Movie Review: Time Code

21 Jan

I’ve always been really fascinated with different forms of narration.  Because of these, I am currently taking a screen-writing class at UF so that I may learn this format of telling a tale. But, as a screen-writing class, we have to watch films that exemplify different techniques or ideas in film-making. So this past Wednesday we watch the movie Time CodeAll I can say is that it was…interesting.

Time Code is a movie from 2000 that displays four screens at the same time.  All four screens run simultaneously and loosely follow a small cast of characters whose lives intersect with one another at various times.  The movie was shot in all one take from 4 different cameras, and no edits were done. Even most of the script was improvised, only giving the actors a general idea of what they needed to do at specific times. While a little confusing, the concept of the movie sounds unique, creative, and very interesting. Unfortunately, it didn’t quite pull off  being believable or compelling.

The setting of the movie is a movie production studio, Red Mullet, in which all the characters at some point visit. The action tends to follow studio executive Alex Green (Stellan Skarsgard), aspiring actress and Alex’s secret lover, Rose (Salma Hayek), Alex’s wife Emma (Saffron Burrows), and Rose’s girlfriend Lauren (Jeanne Tripplehorn). The four screens usually focus on at least one of these characters as they struggle with love, success, addiction, and heartbreak. 

While the general plot sounds promising and the concept seems very experimental (but in a good way), the actual execution is a little off. Taping everything in one take doesn’t allow for any error, so when the actors improvisations are less than believable or come off as comic in a tense situation, the illusion of “real life” is lost. Among these moments are when Rose is abnormally suspicious of getting an audition, going back and forth between “Oh my God, this is amazing!” to “Wait, are you shitting me?” for about five minutes, or when a prestigious director decides to lick the tongue of her painfully awful rapper-boyfriend in the middle of an important movie pitch.

Regardless of these dialogue mishaps, the managing of four separate screens was done very well. Close-ups of objects or an increase in volume of a particular window let the audience know that it was time to pay attention there, while the other windows could be largely ignored. What could have been terribly confusing was played well and became simple enough to understand.

Overall, the impact of the movie was lost a little in the at times ridiculous improvisations. But the experimental nature and general plot of the movie were a step in the right direction in creating a new kind of film in which the human condition can be shown compelling in real-time without editing the real life aspect out.

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