Primer explodes onscreen

Oct. 17, 2004, midnight | By Anuja Shah | 15 years, 3 months ago

Existential and introspective with sinister insinuations, director-writer-actor Shane Carruth's visual debut is what Donnie Darko would've grown up to be. Devastatingly human and intense though unemotional, Primer warns viewers to relish the single-serving intricacies of the fate they've been dealt.

Token universal message aside, the film was produced, intentionally or not, for a niche audience. For the aesthetically unmoved, it's choppy. For the truly scientifically inclined, it borders on sacrilege. And for those unable to piece together stories on the fly, the film may run a bit confusing. As credits swept across the screen, hoarse whispers of "I didn't get it!" and "What was that even about?" flooded the theater.

Set in an unnamed, modern slice of suburbia, Primer deals with four friends seeking their fortunes in entrepreneurship. The men develop a small company run out of a garage and produce computer hardware; they have yet to invent anything they can ride to big-money fame. As a side project, work begins on a machine engineered to block the effects of gravity on mass, reducing the observable weight of objects. That's got to take them somewhere, right? Well, it does: away from the established plot. Within the first 20 minutes, a duo emerges and chucks the pitch.

The closest of the bunch, Abe (David Sullivan) and Aaron (Shane Carruth) begin to work overtime on the machine and notice one of its more puzzling quirks. With it, they are able to transcend singular memory and bend the laws of time and find themselves keepers of their own fates. As they are further familiarized with the machine's manipulability, they must judge where and when to exploit its capabilities.

Primer 's intriguing premise and artistic style are more than enough to redeem the obvious pseudo-jargon and scientific inconsistencies that pack the script. However, the movie's easier watched than understood; the intertwined footage of past and present makes it clear that the ideal audience is probably endowed with explosive curiosity and above-average intelligence. As a man in the back row remarked, "That was too much thinking for a Friday night." If that's not a turn-off, Primer 's not likely to disappoint.

Notably well composed for a movie with a $7,000 budget, the film was a double award winner at the Sundance film festival. However, Primer is unevenly cohesive and ends dishearteningly, although neither necessarily works against the film. Potentially confusing and quite likely captivating, this Primer 's guaranteed not to be plain.

Primer runs 77 minutes and is rated PG-13 for brief language. Primer is currently playing at the E-street Cinema through October 21. For show times, click here .

Tags: print

Anuja Shah. Anuja "Otto" Shah, a Junior in the CAP, -is thoroughly excited to be part of SCO, -enjoys the word "fiasco", -aspires to be monstrously cool, -remains prepared to settle for being vaguely nifty, and -probably owes you money, but has fled the country. More »

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