Timecrimes Movie Explanation and Interview With Nacho Vigalondo

[amazon template=iframe image&asin=B001FOPOD8]Over the last year or two there have been a number of people on this site who have recommended that I watch a Spanish movie entitled TimeCrimes, or as it is entitled in Spanish, “Los cronocrímenes”.   Over the past 5 years or more there have been rumors of the rights TimeCrimes having gone over to Dreamworks and a script that has been written by Steve Zaillian.  But there hasn’t been any confirmed movement on the script in the last couple of years.  But that’s ok, because the original is definitely better than anything that a U.S. studio will be able to pull together.

First things first – this isn’t a review.  It’s a spoiler filled discussion of how the movie TimeCrimes works.  How the timeline snuggly fits together.  A discussion of the actions in the movie from beginning to end.  So if you haven’t seen the movie this is your final warning.

I would like to say that in the last two weeks I’ve seen a pile of very good time travel movies that I’ve been hoping to review out here.  Predestination and TimeLapse are the two I dug the most… that was until I cam across TimeCrimes.  I watched the first 30 minutes, and I knew, I just KNEW where the film was going.  I figured out many of the basic elements of the movie.  But what I didn’t grasp was that I’d only figured out a third of the movie.  It wasn’t until the closing 30 minutes that I realized there was an entirely different twist up this stylish little indie Spanish thriller.  And that was when I sat up and really began to take notice.

TimeCrimes Overview

timecrimes-minimalist-posterThe major plot details of TimeCrimes is necessarily thin.  Hector and his wife are remodeling their home.  Hector notices someone off in the trees and then goes and investigates.  He finds a possibly dead woman and begins to flee when he’s stabbed by a bandaged man.  Hector makes his way to a scientific facility where he meets a scientist.  The bandaged man is chasing them both when the scientist invites Hector to hide in one of the machines.  That is when the movie begins to take off, because the machine is actually a time machine, and the machine has just sent Hector backwards in time about an hour.  An hour? What can you do with an hour, you ask?  Well, apparently plenty.  When there is a time machine involved there is plenty of chaos that can still happen.

Basic TimeCrimes Questions

When I first watched TimeCrimes, I was struggling to understand if the TimeCrimes time travel system was deterministic or if time could actually change as the movie moved forward.  A lot of this confusion centered around the young woman… who she was, how many times did she die?  Did she die at all?  Was Hector’s wife killed and then saved?  Was she killed at all?  Etc.  I also wasn’t sure how the time machine worked.  But seeing as though this was the first time that a “vertibrate had entered” the machine, they didn’t understand it either. And so I figured, why not get ahold of Nacho Vigalondo, the writer and director of the movie, and ask him directly some of these questions via Twitter.  He was nice enough to entertain my crazy questions and more, and yet was slippery enough to keep fan-boys like me from pinning him down and dead-ending his movie.

The first question I tried my best to get out of him was around whether or not events were changeable inside his concept of time travel.  Specifically this is exactly what I asked him: “In TimeCrimes, did you see time as immoveable and unchangeable? Or do you think that Hector could have changed the past if he had chosen?”  And his response?  “The question is much more interesting than any possible answer!”  Strike one!  But I think that from what we are shown it is pretty clear that the events of time were very locked in place.  Hector 2 and Hector 3 were definitely doomed to play the roles determined for them in Hector 1’s timeline.  Hector 2 and Hector 3 both attempted to keep Hector 1 from continuing forward and all that happened was that he crashed his car and truck and ended up stabbing himself.

And relevant question I pushed him on was in regards to his favorite time travel movies. I assumed that if he gave me an answer like Primer, we would know that time was fluid, and manipulation of time would obviously be possible.  But instead he answered that his favorite Time travel movie was 12 Monkeys.  Notice he didn’t say 12 Monkeys the television show, which is a completely different answer entirely.  Terry Gilliam, the director of 12 Monkeys, was famous for his fatalism when it comes to the future and it showed through in his views on time travel as well.  When asked about his influences and favorites, Nacho Vigalondo also said, “I was inspired by literary sci-fi, tales from Philip K. Dick, Robert Heinlein, Alfred Bester…”

So, after talking with Nacho, and working the buttons off of my remote, I think I have a pretty good handle on the large overarching rules upon which TimeCrimes operates.

