At Last, A Definitive Timeline for Primer

(click to enlarge)

There’s a reason I’m posting this as the last official article of the week, because it’s probably going to take you all weekend (and then some) to figure it out.

Primer is a great sci-fi film, but one of the most confusing movies ever made. It takes the subject of time travel, and all the implications that follow, and lays them out in the most complicated, but accurate fashion possible. It takes a LOT of analysis to fully understand the film, and even though I thought I did, this chart proves me wrong.

Anything in this you’d care to dispute? I can imagine coming back to this post on Monday and seeing a million responses with different interpretations.

  • RNGBroken

    If you haven’t seen this film (like me), this short info graph will fling you in the right direction of the movie info graph: (How time travel works in Primer)

  • Chris Johnston

    Just now finding this, huh? It’s been around for at least five years, which is when I simply Googled “primer timeline”.

  • John Branch

    After a cursory inspection, this diagram for what happens in Primer seems plausible to me. I wish it had been worded more carefully, though–I kept stumbling over awkward expressions. But I thank you for the work.

    My main reaction to the movie is like what I felt about Inception, although for a different reason. In Inception, Christopher Nolan wasn’t content to use his modestly clever idea once; he just had to do it four times. Yet he explained everything at every step of the way, so his dream-within-a-dream recursion became surprisingly boring. Shane Carruth similarly felt he had to complicate his story, but, taking the opposite tack from what Nolan later did, Carruth omitted things, under-explained what was happening. His film became annoyingly inscrutable. In both cases, my basic reaction was “Why?”

    Inception seemed to me mostly pointless, but I’ll leave that alone as it’s not the subject at hand here. If Primer has some value other than the puzzle it presents, then the complexity of what Carruth presents is actually a detriment. I think there is some value to his tale (beyond the puzzle, that is); it’s the value of seeing the human consequences of a new scientific power. But I wish he hadn’t fragmented and obscured it so much.

  • cuco

    A movie is what it is, it can be everything at the same time.
    There are thousands of movies out there, something diferent for a while doesnt hurt.

  • ryebreadreturns

    This chart is amazing but I found at least one problem. The chart indicates the party takes place on Tuesday the 23rd, but in the movie Aaron clearly says the party was the night that Abe told him about how the machine works, which would mean it happens Monday the 22nd.

  • Shawn

    Does your diagram confirm / agree with the inconsistencies with Aaron’s refrigerator? During the first (!) revision in Aaron’s Kitchen we see a new refrigerator with a bow on it (presumably a present). Later (!!) we see that Aaron’s refrigerator is now a white one that Abe is salvaging copper tubing from. Clearly this is meant to be in different timelines. I’ve gotta study this diagram for a while now.

  • Megan

    Shawn: I believe that the white fridge is actually in Abe’s house…

  • Bimbo

    no, no the white fridge was their old fridge. The black was a new christmas gift. They were getting materials out of the old one.This has nothing to to with time travel.

  • Bob Roberts

    AWESOME!!! I have watched this flick at least 20 times , I have a pretty good handle on it but this has finally given me closure. Thanx!!!!!

  • jonquimbly

    Paul, did you author this chart? I ask, because there’s so much not appearing in the yellow boxes, it seems like something the scriptwriter might’ve cooked up to help with getting the script correct!

    Either way, fascinating info. Let us know!

  • Kassie

    I don’t know where to start with the diagram when watching the film.