THE HISTORY OF TIME TRAVEL (2014) – This is not a bad movie, it’s simply a weird movie and I mean that in the best possible way. It’s a low-budget affair done as a faux documentary and since those have been done to death this film has not gotten the kind of attention it deserves.
Writer and director Ricky Kennedy has managed to combine the fake documentary approach with well-established time travel motifs to tell a story that is so touching I was literally in tears at the end. I’m not going Kevin “The Kryer” Smith on you readers, I’m just saying that if you pay attention to the tale unfolding in this enjoyable but challenging movie you can’t help but feel very moved.
The emotional impact has caused me to elevate The History of Time Travel above my previous favorite time travel film, Primer. Just like Primer, this Ricky Kennedy creation requires a viewer’s full attention to be appreciated. If you’re not in the mood to devote as much focus to THOTT as you would to reading a book then save it for a time when you ARE in such a mood.
The movie begins as a seemingly straightforward documentary about a scientist who pioneered actual time travel but that’s just the narrative device for examining the way time travel would enable changes to “history” without the larger world even being aware of what changes have been made. And yes, I know plenty of time travel stories have addressed such issues but THOTT combines it with a powerful emotional punch that sets it apart.
As the documentary goes on the fictional events being chronicled have themselves obviously fallen victim to further time meddling. This documentary dealing with a famous scientist, his wife and children is clearly a filmed item that would have been made NO MATTER WHAT because of the family’s impact on science and history.
However, exactly what that impact was and which family member(s) pioneered time travel and under what historical circumstances they carried out their work clearly undergo changes which attentive viewers will pick up on. The changes alter the documentary in a masterfully thought-out pattern that accentuates the subtext all the way up to the finale. The overall effect is like narrative poetry. (Insert your own George Lucas joke here.)
And what would any good time travel story be without the Butterfly Effect? Kennedy employs his low budget in ingenious ways to reflect the changes to the greater world outside of the family at the heart of the documentary.
As the film moves along pay attention to
a) the newspaper clipping and other paraphernalia in the glass display case by one of the “commentators” in the faux documentary
b) the political figures who are depicted in the presidential portrait on the wall of the military man’s office as he talks to the documentarian in 2014
c) the national boundaries on the globe sitting on the desk behind another “academician” providing commentary throughout the documentary
and d) the ever-changing professional titles of the “experts” offering their insights as the story progresses. (Meaning the same recurring figures will appear but sometimes under different job titles which reflect the changes that the time meddling has made to the world around us.)
Let me address the most often-used criticism of THOTT that I’ve encountered in the pitifully few other online reviews I’ve found. That criticism is to the effect of “Dude! If changes were made to history because of the time meddling then the documentary wouldn’t reflect each change every step of the way! It would be consistent all the way through from start to finish!”
First off let me ask this: Wouldn’t it be pretty boring to have to watch multiple full-length versions of the fake documentary just to see the changes made by each successive trip back in time? Because that would be the only way of NOT presenting the changes on the fly (On the McFly?) as the story progresses.
Second and most importantly, as I stated above the changes made to the time-stream are reflected in the narrative in genuinely poetic ways that don’t affect the structure as a whole. They alter the CONTENT but not the structure.
To keep things light-hearted think of it like the changing headlines in the Back to the Future trilogy, especially the one about Doc Brown which changes from SCIENTIST COMMITTED to SCIENTIST COMMENDED. Such a change manages to convey the alteration to previous events in such a way that we don’t have to relive them with the characters to “get” how they obviously played out differently.
It’s the same concept here. We get the overall feel for what changes might have been made in the way the “documentary” recapped the historical events that we viewers “now” know were changed each time they are changed. We don’t have to relive the documentary from the very beginning to understand how each change would have altered the context of the narrative.
The History of Time Travel is very thought-provoking and clever and I will say again that it got me more emotionally invested in its storyline than most major motion pictures have done in years. The lack of big name stars definitely helps the viewer lose themselves in the film. +++
FOR MY REVIEW OF PRIMER CLICK HERE
FOR MY REVIEW OF ANOTHER INDY CLASSIC – SIX-STRING SAMURAI – CLICK HERE
FOR SIMILAR ARTICLES AND MORE OF THE TOP LISTS FROM BALLADEER’S BLOG CLICK HERE: https://glitternight.com/top-lists/
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