Wednesday, December 1

Contemporary cinema plays with time | Culture

The maxim that time is relative, which took the form of law after Albert Einstein, has inspired more comedy than science fiction scripts. But it has acquired new meaning after confinement. “It’s funny”, reflects the filmmaker M. Night Shyamalan (Mahé, India, 50 years old) in a video call, “how we had forgotten the voracity of the passing of time”. That thought shook him during his quarantine, “when humanity realized how many hours we waste or how we despise some wonderful moments. My parents used to tell me in my teens how difficult it was for them, after emigrating to Philadelphia, to talk to their family in India on the phone. They called their siblings and had to wait days for them to call them back. When they finally spoke, they were moved by their voices, and those conversations were treasured in their heads for weeks. Today nothing impresses us ”.

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That’s why when his children, on a father’s day, gave him the comic Sandcastle (Astiberri), by Frédérik Peeters and Pierre Oscar Lévy, the filmmaker knew that his next film was there, Weather (Old, in its original title, which provides more clues), recently released in Spain. What he did not see coming was covid-19, which gave added value to the script and increased its relevance as a humanist reflection. The same has happened to a multitude of current titles. You just have to look at the digital platforms or the billboard to see that the new science fiction is reflecting on the different measurements of time, its elongation or on the possibility of parallel worlds or dystopias: Bliss, with its simulation of another world and another society; Oxygen, where the vital countdown suffered by the character of Melánie Laurent in space takes place in a forward count of humanity; Chaos Walking, where cultures and societies of apparent different eras collide …

And they are not alone, because there are more upcoming releases: in Reminiscence —August 27— Hugh Jackman discovers a way to travel back in time and win back an old love; in Free Guy —August 13— Ryan Reynolds is an anonymous bank clerk who discovers that his daily happiness, bland in its repetition in a time loop, comes from being a minor character in a video game. Could it be that they want to forget and leave the coronavirus behind? “Everything comes,” says Shyamalan, “that we are currently at the mercy of machines, our relationship with them is insane.” Hence the drive to travel further, not only in space, but above all in time. “We want to go too fast,” insists the director of The sixth sense, the protégé O The girl from the water.

Gael García Bernal and Vicky Krieps, in 'Tiempo'
Gael García Bernal and Vicky Krieps, in ‘Tiempo’

Who most reflected on this possibility was the scientist and popularizer Carl Sagan. In his series Cosmos, the chapter Travel through space and time the possibility of reaching stars close to the Sun in less than eight years, the center of our galaxy in 21 and Andromeda in 28 years was being considered. is the absolute limit. However, when these astronauts returned home, time would have passed on Earth in a very different way: perhaps thousands of years would have passed. The wonderful thing is that Sagan explained it with a trip on a scooter with two brothers. And then he made it into a great novel, Contact, scientifically accurate, which hit theaters in 1997.

For Einstein, time is like a river that meanders between the stars, speeding up and slowing down as it passes around massive bodies. A second on Earth is not a second on another planet, as it well showed Interstellar, by Christopher Nolan. And in real life, after six months on the International Space Station, an astronaut has aged less than the inhabitants of Earth, but only about 0.007 seconds. So there is no time travel, but through it to advance in space.

“Kids live time in a very different way. They feel the present, they are filled with it “

Shyamalan is not interested in human time travel, but in human time travel. Hence, he places the protagonists of his film, a family on vacation in a luxury hotel complex, on a beach where one day is equivalent to all human life. Children grow up, parents grow old. And they cannot escape. “One of my biggest influences on how to count feelings in this movie is The exterminating angel, scored by Luis Buñuel. The best reflection in the cinema of an existential nightmare ”, explains the filmmaker. “So when I read the comic, I felt a shock. In other films of mine I have already reflected on what it means to be a child, to grow up or how to accept what bothers us about ourselves ”.

Now the filmmaker returns to some adults with the soul of children on that cursed beach: “Because children live time in a very different way. They feel the present, they are filled with it ”. And because with this, he confesses, he underlines the appreciation that we have of becoming in families: “My parents are over eighty years old and for them I am still their child. In addition, my father suffers from dementia and in that return to a childlike state he suddenly enjoys … other things ”.

M. NIght Shyamalan, on the set of 'Time'.
M. NIght Shyamalan, on the set of ‘Time’.

Aging, points out the filmmaker – who for the first time has shot a film in its entirety outside of his adopted Philadelphia – causes him some anxiety: “And my job is to transfer all that anxiety,” he laughs, “to the audience. In Weather fear is not born from a serial killer, but from the brutal passage of time, from when you get old eating a sandwich. As a director, I have to figure out how to make you feel as uncomfortable as possible. “

You have already assumed that you are about to turn 51. “The pandemic has changed humanity’s perspective … and unfortunately we have learned little.” It is Weather a movie about covid-19? “Since filming, when we lifted the confinement, I already had that feeling. It is incredible how the feelings of the characters are so close to those that we now harbor after what we have suffered ”. At an advanced moment in history, the character of Gael García Bernal looks at that of Vicky Krieps, both already aged, and tells him: “Where would I want to be now? Here”. Shyamalan reflects: “We run after time so much that we don’t enjoy it.”

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