I enjoyed Shane Carruth’s “Upstream Color”, the followup to his excellent debut film “Primer” — but it mostly made me want to watch Primer again. If you’ve not yet seen it, you may want to stop reading as spoilers will abound below. None of this will make any sense if you’ve not seen it already anyways!
After watching Primer again, I did a bit of reading (again) on the Primer timeline (being sick in bed has a slight few benefits). After watching the film for at least 137 or so times, it never really occurred to me that Aaron as we experience him in the film is actually Aaron-3. If you watch the film again with this in mind, it makes things very interesting.
I’m pretty sure Abe’s storyline is the one depicted in the film, and that he has no time-travel hidden from Aaron or the viewer.
In the sequence of events in the film, we are being shown Aaron-3 but we supposed to think it’s Aaron-1. In other words, we are led to believe that we are watching these two guys use the machine for the first time. After second viewing of the film, it then seems as if we are actually watching Aaron-2. The scene in his house where he tells his wife the sounds in the attic are “probably birds or something” — well, that’s where he stashed one of his earlier selves, now groggily waking. But I think we are actually watching a third incarnation of Aaron, not the second.
This means that Aaron-3 has (somehow) used the fail safe machine twice, and has been doing all these daily “day trade” trips with Abe each time.
In effect, Aaron-3 is time-traveling within his time-travel. No wonder his ear started bleeding.
I’m still confused by Granger, but I assume Abe discovered what Aaron was up to and needed help to stop him. It obviously didn’t go well.
The voicemail voiceover is not intended for another version of Aaron, but in fact Abe. Aaron-3 tells Abe-2 (when they are at the airport) that even if Abe-2 sabotages Abe-1’s progress in the experiment, he will make sure to let Abe-1 know the experiment was a success. The voicemail seems to be his “failsafe” device to make sure time-travel is indeed invented.
At any rate, if you’re as obsessive about deciphering Primer as I am, do yourself a favor and re-watch the film with the idea that Aaron-3 and Abe-1 are who we are watching.
These article links below confirmed my vague suspicions about all of this and are worth reading as well. There are some interesting cinematography deductions about camera moves based on the A-B diagram sketched in the film. I caught the one related to the basketball on my own.
There’s a lot more going on in Primer than I originally thought. Pretty impressive for a debut film.