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Through an Hourglass Darkly

Timecrimes (2008)

Magnet Releasing

“Timecrimes” can in the strictest sense be considered a work of science fiction, as its story gets wrapped up in the complications and paradoxes of time travel. However, writer-director Nacho Vigalongo’s interests skew less towards working within the constraints of any particular genre and more towards playing with narrative form itself. This is a movie, like “Run Lola Run,” that’s primarily about the filmmaking process, particular the ability of the director and screenwriter to play god, confounding expectations and rewriting the rules within the universe they’ve created.

The premise: a disastrous series of events involving a murder and a mysterious assailant leads Hector (Karra Elejade) to a hillside laboratory near his home, where he’s accidentally transported an hour back into the past. The cycle repeats two more times, during each of which the screenplay provides clues that help Hector decipher the inexplicable occurrences that first led him to inventor Chico (Mr. Vigalongo) and his time machine.

The filmmaker has a great time playing with the structure of the narrative, connecting dots and filling in holes throughout each go-round. The thing twists and turns zestfully, and there’s a certain amount of pleasure to be had in the sensation of being honestly, cogently manipulated. Mr. Viaglongo fills in all the logical holes and effectively develops the progression from Hector’s first vantage point to his third.

However, “Timecrimes” amounts to little more than a minor piece of experimental cinema. So much energy has been spent on the narrative’s machinations and the overarching self-reflexivity that once one gets the gist of things there’s no reason to care about any of it. Nothing especially suspenseful happens, and even as the audience joins Hector in progressively understanding the various dimensions at play, Mr. Vigalongo fails to build these gradual awakenings to a crescendo of any substance. The movie is, simply, too bogged down in its conceit to make an impact.


Opens on Dec. 12 in Manhattan.

Written and directed by Nacho Vigalondo; director of photography, Flavio Labiano; edited by Jose Luis Romeu; music by Chucky Namanera; art directors, José Luis Arrizabalaga and Arturo Garcia; produced by Esteban Ibarretxe, Eduardo Carneros and Javier Ibarretxe; released by Magnet Releasing. In Spanish, with English subtitles. Running time: 1 hour 29 minutes. This film is rated R.

WITH: Karra Elejalde (Hector), Candela Fernandez (Clara), Barbara Goenaga (the Girl) and Nacho Vigalondo (the Boy).


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