Beyond the two infinite minutes (2021) review [Nippon connection 2021]

 

Introduction

EUROPE KIKAKU, a popular theatrical troupe in Kyoto, ventures with Beyond the two Infinite Minutes for the first time in the field of cinema. Written by Makoto Ueda, the founder of EUROPE KIKAKU, directed by Junta Yamaguchi, and acted by a cast made up by members of the troupe – except for Aki Asakura, EUROPE KIKAKU attempts to ‘conquer’ the world of cinema’s and film festivals.

Review

One day, after closing hours, café owner Kato (Kazunari Tosa) discovers, upstairs in his apartment, that his apple computer shows him a fragment of what will happen in his café two minutes in the future. The other screen downstairs in his café gives him, as his future self explains, a look at what happened two minutes ago.The two screens, as they are interlinked, enables Kato to communicate with his past and future self. When Komiya (Goto Ishida) finds out about the ‘time tv’, he calls over Ozawa (Yoshifumi Sakai) and Tanabe (Masashi Suwa). Then Ozawa gets the idea to put the two devices opposite each other and to create a longer time-loop. Naturally, chaos ensues.

Beyond the two infinite minutes (2021) by Junta Yamaguchi.

Beyond the two infinite minutes proofs that one does not necessarily need a big-budget or a creative set-design to craft a compelling sci-fi narrative. Central in Yamaguchi’s narrative is the concept of time and more specifically the ability to discover the near future.

The interplay between the monitor that shows the future and the one that shows the past reveals, at first glance, a certain ‘determination’. The ‘present-in-the-past’ unfolds in a certain way due to the insight in the two-minute future and the ‘present-in-the-future’ unfolds in a particular way due to the two-minute past. There is, in other words, no possibility to alter the future nor the past, the present is already written due to fact that all the witnesses are subjected to this time-loop of information.

Beyond the two infinite minutes (2021) by Junta Yamaguchi.

Some spectators might wonder why this interplay between the past and future does not create an infinite loop. Simply because the ‘present’ is not erased, because time unfolds and the present shifts – the loop is, in other words. a relative loop, limited initially to fragments of four minutes. When Kato sees the future for the first time, he does not exist in the ‘past’, but in the present. By going downstairs, after seeing the future, he makes his two-minute future his present, hereby turning his former ‘present’ into his past.   

And then Ozawa creates a Droste framework. What is his aim with this construction? His aim is to exploit the reflection of the past and the future to create a rippling effect that allows one to look further ahead in the future (and further back in the past). While this Droste framework causes some of our friends dream of manipulating horse races or knowing which bitcoin will be profitable in the future, they are – something they easily forget – not actually ‘physically’ able to manipulate the future from the present, rather it is the perceived future as well as the imagined promise of manipulating said future that guides their ‘past’ comportment. But what will happen if our ‘heroes’ decide, given what they know of the future, to not act in accordance with what the future prescribes?  

Beyond the two infinite minutes (2021) by Junta Yamaguchi.

Beyond the Two Infinite Minutes is a very entertaining and cleverly constructed film with a pleasant and satisfying finale, yet the narrative is marked by some rather paradoxical situations, situations very important for the very unfolding of the narrative. The two paradoxes circle around knowledge, around the fact that without knowing the future the past would not have happened, that not knowing the future would have caused that future to never happen (Narra-note 1). One explanation that solves these paradoxical situations is assuming that the time-space ripple enables the conscious and unconscious desires of our heroes in the present alter, in a paradoxical manner, the future. In turn, this future, marked by the desire of the past, reflects this desire back to the present but also procures the knowledge necessary for those who are desiring. A similar but ‘grander’ explanation would be that it is Kato’s romantic desire for his neighbor (Aki Asakura) that derails the flow of time, causing improbable paradoxes to occur so that everyone is forced to play his role in supporting Kato’s desire. But maybe this time-derailment is not enough for Kato to take the first steps in realizing his desire. Knowing the future is, after all, a tricky thing.     

The composition of Beyond The Two Infinite Minutes stands out due to its fluid ‘one-take’ dynamism – with spatial movement and tracking movement often intermingling in one and the same shot. This stylistic choice does not only give the unfolding of the narrative a pleasant flow, but also ensures that the composition is full of visually pleasing moments – Yamaguchi thoughtfully exploits the beauty of cinematographical movement. The lightning and colour-design, for that matter, gives Beyond The Two Infinite Minutes its pleasing homely indie-like atmosphere.

Beyond the two infinite minutes (2021) by Junta Yamaguchi.

Yamaguchi’s Beyond The Two Infinite Minutes is a highly entertaining and cleverly constructed sci-fi film that not only underlines the power of romantic desire, but also reveals how tricky knowing the future can be. While Beyond The Two Infinite Minutes is less impactful than the somewhat similar One Cut Of The Dead (2018), it still has the potential to become, just like Ueda’s film, an international cult-hit.

Notes

Narra-note 1: One example of this logically defying paradox defies this logic is how Tanabe, Aya (Riko Fujitani), and Komiya get the stash of money. Yamaguchi, in fact, creates an irresolvable contradiction. No-one could have known about the hidden stash of money. Yet, this impossible knowledge seems to be necessary for the past/future dynamic to function. If their future selves did not know anything about the dirty money in the VCR, they could not have found it, and they would not have been able to inform their past selves. And without such information, their past selves would never have gone out to find the VCR and the money.  

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