The beauty of a never-ending stair and a well put time paradox
Are you familiar with the Dutch graphic artist M.C. Escher?
He’s the one with the “impossible”, mathematically inspired figures – the stairs where people seemingly walk up and down at the same time, the hands that draw each other and Mobius bands with ands that march and march towards eternity.
My parents loved his art, so I had plenty of access to it throughout my childhood, and I became a fan too.
I came to think of this as I watched the time-travel themed movie Predestination. I think there’s a correlation between how you react to Escher’s pictures and how much enjoyment you get from this film.
If a quick glance is all you need before you’re done with Escher’s images, it may not be for you. You probably think that a short film would be sufficient to share the cool idea and the long format is overkill.
On the other hand, if you like I can’t get enough of “impossible” figures, if you see the beauty in a thoroughly put-together time paradox or a never-ending stair, you’re likely to enjoy it quite a bit. I did for sure.
As always with this kind of movie you make everyone a disservice if you share too much of the plot, so I won’t. What you need to know is that there’s time travel, Ethan Hawke (always good), Sarah Snook (never heard of her but she steals the show) and very nice art direction, despite what I assume is a fairly low budget.
As the movie finished, my brain kept processing the twists and turns of the timelines for a little while longer, just as it did after watching movies such as Timecrimes and Looper. I had things to brood over, but it was doable. It doesn’t require you to either watch it sixteen times or use a cheat diagram as a watching companion to “get” it (looking at you, Primer). It’s balanced, with the right amount of cleverness to make you feel smart when you understand it.
If you’re a science fiction fan you might have come across the short story that the movie is based on: All You Zombies by Robert A. Heinlein. I read this story for the first time after watching the film, and as soon as I had finished it I read it two more times. I know it sounds a bit crazy, but as I told you, I can’t take my eyes off Esher’s pictures.
The film adaptation follows the source material fairly closely, with a couple of exceptions. The view on women has been updated. In Heinlein’s story women’s role in space travel is limited to providing sex and company to male astronauts, basically as some kind of luxury prostitutes. In the movie they’re more capable than that. There’s also an additional storyline about an agent who is chasing a criminal in order to prevent a terrible thing from happening at one point in history. As far as I’m concerned, this addition doesn’t improve on the original idea; it mostly makes the movie a little bit longer and the puzzle a little messier to solve.
However, I think what matters most is the tone and atmosphere, which is spot on. The film noir style expresses the sense of loneliness and melancholy from the original short story very well. I don’t think Heinlein would have disapproved.
Predestination (Michael & Peter Spierig, AUS 2014) My rating: 4/5
Some fellow Swedish movie bloggers have seen this film too. Here’s what they made of it: