‘Primer’ is not just a film; it is an elaborate science puzzle. It is a film that makes ‘Inception’ look like a pizza commercial. To fully understand each and every aspect of ‘Primer’ requires multiple viewings — those who claim that they “got” the film in first viewing itself are either lying or are just being a smart-ass. When you finally “get” the film, don’t be surprised if you feel ecstatic and victorious, not very different from how you feel when you are able to solve a difficult puzzle.
But was ‘Primer’ intentionally made so dense and complex ? Well, the answer to that only Shane Carruth, writer and director of film, may know, but my best guess is that Carruth had no other choice. First of all, the film was made at a shoe-string budget of just $7000. So, that limits several liberties that Carruth could have taken if he had more budget — for e.g. he could have utilized visual effects. Secondly, the way time-travel has been inter-woven in the plot of the film, any simplification would have ruined the fun.
In any case, ‘Primer’, today, has a strong cult-following. And it may have its extremely complex plot to thank for it. In my all movie-viewing experience, I am yet to see a film that required so many viewings to understand it. And now that I have done all hard work — watch, make notes, research, watch again, research again — to fully understand the film, I thought why not spread the wealth.
The Plot, in Short
Two friends (sort of, accidentally) invent a form of time travel. Initially, they think of using it just to make money, but soon selfishness and shortsightedness lead them to create so many overlapping timelines (at least 9) that they lose control of themselves, their friendship, and the technology.
Time Machine — How it Works ?
Irrespective of the science behind the time machine — I would even suggest not to get distracted by the science — the time machine (or the “Box”) itself has a simple way of functioning. You switch on the machine and leave it on till however amount of time you want to go back in time. So, for e.g. if you switch it on at 9 am today and leave it on for 6 hours till 3 pm, and then go inside the box at 3 pm, you will come out of the machine at 9 am, effectively traveling 6 hours back in time. This simple diagram explains the concept of time-travel in the film very well (Source ).