I can only be sure of one thing: after watching Primer, I have had mild headaches. I can’t fathom what I have seen. I can’t describe it in words, especially the mechanism of this whole time-travel thing. In fact, my mind is too focused on trying to figure how it works, the moral implications do not sink in until later. I get goose bumps once I step out of the classroom, and they remain moments, hours and days after.
Primer has an irregular rhythm that is intriguing, exciting and annoying at times. The beginning tells the story in a linear, straightforward manner. The scenes where Aaron and Abe discuss the physics behind their project are painfully slow and boring. Although the topic of their conversation is almost incomprehensible, I can still follow what goes on. When they have decided to recreate their small-scale, anti-gravity machine to a grander, more ambitious ‘box’ that can fit a person, events begin speeding up. My excitement escalates when Abe realizes that they have created a time-machine, and shows Aaron his double. I wait for them to get tangled with events, go to wherever or create a monster (why not?). The movie becomes repetitive instead. We see the same scenes, over and over, except that these are not exactly the persons we’ve seen before. Near the end, things speed up again. The story becomes all the more confusing. And while I am still trying to figure out what is going on, whose handwriting is messed up and who am I seeing now, the curtain closes.
As I have understood from reading the synopsis, the Doubles begin to take over at one point. However, I don’t see the Doubles interfering as some villains or whatnot. Primer is about Aaron and Abe – two engineers dumbfounded with their unanticipated invention. They are ecstatic, for finally having the means to take advantage of the stocks and earn and a way to correct their personal mistakes and shortcomings.
The film atmosphere is quiet and eerie. I can only hear the sound generated by the machine, their voices talking, in English but in terms that I don’t quite understand, and the narration, that turns out to be Aaron two. The scenes showing the machines are close ups. Some show the characters inside the box. Watching these, I feel like I’m forced to tag along them, which is scary. Probably due to budget constraints, and also as an idea incorporated in the story, the characters never come face to face with their Doubles. Thus, making it hard to distinguish one from the other. The film though makes subtle distinctions between them. Twice or more, we see the Doubles with earphones plug in their ears so they get to hear and repeat what the originals have said when the event first occurred.
Primer doesn’t seem like a low budget film. The shots are done neatly. It occasionally blurs but it enhances the feel that we don’t entirely understand what we see on screen. I have complained a lot about the film, but it’s so unforgettable, it has easily become my favorite of the bunch. It’s one painful movie experience that I will never forget due to how it lingers, mentally and physically.