TimeCrimes Time Travel Rules Explained

1. A person can only go as far back in time as the machine was turned on.  (Primer-esque)

2. The Time Machine required 4 specific power modules to work and some undescribed liquid.

3. Time travelers actually never changed time, ever… they were actually required to play their part as previously prescribed.

4. Contact with one’s self does nothing – no event horizon, no end of world chaos, nada.

time-crimes-header

TimeCrimes Timeline In Depth Walkthrough

I went back through the movie and detailed out all of the major events of the movie as they happened from start to finish in order to help us remember what exactly happened.  The more interesting timeline will come next, when I give you the events in chronological order. But for now here are the events in the movie as we follow Hector 1, then Hector 2, and then on to Hector 3…

  1. Hector 1 gets a call but no one responds
  2. Young woman rescues Hector 2 – she runs away
  3. Hector 1 sees the woman in the woods
  4. Hector 1 goes to investigate
  5. Hector 1 finds woman at rock,
  6. Hector 1 is stabbed by bandaged man
  7. Hector 1 wraps his elbow wound hides in machine
  8. Hector 2 emerges from the time machine
  9. Hector 2 contemplates time travel – calls house, doesn’t speak
  10. Hector 2 leaves in scientist’s car
  11. Hector 2 gets run off road by truck
  12. Hector 2 wraps his head (realizes he’s the bandaged man)
  13. Hector 2 finds her, and they fall down a hill, woman dies?
  14. Hector 2 enters his house
  15. Hector 2 chases woman, she falls off roof, 2 thinks he’s killed his wife.
  16. Hector 2 is devastated he’s killed his wife
  17. Hector 2 contacts scientist, tells him to lure Hector 1 into machine
  18. Hector 2 frightens Hector 1 towards the machine
  19. Hector 2 learns the scientist was motivated by Hector 3
  20. Hector 2 hears police, decides he must travel to 40 seconds before Hector 2
  21. Hector 3 emerges from the time machine
  22. Hector 3 drives to scientist’s house in golf cart
  23. Hector 3 leaves golf cart, gets truck
  24. Hector 3 crashes truck – calls scientist and tells him he’s failed
  25. Hector 3 finds woman, she screams
  26. Hector 3 and woman hide in Hector’s house
  27. Hector 3 finds his wife who called police because of Hector 2
  28. Hector 3 hits Hector 2 with table
  29. Hector 3 disguises girl as his wife
  30. Hector 3 and his wife wait for police to come
  31. Hector 3 warned 2 not to travel – solving the problem was impossible

And now, this is where we really learn exactly what happened.  This is our chronological walk through from beginning to end of the events.  Not the order in which they occurred in the movie:

  1. Hector 3 emerges from the time machine
  2. Hector 2 emerges from the time machine
  3. Hector 3 drives to scientist’s house in golf cart
  4. Hector 2 contemplates time travel – calls house, doesn’t speak
  5. Hector 1 gets a call but no one responds
  6. Hector 2 leaves in scientist’s car
  7. Hector 3 leaves golf cart, gets truck
  8. Hector 2 gets run off road by truck
  9. Hector 3 crashes truck – calls scientist and tells him he’s failed
  10. Hector 2 wraps his head (realizes he’s the bandaged man)
  11. Young woman rescues Hector 2 – she runs away
  12. Hector 1 sees the woman in the woods
  13. Hector 1 goes to investigate
  14. Hector 2 finds her, and they fall down a hill, woman is knocked unconscious
  15. Hector 1 finds woman at rock,
  16. Hector 1 is stabbed by bandaged man (Hector 2)
  17. Hector 3 finds woman, she screams
  18. Hector 3 and woman hide in Hector’s house
  19. Hector 2 enters his house
  20. Hector 3 finds his wife who called police because of Hector 2
  21. Hector 3 hits Hector 2 with table
  22. Hector 3 disguises girl as his wife
  23. Hector 2 chases woman, she falls off roof, 2 thinks he’s killed his wife.
  24. Hector 3 and his wife wait for police to come
  25. Hector 2 is devastated he’s killed his wife
  26. Hector 2 contacts scientist, tells him to lure Hector 1 into machine
  27. Bandaged Man (2) frightens Hector 1 towards the machine
  28. Hector 1 wraps his elbow wound hides in machine
  29. Hector 2 learns the scientist was motivated by Hector 3
  30. Hector 3 warned 2 not to travel – solving the problem was impossible
  31. Hector 2 hears police, decides he must travel to 40 seconds before Hector 2

It was good to see the timeline laid out linearly, but it wasn’t until I had diagrammatically illustrated the flow did it really make sense to me.  This image is extremely large, and won’t be readable unless you click on the link and enbiggify it.

