Usually when I write about literature, art, music or film that has made an impact upon me or inspired me in some way, I try to explain why. Usually, the context in which I encountered it, and the other things going on in my life and in therapy at the time, play a vital role in why the piece hit home, the way I interpreted it, and the significance I attached to it. But on this occasion, things are more complicated…..
I watched the film ‘Predestination’ in May, and it immediately became one of my top two or three favourite films – I wanted to watch it again as soon as it was over. My husband and I have quite different tastes but we’re both happy to watch thrillers and science fiction/fantasy. The description on the back of the ‘Predestination’ DVD therefore looked ‘suitable’ and was very similar to this paragraph, from www.rottentomatoes.com: “PREDESTINATION chronicles the life of a Temporal Agent (Ethan Hawke) sent on an intricate series of time-travel journeys designed to prevent future killers from committing their crimes. Now, on his final assignment, the Agent must stop the one criminal that has eluded him throughout time and prevent a devastating attack in which thousands of lives will be lost“.
Half an hour in, and my husband was rather regretting the choice of film, and I was absolutely riveted and completely drawn in. Towards the start of the film two characters meet in a bar, and one tells the other a story – a story about a baby girl left on the doorstep of an orphanage, and what happens to her as she grows up. There are flashbacks throughout the telling, and the telling does take up a considerable portion of the film. But the story and the telling are absolutely vital to the impact of what happens later on.
As this review by Ben Rawson-Jones points out, this is a film that benefits from a lack of advanced knowledge. You may work out the ending as you watch- there are certainly clues – but to say very much may well spoil your enjoyment. What I can say is that though the mind-bending time travel elements are fascinating, that is not the reason why I love this film. Aside from the fantastic acting by the female lead, Sarah Snook, I love this film because it is fundamentally a story about identity. In addition, the way in which the story unfolds had huge resonances for me, with the process of therapy, and in particular with the point I was at in my own therapy story. To try and explain any more about ‘the plot’ and about why the film was so important to me, would give away vital components; and so all I can do is encourage you to see it for yourself!
At some stage I will write a fuller post about this – with an obvious spoiler alert up front! But in the meantime, I wanted to whet your appetite with the following quotes from reviews (and how can you resist a movie described as solipsistic?!):
“Questions of identity infuse the intricately plotted Predestination, a smart sci-fi thriller that packs a powerful emotional punch thanks to its sensitive treatment of emotive themes and an incredible, multi-layered performance from Sarah Snook.” Ben Rawson-Jones
“Don’t expect car chases or crowd scenes. The Spierigs — German boys, Michael and Peter (they made Daybreakers) — keep things moody and intimate. This is a deeply solipsistic movie, but how deep is something you’ll need to find out for yourself”. David Edelstein
[For those with an interest in science fiction, the film is based on a (very) short story by Robert A. Heinlein called ‘All You Zombies’. Heinlein was a leading science fiction writer and the book (and film) have nothing to do with zombies, though the phrase is part of a quote by the lead character towards the end of the book, and in that context, its use is interesting….]