Primer15 Nov 2012
What would you do if you were a frustrated engineer with friends who share your point of view? Start a company in your garage of course. Don't worry, Primer isn't another movie to take a bite of an apple and start the Apple. Turns out, these people were much more intelligent. I am currently reading Hyperspace, a book about parallel universes, time warp and the 10th dimension; written by Michio Kaku. I will review that book as soon as I finish it. Reading that book brought back some memories. He talks about possibilities of time travel in that book from a scientific standpoint. Like any other kid of my age the first thought that touched my mind was Back to the Future. It's a very nicely written movie series, scientifically incorrect yet really exciting and I just enjoy the movies immensely.
There's another movie, not as popular as Back to the Future, that deals with time travel – Primer. A movie which has been hailed by the critics at Rotten Tomatoes as one of the best science fiction movies for the thinking man, Primer is about the accidental discovery of a means of time travel. Primer is written, directed, produced by Shane Carruth who also plays the role of Aaron in the movie and has also done the editing and music composition for this movie. Geeks rejoice, here's a man who knows what he is doing.
Primer starts off in Aaron's garage. With Abe (played by David Sullivan) and a couple of other friends, Aaron makes and sells JTAG cards to people to attract Venture Capital. They undertake these projects and then each person in the team pitches his new idea for new project. Aaron and Abe, after a conflict start working on a machine that is intended to reduce the weight of an object. They eventually, after using palladium, mercury bath and a counteracting magnetic field against a ceramic shell to reduce the shielding, make it work.
Abe experiments on the machine with a pea and then a wrist watch to oversee the effects the machine has on them. The watch comes out of the machine with some anomalies. It seems like the clock inside the machine ran 1347 times faster then outside. Abe reasons they have built a time machine.
Abe then builds a larger version of the machine which he later uses to travel back in time (this is where you open this image and try to understand how it actually works) and tell Aaron of their accomplishments. As with every human being, they start off, nervous at first, by investing money since they now know the future. They spend 6 hours inside the machine every day only to go back and live 2 lives in the same timeline in parallel. They start investing money in the stock market making sure it's a mid-cap investment so it doesn't draw much attention to them.
They continue this for some time and eventually start to get more adventurous. The movie after this point starts getting obscure. The usage of a high grain film that suits the movie setting, the engine humming noise used as background score and the story narrative which also keeps getting obscure keeps the movie intelligent. It's not for people who get bored by technical jargon. Carruth felt the dialog being technical was one of the important reasons along with the obscurity. If two aspiring engineers were to accidentally discover the means of time travel – this is the most natural reaction you could possibly get and the dialog goes with it very well.
The movie has soldering guns, talk about JTAG cards, mid-cap stock market investment, Feynman diagrams, palladium, mercury bath, electromagnetism, coil strengths, series – parallel field connections. If you are put off by such language, this movie is definitely not for you but with a $7000 budget, this movie earned just under half a million dollars and is a treat for home-brew geeks playing with their soldering irons. Finally, if you still don't understand the movie, read this timeline.