FANTASIA21 REVIEW: Droste no hate de bokura [Beyond the Infinite Two Minutes] [2021]

Rating: 8 out of 10.
  • Rating: NR | Runtime: 70 minutes
    Release Date: 2021 (Japan)
    Studio: Tollywood / Indiecan Entertainment
    Director(s): Junta Yamaguchi
    Writer(s): Makoto Ueda

I don’t know why.

The logistics behind Droste no hate de bokura [Beyond the Infinite Two Minutes] are mind-boggling to fathom since time-travel stories are often confusing enough to keep straight when they aren’t filmed as a one-shot. The Europe Kikaku theatrical troupe embracing that extra challenge is thus wild. Group director Makoto Ueda admits he wouldn’t have written the script that way if he didn’t already trust his actors and know they could handle the experiment. Not that having them at his disposal necessarily made his and director Junta Yamaguchi‘s jobs any easier. To be able to craft this particular adventure through time and space into a seamless seventy-minute progression, they would still have to break everything into two-minute increments to ensure it all happened as it already had.

Why? Because that’s the conceit. Kato (Kazunari Tosa) doesn’t know how it’s possible, but the Apple computer in his second-floor apartment has somehow connected with the TV in his first-floor café to manifest a time anomaly. From his perspective in the present, the former shows two-minutes into the future and the latter shows two-minutes into the past. Since that obviously isn’t a lot of time, it’s crucial that the first half of the film becomes repetitive. That which Kato sees on the computer must quickly be performed in front of the television for the loop to remain intact. As a result, the future (as many characters realize) begins to dictate the present. Unless those watching repeat the actions themselves, the paradoxical consequences could erase all existence.

Our intrigue therefore initially lies with the characters and the funny ideas they have where testing this unbelievable “Time TV” is concerned. That includes Kato’s waitress Aya (Riko Fujitani) and friends Komiya (Gota Ishida), Ozawa (Yoshifumi Sakai), and Tanabe. They ask questions that can be easily answered to prove they’re really talking to other versions of themselves. They dare each other to do things in the hope that knowing the result will embolden them to not care about rejection. And at one point Ozawa comes up with the idea to have the screens face each other and create an infinite series of screens, each separated by a uniform two-minutes. This is when things get unpredictable since a ten-minute window creates five times as much uncertainty as two did.

Enter a pair of strangers trying to get their attention, a VCR full of cash, and the Yakuza to get an idea of how fast things escalate. And as time expands, consequences begin to dictate actions rather than the other way around. Because while future Tanabe can tell past Tanabe what spot he scratched on a lottery ticket, he can’t tell him which spot is best. If something dangerous occurs, however, future knowledge of victory can ensure that victory no matter how silly the preparation appears without full context. Despite all the intricacies and possibilities, however, one thing cannot be forgotten: consistency. No matter how worried someone is in the present about what’s coming, they must keep the past calm so as not to inadvertently render themselves obsolete.

To say much more would ruin the enjoyment of the experience. The film’s greatest appeal comes from the actors’ endearing ability to be regular people trying to wrap their head around this very irregular phenomenon anyway. That means reveling in their often-foolhardy attempts to ask out the neighbor (Aki Asakura‘s Megumi), find “lost” money, or inevitably do whatever is necessary to save each other’s lives thanks to their ability to watch how it went down. Their successes are thus less about the time travel than they are dumb luck. You could say the same about their failures, though, too. Their belief becomes the motor that drives the confidence they need to accomplish their goals. Time provides them the strength to do the impossible rather than any specific answers.

There’s a relatable sense of empowerment as a result because adhering to the timeline ultimately places them into a position where they have no choice but to reject it. That the journey towards this realization is so charming and witty only adds to the appeal just like finding out it was filmed on cellphones with stopwatches dictating pacing (stay for the end credits’ behind-the-scenes footage) proves how the driving force behind innovative cinema is the creativity of those making it rather than the budget they’re afforded. Give whoever oversaw continuity a raise too considering no two-minute vignette ever seems out-of-place from its numerous other iterations. This thing is measured to perfection, lulling us into a false sense of security before ripping the rug for optimal suspense.

courtesy of the Fantasia International Film Festival

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