TimeCrimes-Definitive-Timeline-Infographic

One of the questions I was most interested in asking Nacho about his movie was, “When writing, how’d u figure out the plot would interweave? Did u create a timeline 1st, did u create a map of all the Hector’s locations?”   Nacho said, “The funny thing is that, in order to make the script, I had to draw a diagram similar to the one I drew in the movie! A bit more complex, but essentially the same.”  After I showed him my timeline above he cracked me up when he said, “Thanks! This is amazing, sir.” Which I immediately took to mean – you are completely insane.  But good luck to you on this endeavor of yours!  hahaha.

TimeCrimes Take Aways

I think overall TimeCrimes is a really quite good time travel movie because it holds up in the end. The story continues to loop back on itself, and the events hold up the deeper you go.  Where TimeCrimes is different than other time travel movies is that instead of the future influencing the past, in TimeCrimes the past influences the future… which is hard to really even understand.  But in Hector 1’s timeline we are given a set of events that Hector 2 and 3 work diligently to uphold, whether intentionally or accidentally.  Definitely backwards from a standard time travel movie layout.  I still wish that Nacho had answered my question about whether Hector could have changed the future.  But outside of that, we can only assume from what we are given from the movie that the answer is a resounding no.

Recently I’ve had a number of you recommend this movie to me.  So thanks for that.  I’ve also seen a couple short film makers mention it as well.  So I appreciate everyone pointing me this way.  I’ve recently seen a number of fascinating time travel movies that I need to review out here.  Ethan Hawke’s Predestination, and Time Lapse being the two most obvious examples.  Coherence (not a time travel movie, but still a sort of a time/space jump movie) is also on my list.

Regardless, I’d love to know your thoughts on whether I got the timeline right of the events and have accurately figured out the timeline in TimeCrimes.  It was a fairly complicated beast to unwind.  As a final nugget from my conversation with Nacho, when I asked him about American film rights, and the possibility of a Hollywood studio remaking his movie he said, “I know they keep buying rights every time they get old, it seems they are still interested somehow.”  So maybe there is hope for a big budget version of Nacho’s script coming to fruition some day.  Until then.

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19 Responses

  1. Lawrence

    So Hector 3 was sitting with his wife when Hector 2 killed the girl. Does this mean that Hector 3 can get away with the murder (since being with his wife can be an alibi)?

    Reply
    • Taylor Holmes

      Yeah,
      I definitely think we can safely assume that in a court of law he’d be able to argue that case very nicely. Now in a moral sense, no. He’s toast. But legally, he is out in a heart beat. Hehe.

      Reply
  2. Pete

    Hi, great article. I’d be interested to hear what you thought happened at the end of the movie, and whether Hector3 would then continue his life in a linear fashion, while the other Hectors are stuck in a self-correcting time loop, and consigned to history.

    Reply
    • Taylor Holmes

      Hey there Oguz,
      Your question is a little confusing. Hector was always Hector. But I think you mean, at the beginning, which Hector was the bandaged man… no?

      If so, haven’t watched it in a little bit, but I seem to remember it was Hector2 that was run off the road and bandaged their head. And then I went up to my timeline and confirmed, that was the case, “Hector 2 gets run off road by truck. Hector 2 wraps his head (realizes he’s the bandaged man)”.

      Is that the question you were asking?
      Taylor

      Reply
      • Oguz

        Yes I was trying to ask who the bandaged man was at the beginning. It is very confusing 🙂 If Hector1 started to live events how come Hector2 takes place and stab him?

    • Mauricio Sarkis Ribeiro

      Hi. This movie actually is about the predestination paradox. We can’t imagibe how the original timeline was. All we see is the altered timeline with the paradox.

      Reply
  3. Taylor Holmes

    Why is a totally different question than what. I assumed that Hector begins to try and undo the damage he is realizing he has done. Right? He thought for a while that he had killed his wife… and so he was working to undo that screw up.

