Primer is not a work to be taken lightly. All-round filmmaker Shane Carruth must be applauded for the dedication that he put into his project. On a shoestring budget of $7,000, many filmmakers would end up producing an inferior mimesis of existing Hollywood films, substituting the more extravagant effects for cheap editing tricks. However, Carruth has designed a world that, while not overwhelmingly realistic, is certainly conceivable (thanks in part to some brilliantly restrained performances). Carruth has clearly thought through the paradoxes that the characters endure, something perhaps lost on larger-budget films that toy with chronology. The scale at which the characters toy with time presents the audience with a believable perception of time travel.
Without falling into the aforementioned trap of bombarding the viewer with fast-paced editing, Carruth’s use of jump-cuts manages to engender a subtle sense of disorientation in the audience, similar to the confusion we imagine the characters are going through. As they try to unravel further paradoxes by tracking their multiple duplicates through time, we are lulled into a false sense of security based on our assumption that a film should be conclusive (i.e. we believe the characters will solve the mystery). However, when it is revealed that the narrator we hear from time to time doesn’t seem to have all the facts himself, new possible interpretations are opened to us.
I can’t claim to understand the film down to its minutiae, but I feel I’ve been intrigued enough to watch it at least once again.