Timecrimes (2007) Dir. Nacho Vigalondo
Time travel has been done to death but when it works (and sometimes even when it doesn’t) the time-travel story can be a real blast. Back to the Future remains popular thirty-plus years on. The question “If you could go back in time. . .” must get asked daily on social media, or at least some variation. Hell, I’ve even written a time-travel story. My novella Necrosaurus Rex—when you boil it down—is an extreme example of paradox within time travel, albeit with more genital-devouring than your average take on the material, but still.
My point being that the time-travel narrative is one of those milestones every creative has in them. Even if the idea isn’t executed, it has been thought about at least once. It’s kind of like addressing onanism in non-genre literature. Everybody has at least one masturbation story in them, but not all of those stories are gonna be Portnoy’s Complaint.
Just like how not every time-travel story is going to be Primer.
And so it remains, there are many films about time travel, though nothing quite like Timecrimes, the feature-length debut of Oscar-nominated director Nacho Vigalondo. In my opinion, Vigalondo’s freshman effort must be one of the best and most fun examples of time travel ever put to film, and it may remain his best feature. With the recent release of Colossal, which has hit both VOD and home video, I thought I’d revisit my conversation with the director, which we had just prior to Timecrimes’ release.
Vigalondo laughed a lot during the interview and was terribly enthusiastic. I liked him a great deal, and it has been fun to watch his career. He’s a really talented writer and director, and I hope he keeps making films for a long time.
It’s no surprise to learn that the genesis of Timecrimes’ story came from a diverse taste in pop culture.
“It comes from my love of time travel paradoxes in science-fiction stories. I’ve been reading science fiction for all my life,” Vigalondo says. “I love the work of authors like Philip K. Dick or Alfred Bester.”
But a love of sci-fi takes a backseat to Vigalondo’s sense of humor.
“First of all I wanted to make a funny film, a fast funny film, easy to enjoy,” he says. “After that, I wanted to try and make this kind of challenge to the audience . . . and then came this kind of femme fatale element. It became this kind of mixture between Hitchcock film and science fiction.”
With such diverse influences, Vigalondo tries to keep his inspirations in check, but they creep in anyway.
“When you are writing you try to make your influence live through you, but when I was shooting the script I had Psycho in my laptop,” he laughs. “I didn’t want to make this open homage to another film, but there are some parts in that movie, for example, the sequence where Norman Bates takes the corpse of the girl from the bath to the car. That part of the movie for me is pure magic. It’s my favorite part of the film. Not the killer shot, the killing in the shower – I love that, obviously – but what comes immediately after. I love that.”
For Vigalondo, the desired effect is not to pulverize an audience with suspense but to have fun.
“I like, in Hitchcock films, that things are sinister and silly at the same time. You can laugh at the movie, at the same time you feel so afraid of what’s happening,” he says.
Vigalondo’s film is full of twists and turns and genuine surprises, but if you’ve seen the American trailer for Timecrimes, then you know that some of those surprises are divulged. Vigalondo approaches the subject of trailers in a practical and characteristically humorous light.
“In my Web page, I put up the American trailer and asked people what they thought about this. Half of the people liked it, the other half didn’t like it,” he shrugs.
“In this case, I started as a filmmaker so worried about the trailer, but there comes a point where you just surrender and you are thinking about your next film,” he laughs.
“Maybe it is a new kind of trailer,” he jokes, “a trailer to be seen after the film. Post-trailer.”
For all of Vigalondo’s infectious humor, he isn’t anything other than serious when it comes time to talk about writing the very intricate – and very complicated – screenplay.
“I knew from the beginning that my budget wasn’t going to be great. I knew that my special effect, my big special effect, would be the script itself. In this kind of story you have to write from the left to the right and once you reach the end you have to go back to the beginning because something at the end changed – it was a living hell, writing this script because every minor detail could affect another 70 things in the story. It was really funny to make this kind of puzzle, but at the same time it was a nightmare.”
I think audiences should be thankful for this particular nightmare. Timecrimes remains a masterful piece of sinister and silly genre filmmaking. If I could go back in time, I’d certainly love to hear Hitchcock’s thoughts on Vigalondo’s noir-ish sci-fi comedy.
Of course, the problem would be that I’d return to the present day only to find out that Hitchcock directed something called The Crimes of Time, starring Jimmy Stewart and Doris Day. I’d be pretty pissed, but the Bernard Hermann score would be so great. And then Vigalondo’s Timecrimes would be considered a remake, so it’d get more press and a whole helluva lot more people would’ve seen it by now.
Ugh, this whole thing is getting a bit masturbatory.
[Portions of the article originally appeared at Campus Circle]
*Classic Shit! started in 2009 as a semi-regular article for the website We Are Movie Geeks. It has been on hiatus for a long time, and I’ve decided to finally resurrect the column, reprinting older pieces as well as adding new ones, all of which will focus on film.