is accurate it can give the wrong impression, as the lack of budget isn't noticable. There are few special effects but the film doesn't need them, instead relying on ideas to drive the plot. And what a plot the film has. This was the fourth or fifth time I've watched the film and I thought I was doing quite well understanding what was going on, until I got lost near the end.

Wanting to gain a better insight in to the events of the film I poked around the internet. My searches revealed some interesting information about Primer, including this complicated-looking but excellent Primer timeline. From my brief research I am aware of more simple timelines as well as at least one more complicated timeline with eleven distinct threads, but the linked timeline clarifies an awful lot for me and fits in well with the film's events.

The only problem is that I thought I knew most of what was going on and the timeline shows that I clearly only perceived a simplistic construction of events, a few threads of a much richer tapestry. I suppose I could have watched Primer with a notepad and pen, finger hovering over the DVD pause button, and attempted to create my own timeline, but I didn't. As it turns out, I didn't have to, which is convenient for me, particularly as I am far from confident about ability to have worked it out for myself. I am a little dense about film plots most of the time, but I enjoy them in my own way and get a lot of entertainment out of them. The good thing is that when someone else comes along to explain the plot, either in a director's commentary or the fan-created diagram for Primer, I am able to enjoy the film more than before.

Now that I have a much better idea of the overal structure of the film I think I could watch Primer again and look out for all the bits I've missed previously.

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