Time Code

(Dir. Mike Figgis 2000)

Time Code is, in summary, rubbish.

The idea is that there are four separate quarters to the screen, each showing the footage of a different camera. I had expected that I would get four different stories, each featuring one character, each woven cleverly together. I was massively disappointed. The cameras do not stay with one character. There are not four strong stories. Instead, there are a dozen or so very weak stories, each of which could be told in one sentence, and would not be found interesting. The bottom left quarter, for the first half an hour or so, shows the security guard and what he gets up to. None of what he does turns out to be relevant, or interesting, and this screen quarter then goes on to follow other characters. One screen quarter shows us someone eavesdropping on someone else. For about an hour, we see this person reacting to what she hears, with the same anxious look.

All the way through, one finds oneself looking at the most promising-looking screen quarter, in the hope that one might see something interesting or informative. This generally proves futile. While doing this, however, one occasionally catches a glimpse of something in another quarter, and then, on looking at that other quarter, one then wonders what it was that one has just missed, and whether it might have been relevant. I saw a character in a bookshop put a book in her bag. Had she stolen it? I don't know. Either way, it proved to be of no consequence whatsoever.

The film opens with a woman talking, at great, and boring, depressing length, about nothing much in particular, to her shrink. This is not a good start for a film. The sound keeps fading up and down from each quarter, suggesting to the viewer that the events in one quarter are more important at that time than in the others. However, very often, the sounds in the other quarters interfere; very often, the louder sound is still uninteresting; and always, the sound is never loud or clear enough to be easy to listen to. I spent the entire film wishing that people would speak up.

Had Tom Stoppard or Alan Aykbourne written this film, it would perhaps have been excellent. They would have picked an interesting hour and a half, in which several complete stories intermeshed, and were acted out in real-time. Instead, we have an hour and a half of people feeling a bit low, browsing in bookshops, having dull business meetings, listening to headphones, smoking, and walking about in the street. It seems that the director feared to put four interesting things on the screen, for fear that each would distract from the others, so he gave us four mundane and dull ones instead. These do not add up to one interesting picture.

True, there are half a dozen amusing bits, but these fall a long way short of making this an entertaining film.

It is at least good to see that Figgis has put his efforts where his mouth was. Years ago I met him at a writers' workshop at the Tyneside Cinema, and he said then that people should make feature films with DVD cameras, and that these films would be successful because they would put content and originality above high-production gloss. Snag is, he has made a film almost perfectly devoid of interest. It is hard work to watch, and low reward.

There are some amazingly good-looking women in it, but again, this is no substitute for plot or incident, or even half-decent dialogue.

Figgis has damaged his cause. The public will be less likely to go and see a film shot cheaply on video, thanks to this one.

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