Time Code Mike Figgis
Published Apr 01, 2000Time Code, the innovative new film by director Mike Figgis (Leaving Las Vegas), is an attempt to subvert the conventions of traditional cinematic storytelling by using groundbreaking digital video technology. The film splits the screen into four parts, each simultaneously following different characters who are all part of the interconnecting story of a complicated love square set against the backdrop of a Hollywood film production company. The film takes place in real time and was shot in one continuous take, with the actors improvising around an established scenario. This is all not as overwhelming to watch as it might seem, with the story being is quite easy to follow and the sound and the action skilfully orchestrated to focus the viewer's attention appropriately.
The actual plot of the film, although engaging enough, seems to take a backseat to the way in which it is told. The love square at the centre of the film consists of Lauren (Jeanne Trippletorn), who is obsessively jealous of her partner Rose (Selma Hayek), an aspiring actress who is having an affair with Alex (Stellan Skarsgard), a depressed producer whose marriage to Emma (Saffron Burrows) is falling apart. In addition to these relationships, the film shows the office dynamics of the production company as it goes through casting sessions and script development meetings.
With all of this packed into 93 minutes of real time, it is not surprising that some characters and story-lines are left underdeveloped. This is particularly true of Emma, whose journey inexplicably starts and ends the film, even though she is the least developed character in the movie. This lack of uniformly fully realised characters detracts from the impact the film's ending should rightly have.
There is humour throughout the film derived from its portrayal of the inanity of Hollywood movie making-hardly a new target, but still worth a few good laughs. The cast is good across the board, with standout performances by Stellan Skarsgard (Good Will Hunting) as the producer on the edge, and Julian Sands as comic relief in the form of a visiting massage therapist. Time Code is definitely novel for its form and its process, and Figgis deserves accolades for his vision and his execution in conducting the four cameras' work seamlessly, but it could have done better at integrating the story and the cinematic innovation to maximise its dramatic impact.