Killtoberfest 1 – #5: Timecrimes (or, Los Cronocrímenes)

In All, Movies by Kyu

Consider the following thought experiment. You’re alone at home, naked after a shower. A portal opens up in front of you; from it emerges a masked man in a dark coat. Surprised and afraid, you attack him, and in the ensuing struggle the interloper is killed. Deciding to investigate the strange portal, you quickly put on his mask and coat and enter the portal… emerging in the same room five minutes earlier, where you are attacked by your naked past self. In the ensuing struggle you are killed, and he puts on your mask and coat and leaps through the portal. The loop is closed seamlessly… Except where did the clothes come from?

Movie #5 (and technically 6, because I coincidentally watched it twice in the same day) of Killtoberfest is the 2007 Spanish indie, Timecrimes, or, more musically in the original language, Los Cronocrímenes. It’s like if Primer were a black comedy, and then got blacker and blacker and blacker…

I’m a sucker for innovative plot structures, and this is the only time I’ve ever seen a movie as Moebius film strip. What begins as a simple afternoon becomes both fiendishly complicated and increasingly horrifying, as everyman Hector wages a grim battle with the strictures of causality like Lucy fighting the conveyor belt. It’s a neat concept, decently executed with wit and energy.

The film’s main weakness is that its central character is severely underdeveloped, which leads to points where his motivations are unclear or nonsensical. The choices he makes generally make sense in the moment, but his overall strategies are suspect.

But most interesting to me is the question of where the clothes come from (metaphorically speaking). Individual details, from a line of dialogue to a scary gesture, seem to generate themselves out of nothing. I guess that’s the paradox.

The other interesting bit is the overall thematic structure and how it deals with identity. Are the three Hectors interchangeable, as their numbering system seems to suggest? Not necessarily. As each becomes more battered and more desperate, they cycle through a set of identities, corresponding to horror archetypes. First the victim: manipulated, displaced in his own home by an imposter, wounded and menaced. Then the monster: acting out a rote pattern, accomplishing his goals through violence and fear, destructive, selfish, inhuman. Finally the savior: taking off the bandages, he synthesizes a new identity, confident and self-guided, one which is able to improvise and plan in order to fight the monster and save his wife, substituting one death for another. For a man who began as a voyeur, letting himself be manipulated by forces he couldn’t begin to guess at, Hector ends the film acutely aware of himself, his environment, and his ability to influence both.

Overall it’s a fascinating little puzzle box movie with a unique structure. Not perfect; but definitely worth a watch.