Timecrimes (Los Cronocrimenes) – Foreign Film Review

Timecrimes (Los Cronocrímenes)

Made in: Spain

Language: Spanish

Synopsis: When Marty McFly went back to 1955, it caused all kinds of trouble. But in the 21st Century, Spanish director Nacho Vigalondo proves that traveling back in time just one hour is enough to cause all sorts of head-spinning shenanigans without having to tell the story as a trilogy.

In Vigalondo’s first feature-length film, Timecrimes (Los Cronocrímenes), we follow the fate of Hector (Karra Elejalde), an ordinary guy who has moved into a house in the middle of nowhere in northern Spain. He lives there with his carefree, devoted wife, Clara (Candela Fernández), and seems to be pretty easygoing.

While sitting in his backyard late one afternoon, Hector passes the time looking around the surrounding woods through a pair of binoculars. He spies a nude, unconscious woman in the bushes somewhere, and decides to investigate (who wouldn’t?). But before he can summon help for her, Hector is viciously attacked by a man in a dark coat.

The assailant’s face is covered in a bloody bandage, and looks a little bit like the invisible man from James Whale’s 1933 classic. Hector runs for his life, enters a mysterious building, and unwittingly steps into a time machine invented by a young scientist (played by Nacho Vigalondo himself).

Hector is zapped back in time a few hours. While trying to fight his way out of a time loop that quickly gets out of hand, he encounters his double, and then his triple. But is there a way out of the string of violent events, or is Hector causing all the trouble by his very attempt to escape it?

The Good: Timecrimes is an intriguing time travel movie which proves that a strong story and script are at the core of any successful film. The sets are simple, the budget seems to be lower than a turtle’s blood pressure, and the actors are largely unknown (but good). Yet this is a thriller that offers as much excitement as any high-concept blockbuster featuring an over-paid cast.

The film has a raw look to it that makes it seem like it was shot in the 70s or early 80s, but it actually works to give the whole story a “down-to-earth” feel. It’s tightly written, fast-paced, and stays focused without any extraneous details.

The Bad: My only issue with Timecrimes is the same problem I had with the overall time travel premise of Terminator 2: How did the time loop start in the first place? Also, I wished that the movie had an ending that wasn’t so abrupt.

Who would like this movie: Timecrimes is for you if you enjoy foreign films, and independent films in general. Fans of science fiction and time travel storylines will also appreciate this movie, but with its realistic look and ordinary characters, it should have some crossover appeal to those who aren’t normally into sci-fi. It’s a simple but ingeniously made mind-bender.

(3 and 1/2 out of 4 stars)

Director: Nacho Vigalondo

Starring: Karra Elejalde, Nacho Vigalondo, Bárbara Goenaga, Candela Fernández

Year: 2007

After the Wedding – Foreign Film Review

After the Wedding (Efter Brylluppet)

Made in: Denmark

Language: Danish, English, Hindi

Synopsis: Humanitarian Jacob Pedersen (Mads Mikkelsen) manages an orphanage in a poverty-stricken part of India. Dedicated to his work, he reluctantly returns to his native Denmark to meet billionaire businessman Jorgen Hannson (Rolf Lassgård).

Hannson has expressed interest in Jacob’s cause, and considers a generous donation that would prevent Jacob’s nearly bankrupt orphanage from closing.

At first Jacob feels only contempt for the filthy-rich and seemingly arrogant businessman. But things soon get complicated when Jorgen twists Jacob’s arm into attending the wedding of Jorgen’s daughter Anna (Stine Fischer Christensen).

There he meets Jorgen’s wife Helene (Sidse Babett Knudsen), with whom Jacob has a complicated history. Was this reunion a coincidence, or a strange set-up?

As Jorgen’s donation to the orphanage becomes more generous, the true motivation behind his sudden philanthropy begins to reveal shocking secrets and moral dilemmas. Jacob, Helene, Jorgen, and Anna find their lives bound together as they come to terms with their past and face an uncertain future.

Remarks: After the Wedding is a compelling, emotionally intense drama full of highly authentic performances and believable characters. The versatile Mads Mikkelsen once again does a great job, and the supporting cast is tremendous as well.

Director Susanne Bier concentrates on human complexity, which is the most effective theme of this foreign film. At first we’re led to believe that this will be a story of Jacob’s dedication to the poor vs. Jorgen’s upper-class superficiality.

But as the movie progresses, we soon realize that everyone’s lives and motivations are not nearly as clear cut as we (or the characters) initially perceive them to be. Everyone is fallible, and at the same time, sympathetic.

After the Wedding also deals with the life-changing power that the ultra-wealthy can wield. We see a blend of compassion, control, selfishness, and generosity behind Jorgen’s desire to help Jacob’s cause.

The presentation is very realistic, and in Susanne Bier’s own words, this film doesn’t offer simple answers to those human factors. Rather than making the story feel incomplete, it is instead intended to make the viewers think (and debate).

Who would like this movie: This movie’s for you if you like powerful, intense dramas. Nominated for an Oscar for Best Foreign Language Film, After the Wedding is an emotionally heavy piece. Although it’s not a depressing movie, it’s quite sobering and shouldn’t be watched if you’re just in the mood for something entertaining.

The subject matter, however, cuts across cultural lines. So as long as you’re keeping up with the subtitles, you shouldn’t have any trouble following this film. It’s a very well-made character drama with a solid story, but you have to be in the mood to watch it.

(3 out of 4 stars)

Director: Susanne Bier

Starring: Mads Mikkelsen, Rolf Lassgård, Sidse Babett Knudsen, Stine Fischer Christensen, Christian Tafdrup

Year: 2006