The Timekeepers Of Eternity (2021) Eye for Film Movie Review

“It’s intertext, existing in a twilight zone where the benefit of 25 years apart and the loss of color gives it the cast of something at least as old again.”

A radical reimagining, Timekeepers Of Eternity is not just metatextual but metatextural. Aristotelis Maragkos took a 1995 miniseries based on a 1988 short story and created something that’s reactionary, thoughtful, and redemptive all at once. It is a striking work, an absolute masterpiece of technique and intention.

Stephen King’s story Les Langoliers may be known to some, it appeared in the Four Past Midnight collection. A “red-eye” flight from Los Angeles to Boston is hijacked by a strange event, the few passengers find themselves in a world that looks almost exactly but not quite like our own. Refracted, if you will. In its text, there are references to bad TV movies and disaster movies, and ABC’s two-part adaptation could be both. In Q&A, Maragkos spoke of a desire not just to capture the film as he remembered it from childhood, but to recontextualize a central Bronson Pinchot performance.

Pinchot’s performance somehow foreshadows Christian Bale’s performance in American Psycho. There’s a similar intensity in places underserved by the rest of the film. Pinchot was relatively fresh from the sitcom Perfect Strangers, and while it looks like the show aired in the UK at best, I can say it got stuck in the early morning before a Liberal Democrat conference and then a bunch of episodes aired in June of 1992. International stardom might be more associated with roles in Beverley Hills Cop and Blame It On The Bellboy, among other “comedies.” As he tried to go beyond comedic turns, audiences at the 2022 Glasgow Short Film Festival didn’t always feel it.

I don’t know if it’s laughable. I never really supported the laughter of the public, I cannot say that it is only misanthropy. There is sometimes a disconnect between what other people react to and what I do, but knowing where the Langoliers go, some of the seemingly observed humor is washed away knowing that it is the product of trauma. As Craig Toomy, a tough, slick-haired businessman, there is a degree of antagonism thrust upon him. As with any Stephen King work, it’s not just the supernatural but the mundane that grips you, the man is one monster among many and all that. There are plenty of King’s watchwords too, beyond the filming at the airport in Bangor, Maine, there’s a cameo from the tall Stephen himself, complete with a mustache that almost defies description. It’s a bit of facial fluff that could both embolden the villain of a Cormac McCarthy novel or adorn the sketchy face of a little Simpsons gamer, be a detail caught in another photograph of that gray, grassy hill . Shining through like a dark tower standing against a mile of green sky. It exists out of time.

Like, perhaps, the Langoliers. Certainly this film does. Created by printing out footage from the TV movie, running at (apparently) 18 frames per second. I could (and still could) be interested in the differences between NTSC and PAL broadcasting, because Greece used the latter after a 93 SECAM switch. Suffice it to say, however Tom Holland’s film (no, not that one) was shot by the time it’s rendered in monochrome ink or toner, it’s acquired a uniformity that no filter or color calibration can match. We’re treated to a re-cut, if not a re-make, capable of layering bands and tears to lend physicality to the already extradimensional elements of the story. A sequence replaces the first CG of the original monsters with torn paper. Yet torn paper that moves so convincingly in relation to plans of vision, movement, even airport, that it recalls the magic match of the trench run or the approach of a train in La Ciotat.

There are other times a pair of hands could be creator, or, capitals apart, creator. There are questions of perspective, of deduction, of derivation. During the Q&A, the issue of copyright was raised, but it’s fair use, in fact, fairer use. The perfect kind of festival film, indeed, because it’s almost impossible to imagine anywhere else.

A first “cut” was made by stacking papers, maybe about 75 minutes. It’s shorter, but still over an hour, although cut back from some 180 minutes of television, that’s no small feat. It’s a light-hearted reconstruction, stripping away the emotional baggage of others, though its mocking greetings and preparation for flight bring new hints. It’s not just the ones that reminded me of The Flight Of The Phoenix, though the fact that it has a remake is itself an echo of the proceedings here.

New shots are built by layering, two from tears, with watery eyes, watching eyes, watch eyes. Subtitles like (eerie ambient music) take the muddy finality of the single-track premixed audio and AMULETS composer tape looping work and make something flat out of it. Split screens abound, not just irregular interventions from other angles, but polygonal, bracketed, and delineated artifices. Turning from vorticist to vulvar, from crumpled to clean. Sometimes even a clean slate, carte blanche. Occasionally, the film is reminiscent of Edwin Abbott Abbott’s Flatland, an 1884 work whose influences aren’t just felt in this nominative recursion.

If we call him ‘co-director’, Tom Holland had appeared in this (much better) version of The Stand the previous year, would direct Thinner the following year. Child’s Play, this nesting doll’s first in a franchise was one of its own, along with many TV horrors. His work provided a substrate, a rock from which everything that was not Toomy was hewn. There are other familiar faces, David Morse, Dean Stockwell, Patricia Wettig. Stockwell’s presence does something else to all of this, if the candy-colored clown was a prankster we’d have the same palette and the leap isn’t into the quantum realm (of Ant-Man or otherwise) but somewhere more referential .

It’s intertext, existing in a twilight zone where the advantage of 25 years apart and the loss of color gives it the cast of something at least as old still, the stridity of movies and TV steep upper lip disaster where the horizontal and the verticals are controlled but never mention is made of sitting too close.

Stephen King is often fond of reusing ideas and locations, and while it doesn’t end with a running man, it deviates from its source. You may not be able to cross the same river twice, but you can certainly repeat an idea. In his act of repetition, Maragkos has created something distinctive, delicious, demented, delicious. Pause for a moment and consider that he is creating the impression of one object moving in three dimensions relative to another by carefully placing torn paper in a frame made up of prints from a television program based on a written work, from this vector intersection to make more real the fear of a toddler on a concrete ground? Eat it, if you have time.

Reviewed on: March 25, 2022


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