In 1992, physicist Stephen Hawking, formulated the” Chronology Protection Conjecture,” which postulated that the fundamental laws of nature prevent time travel. Too bad that logic is not as cool as our collective imagination.
Ever since we can all remember, the fantasy of stepping into a time machine that leads us into another place in time has been engraved in our culture through literature and film. From Samuel Madden’s 1733 book Memoirs of the Twentieth Century to La Jetee (1962, the original story behind Brad Pitt movie 12 Monkeys) and even Michael J. Fox leaving fire skids on the pavement from the DeLorean DMC 12 in Back To the Future (1985), the idea seems too cool to pass up if given the chance. Just ask Bill and Ted. Without that phone booth, the poor kids would have never been able to give such an awesome history presentation and keep their band alive in that 1989 film.
Spanish film Los Cronocrímenes (Timecrimes) written, directed and co-starring Nacho Vigalondo, the Goya Award nominated filmmaker (for his 2003 short film 7:35 de la Mañana) is the most recent cinematic revisiting of the time traveling genre. Like most of these films, it focuses on the consequences of disrupting the present, but Los Cronocrimenes is more preoccupied with the elaborate and meticulous details of those implications from a psychological level. At its core, the film is a thriller, while at the same time being a calculated puzzle of events one has to put together and figure out as they unfold. And what will happen next after the future is revealed. Confusing? That’s the point. The story leaves it up to you to decipher it out.
A man in his 50’s named Hector (Karra Elejalde) seems bored with the undertaking and minute details of renovating his country estate, where he is staying for presumably a weekend. This is a house his wife Clara (Candela Fernandez) clearly enjoys. That is until he spots through his binoculars a beautiful young woman taking her clothes off in the woods. He decides to investigate, only to find her propped against a rock, unconscious. What follows is an attack by a man in bandages, Hector fleeing into a neighboring scientific facility with the bandaged man in tow and a young scientist who helps him hide inside a strange mechanical contraption. And round and round we go, as we find out there may be more Hectors rummaging about.
As Hector emerges from the time machine, the plot twists begin to stack up like bricks on a wall. Vigalondo wants to keep you guessing and working like a detective to figure out what exactly is going on, and for the most part, he succeeds. There may be narrative gaps in his script, and some situations are semi-predictable, but his attention to detail and the inventiveness of his story more than make up for any misdoings. After all, this low budget sci-fi gem only consists of four actors and three locations, yet it’s so intricate that boredom is not an option.
Apparently Los Cronocrimenes is scheduled for an American remake, Hollywood-style with Tom Cruise attached. And they most certainly will ruin it….remember Vanilla Sky? Go and watch the original before that happens, because you won’t be able to go back in time then.