    But throughout a lot of this movie, Hector seems to believe that he needs to do what his future (past?) self has already done. So a lot of the time he does what he’s seen that he’s already done. Right? Kinda like in the movie Time Lapse – the characters feel they are locked in by what has already occurred. So the WHY could just be, “well, it happened that way before…”

    Reply
  4. Amir Tehrani

    I think what most people are logically trying to figure out is how this whole thing started? I mean realistically everything had to start with hector 1 because without him walking into the time machine there would be no further hectors… so the questions then becomes how is he lured into the time machine by hector 2 (bandaged one) when he has yet not entered the machine! Clearly its the actions of the bandaged man (hector 2) that caused him to see the girl and persuade her, and get stabbed and run into the time machine… how does hector 2 force the girl into the woods for hector 1 to see, before he has even entered the machine? how is hector 1 stabbed in the beginning before he has even travelled back in time? who calls hector 1 from the lab when he has not even time travelled? if you trace the events back in time there will be a dead end! its like “was there a chicken first or an egg?!”

    and the time line suggesting that the events start with hector 3 is also not logical and makes no sense! in order for hector 3 to emerge hector 2 had to enter the machine prior… and again there had to be a hector 2 for hector 1 to get into the machine in the first place! but no one knows where hector 2 came from to lure hector 1 into the time machine in the beginning; unless we believe that the hector 2 that lured hector 1 into the woods is not actually hector 2 but rather another person; a stranger and /or a rapist who gets into the accident, gets bandaged, attacks the girl and creates the events that lure hector 1 into the woods and later this stranger’s roles and actions are replaced by hector 2 when hector 1 gets into the machine and has to create what he has seen… anyways I believe the movie was well made but there is a flaw in the origin of the story.

    Reply
    • GH

      The mere existence of the (working) time machine caused the thigs to happen as they happened. Hector existed three times for a certain period of time and caused himself to act as he did. Finally, the loop closes and only one Hector lives on.

      Reply
    • Mauricio

      There’s not actually a flaw, it’s a paradox. Especially the predestination paradox, or causal loop, or

      Reply
  5. Mauricio

    Oguz, I really didn’t like this movie. It doesn’t make any sense Hector2 start to do things to make Hector1 go to the machine.

    Reply
  6. Shelby

    Waiting patiently for your Predestination review as I work my way through all the time travel movies you recommend. Predestination is one of the few that I had already seen before I discovered your website!

    Reply
    • Taylor Holmes

      Wait, what?!?
      I could have sworn I did a review of Predestination like the week it hit. But the only spot I see it is in my dank and busted list of the busted of the best time travel movies. Oh holy cow. I just found an old draft of a blog post for Predestination that had a ton of stuff in it, but the latest version of the post was overwritten with this: “Robert A. Heinlein All You Zombies” which was a link to this page: http://emilkirkegaard.dk/en/wp-content/uploads/Robert-A.-Heinlein-All-You-Zombies.pdf

      No idea what this means! hahahah. It’s like I jumped in time and hacked my own post! Yes… I will sit down and watch it again, and then write an overview and detailed discussion of the looping that is happening here. Predestination is a great great movie. I saw the twists coming a mile away. Timecrimes was similar. Whenever someone has their face covered in a time traveling movie they are themselves. Always. Just saying. But yeah, I’ll see if I can crank out a detailed primer of Predestination here soon. OR, better yet Shelby, you do it! I’ve never had a single person other than myself post here, but I’ll let you do it! hahha. No, I’ll crank something out in the next couple weeks.

      Taylor

      Reply
  7. Jared

    A part of the confusion arises from the numbering system of the Hectors.
    It creates an illusion that there are 3. There is, in fact, only one Hector and there only ever will be.
    They are not past, future or present Hectors.
    They are still the same Hector.
    Therefore, they will ALL eventually “become” “Hector 3”.
    They will not be trapped in a time loop.
    Hector 1 will go into the time machine…become hector2….and then go into the time machine again and become hector 3. That is it. there is only one Hector.
    They have not created multiple Hectors.
    It had to happen the way it did, because it all happened at once.
    There was never any alternate timeline. No changing of the past..because it all happened at one time. All three hectors came out of the time machine within a few seconds of each other. It all happened at once.
    It was a well written movie.
    Was there originally a rapist attacking a woman in the woods who lured Hector1 into the time machine ?
    we don’t know. It doesn’t matter because the movie as we know it, all of the events we know about happened within the same hour.
    Hector luring himself became the event.
    And it is the only event clearly illustrated in the movie.
    I want to check out more spanish movies after seeing this one.

    Reply

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