In the Loop: Timecrimes

It’s a joke now that we’ve all been repeating the same day over and over for more than a year now. I had been thinking about this and also my unapologetic love of time loop movies.

Welcome to In the Loop, a project where I will write about time loop movies (and on occasion, TV shows) once a week.

Note: I will be writing about all of these movies as if you’ve seen them, so spoilers ahead!

Timecrimes (2007, directed by Nacho Vigalondo)

  • Time until the loop begins: 24 minutes
  • The cause of the loop/inciting incident: Time machine
  • Number of time loops: 2
  • Lessons learned: Men are their own worst enemies.

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Most time loop movies follow the Groundhog Day formula — a “bad” person becomes “good” through trial and error, repeating things until they manage to get it right. But would that always be the case? In Timecrimes, if there’s a wrong choice to be made, Héctor (Karra Elejalde) is going to make it and he’s going to keep making it.

Héctor, when we first meet him, doesn’t seem like a bad person, exactly, just a bit grumpy and harried. His wife, Clara (Candela Fernández) lovingly puts up with him. But then he starts spying through binoculars on a young woman (Barbara Goenaga) taking her T-shirt off in the woods and it goes from there. Basically, this all happens because Héctor chooses to be a creep.

He runs off to investigate what he’s seeing and finds the woman now naked. He’s stabbed by a man with a bandage on his face and he runs off and ends up in a time machine. As a scientist (played by writer/director Nacho Vigalondo), Héctor has been sent back about an hour so now there are two of him. In effect, he was running from himself.

Héctor’s entire flaw is that he refuses to believe the earlier version of himself — the one that went into the woods — is the same person. He becomes the man with the bandaged face, the man who forces the young woman to lift her shirt in the woods (and then strips her naked after he accidentally knocks her out) and the one who stabs himself in the arm. Héctor so quickly embraces his dark side that it’s hard to believe it wasn’t always there.

Eventually, there’s a third Héctor running around because the previous two failed to stop the Héctor he was chasing from getting in the time machine. Héctor thinks he kills his wife, but it turns out, in a late-movie reveal, he actually killed the young woman from the woods and was just trying to fool himself.

I’m going to pause here to talk about the woman in the woods. The movie never gives her a name and while I wouldn’t necessarily say Vigalondo treats her as disposable, Héctor certainly does. Saying “Whatever I ask of you, I won’t hurt you” as he asks her to lift her shirt to expose her breasts is uncomfortable and it’s meant to be. There’s nothing sexy about any of this. Still, she’s a bit of a loose end for me. I think Goenaga gives a good performance and does as much as she can with the role, but I’m not fully sure if Timecrimes fully deals with that she existed to be abused then die, regardless of how much we’re not supposed to like it. (I also don’t feel like we’re supposed to ever be on Héctor’s side, though.)

Héctor is stuck in the loop because he refuses to make different choices. Sure, some of that can be seen as that he believes he’s the “real” Héctor regardless of being told he traveled through time, but it’s more he keeps making these choices because he wants to. His relentless pursuit of himself means he’ll just keep repeating this again and again. Even though there’s a pause at the end of the movie with Héctor sitting with his wife, he seems to know another Héctor is going to get into the time machine and it will all start again. He can’t stop himself because he won’t change.

Next week on August 17: The Fare

In the Loop logo by Sarah Burnett. If you’d like to support this project, buy one of my Polaroids.