If there is a movie showing how excellent sci-fi can emerge on a tight budget, this is undoubtedly Timecrimes from 2007.
The adventure begins on an ordinary afternoon in the mansion of grumpy Héctor and his wife Clara. Although not the most idyllic couple in the world, they lead a serene existence in their charming home nestled in the green surrounding woods.
However, the isolation of the place is also very dull, and when Héctor catches a glimpse of a naked young woman waving at him from afar, he obviously does not hesitate to move closer to get a better look, ending up, however, assaulted and wounded by a masked face hidden by strange pink bandages.
Overcome with fear, Héctor flees as the madman relentlessly pursues him and eventually finds his way to the top of a hill in the moonlight far from his home.
There, he comes across an unusual laboratory inhabited by a scientist who proposes he hides safely in a singular tank.
However, once he re-emerged, Héctor discovers that he has traveled through time, returning to the afternoon of the same day.
Flabbergasted, he decides to take advantage of the situation but must pay attention to the presence of his alter ego, whom he identifies as Héctor 2.
Indeed, manipulating events excessively could trigger a time paradox, and moreover, from the unknown future, another version of himself appears: Héctor 3, who seems desperate to stop an atrocious event.
Although they are the same man, fear and ignorance make them against each other, clashing and deceiving each other as if they did not have the same life in common.
However, time passes inevitably, and when night falls again of the various Héctor-incarnations, there remains only the regret of having accomplished something great but also terrible.
The simple complexity of time travel
Timecrimes is Nacho Vigalondo‘s first experience helming a more complex story, although he had already made several movie shorts up to 2007.
The enthusiastic first-time director shapes a narrative that might appear arduous only at first but proves limpid and coherent as it progresses.
Unlike much other time-travel-centered science fiction works coming across as overly maze-like, here the plot gains increasing clarity and simplicity as it unfolds.
Initially, it might be arcane to understand the behavior of the various Héctors, mainly since we spectators obviously guess before he does at these being alternate versions of him.
However, it is crucial to interpret his decisions, evaluating the motives behind each of the three phases of this character, who finally comes to be threefold.
The first Héctor, moved by a curiosity about the naked woman, is then jealous at seeing himself with his consort, abandoning the shelter where he could stay with complete serenity, triggering a chain of complications.
From this beginning issue emerge the twists and turns of the second Héctor, finding he is the enigmatic masked man who chooses to follow the puzzle precisely as he foresaw it to avoid altering the past.
This decision unwittingly brings in the third and final Héctor, who, on the contrary, aspires to modify the course of events.
As a result, the third Héctor must act covertly amid incidents he knows well at that point, aided by the scientist who only hopes not to be ashamed by his colleagues.
In sum, we have a stupid and unpredictable simple ordinary individual who gets into an exceptional situation, causing chaos after another in an attempt to solve the trouble he himself has generated, although he is still unaware of it.
Good first one, Nacho!
Inevitably, the plot’s central protagonist is Hector, or rather, the many different versions of Hector we encounter throughout the narrative.
Karra Elejalde, the actor who plays him, faces a daunting challenge in bringing three different incarnations of the same character to life.
At first, Hector is a naive and bland husband; indeed, I would even say boring and irritating, except when he evolves into a brave temporal explorer when he must struggle to survive.
Toward the story’s conclusion, however, the character takes on the appearance of an almost frightening entity, his face wrapped in bandages that call to mind the famous Invisible Man of the 1930s or Sam Raimi‘s mythical Darkman.
You need a good reason to justify such a radical metamorphosis into an ordinary man: Bárbara Goenaga, completely unclothed, is an excellent start to get Hector out of his chair, and indeed she only shows her true importance toward the last few minutes of the story.
I would have liked more time with Clara, the wife played by Candela Fernández; however, I understand the difficulty in balancing each temporal intersection of the three Hectors for director Nacho Vigalondo.
Interestingly, Vigalondo also tries his hand at playing the scientist, with a character who appears ambiguous and mysterious and seems to harbor numerous secrets.
However, in the course of the story, we realize that, paradoxically, he is the one who will suffer the most severe consequences for wanting to start the experiment without his colleagues in the lab.
That is all it is, four simple personalities intertwining with each other numerous times and in numerous ways, moving from misunderstanding to violence and even death.
Re-watching Timecrimes from 2007 cannot help but think of The Butterfly Effect from 2004, perhaps a more straightforward movie but just as radical in its consequences.