Can you help me understand the movie "Primer"?
November 1, 2004 10:21 AM   Subscribe

Have you seen the movie Primer? Did you understand what the heck was going on? Could you explain it to me? {more inside, including possible spoilers}

OK, OK - very impressive feat, especially for only $7,000. Definitely entertaining. I'll give it that. But I HATE feeling like a five-year-old at a David Lynch workshop.

I get the basic time-travel thing, producing doubles of each guy, and not wanting to screw up the continuum or whatever.

But when things start to go "wrong" - i.e., trust breaks down between the friends, things get screwy, what the heck is going on? What is the "failsafe device"? What about that woman's father in the car behind them?

And the ending? Please hope me.
posted by gottabefunky to Media & Arts (6 answers total) 3 users marked this as a favorite
Saw it this weekend, loved it, and am glad someone posted this question before I did. I've spent a lot of the morning reading the forum. Plenty of discussion going on there.
posted by Dean King at 10:32 AM on November 1, 2004

I had a chance to see it at the Boston Film Festivel with the director taking questions afterward. He was (understandably) somewhat coy about the exact details of what happened, saying only that everything was there, if you watched close enough (or enough times). The "woman's father in the car behind them" had everyone I talked with afterwards stumped also.
posted by rschroed at 11:20 AM on November 1, 2004


I saw it once, and I don't claim to understand everything, but here's the deal with the failsafe device:

I can't remember the guys' names, so let's call them Techie and Money. Techie is the one that first discovers the device's time traveling applications and explains them to Money.

So the thing about the device is, you can go back to the point in time when it started running.

Techie created a "failsafe" device and started it running before he started the first expeiment on himself. He did this so that if things went bad, he could always go in to the failsafe device, go back to before he started and stop himself from telling Money about the whole deal.

Money found accounting records for a second storage unit and realized what the failsafe unit was.
posted by Capn at 11:22 AM on November 1, 2004

Saw it last night, and was also confused (and disappointed). I think the movie owes its ambiguity to the budget--they just couldn't get enough film in the can to get the story to make sense, so they did the best editing job they could and let it stand on its own.

In the forums, someone says that the filmmaker claims everything you need to understand the film is in there--but that sounds like the hubris of a first-time filmmaker. I think everything we need to understand it is in his head, and he didn't succeed in getting it to film. Fans say the more you watch it, the more you get. That's more investment than I'm willing to make.

I'd would be interested to see a remake with a decent budget.
posted by frykitty at 11:27 AM on November 1, 2004

This post seems to be one of the better discussions of plot points:

Also, this Village Voice interview with the Director is pretty insightful.
posted by rschroed at 11:36 AM on November 1, 2004

I'll second that interview with the director. The big question that is purposefully ambiguous in the movie is how Granger (Abe's father-in-law in the car behind them) finds out about the device and how he goes back in time.

Whoever used the failsafe device the first time must have brought back another box with him, because only one person can use a box at a time. This is mentioned at one point in the movie.

I still don't have a satisfactory answer as to why they can't write right and why Aaron's ear starts bleeding. It could have something to do with accumulation of paradox points, but beyond that I'm clueless.
posted by euphorb at 12:38 PM on November 1, 2004

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