A timeless concept
The concept of time and time travel have been thoroughly explored in the medium of film since the dawn of cinema. With the likes of Interstellar aiming for absolute realism (as far as we know) to something like Bill and Ted’s excellent adventure which is absolute chaos, there isn’t much that hasn’t been done. Well the Japanese have decided to wade into this already saturated category with a small title of their own: ‘Beyond the Infinite Two Minutes’.
While the (English) title is certainly one of those you’ll likely forget in approximately two minutes or under, this short film, directed by the relatively unknown and relatively untested Junta Yamaguchi, has delivered something quite unique. Billed as a Sci-fi comedy, Beyond the Infinite Two Minutes brings the idea of both time as a cinematic concept and the very genre itself much more down to earth, so much so that it becomes arguably none of those two things — at least in the way we have come to expect and acknowledge.
Before we move forward, check out the trailer.
Simple execution, Complex concept
Beyond the Infinite Two Minutes wastes little time introducing us to — what appears to be — the simple concept of time delay. Kato, the manager of a city-based coffee shop, discovers that the monitor within the premises had developed a connection to his own computer located in his apartment upstairs. More specifically, Kato’s computer shows events two minutes into the future and the shop monitor shows events two minutes into the past.
It should probably be noted at this point that anyone who struggles with the concept of time and time-travel should most likely call it a day here; it only gets more complicated.
This may come somewhat as a bit of a surprise after learning the entire film is shot in a single location in what appears to be a single take. (For the record; it isn’t, but it has been seamlessly edited to appear as such.) Yet, the decision to do this has a far greater effect than to merely keep things simpler.
It allows the film to be grounded in a sense of reality (or as much as a sci-fi film about time displacement and such can) rather than feeling like some far flung fantasy. It makes you feel more like a participant to the unfolding events, however, this only really applies if you can get past the first 10 minutes.
Whilst Beyond the Infinite Two minutes is establishing itself in the early stages, it drags out the initial introduction of the concept a little too much by repeatedly going back and forth without any meaningful progression. It’s almost like a patronising teacher asking ‘are you sure you understand?’ for the fourth or fifth time before moving forward.
However, if you survive the first 10 minutes, then you are treated to the film’s ingenious dystopian core.
Have you ever seen the effect that is created when you stand between two mirrors? The result being a seemingly infinite number of reflections stretching beyond recognition. Well, Yamaguchi’s film imaginatively explores the same concept when the two computer screens are placed facing each other, resulting in the creation of a practically infinite timeline and a snowballing escalation of events.
The majority of the script is based around exploring this idea in what is often called the Droste effect and is even referred to in the film’s Japanese title (ドロステのはてで僕ら, literally meaning ‘We at the end of the Droste’). Here, each visible image or layer is separated by a two minute delay.
Upon realising that this phenomenon can be achieved, Kato’s group of friends eagerly experiment and discuss what is possible, only for their future selves to immediately validate their choices after viewing Kato’s computer. Upon exacting this plan, they can now see 2 minutes, 4, minutes, 8 minutes, etc into the future where events begin to run away from them and begin to be unconsciously trapped into their own decisions.
As much as things become more complicated with each passing two minutes, the core cinematic experience remains quite playful even during some later unforeseen scenarios. It’s light-hearted entertainment. The comedy aspect of this so-called sci-fi comedy is also a little on the light side — incredibly light in fact — hence why this is the only mention of it in this review. This does mean the film is a little focused on delivering its experimental concept more than maybe intended.
Despite that, it’s a film that feels incredibly clever and original, even finding yourself questioning how on earth has everything been achieved so seamlessly.
Questions and choices
Amongst its playful and light-heartedness, Beyond the Infinite Two Minutes does take the opportunity to tackle some time-related curiosities, as well as address some moral dilemmas. There are also some surprising instances that give pause for thought.
Namely, what would happen if you trick or lie to your past self?
There are several of these kinds of instances that play out over the course of this short film that make you question what you should truly believe without full context. Along a similar vein, the idea of choice and free will is a prominent theme that becomes more relevant as the story progresses.
Are you choosing to do something of your own accord or because you’ve seen that you will already do it? Do you have the capacity to realise it?
It’s these kinds of questions and choices that the film explores that give it some much needed weight and is truly interesting to see the results.
Beyond the Infinite Two Minutes is certainly an unusual film, one that may be quite different to your expectations. Clever, seamless, intimate are some of the key words I would use to describe the film as a whole, and is one to watch if you prefer something a little slower and thought-provoking.
However, to some, I can imagine a sense of disappointment — to some extent I did too. Combined with its slow build-up and general pacing as a whole, it feels like the film is designed specifically as an experimental research product or as such watched only by those who are truly fascinated by understanding reaction and consequence.
This may begin to sound like I didn’t enjoy the film; don’t get me wrong, I did, but I wouldn’t commit to calling it entertainment. It’s one of those that I would label ‘interesting’. What does that mean exactly? Well it means, it’s definitely one to watch if you are intrigued by the whole concept of time and time delay — or the sort of person listed above — but it’s also the type of film you wouldn’t rush back to watch again once it’s all said and done.