Explain the movie Primer, if you can...

I just watched the movie Primer, twice. In the end, I felt like I had just watched a very good movie. But I’m not sure why I feel this way, since I have not the first clue what happened in it.

Please explain, if you can.

I followed just fine, I think, until the scene when Robert and Phillip return to the garage after having been locked out for a few days, and Abe is there working on something. Abe turns around towards them while they’re talking, and the move is cinematically framed as though something important were going on, and he asks them “What did you just call him? What were you talking about when you walked in?” or something to that effect. Well, I have no idea why he asked that–they didn’t call anybody anything, and they weren’t talking about anything in particular when they walked in. So though I understand that their response (in which they begin to give an account of what happens in the semi-climactic pary scene later/earlier on) begins setting the stage for what happens later on in the movie, nevertheless I don’t understand why Abe is so interested in what they are saying, or even why he asked the question he did. Since the question seems random and unmotivated for me, the purpose of the scene (in terms of plot, not necessarily in terms of exposition) escapes me. It seems kind of crucial, so I spend the rest of the movie a bit confused.

After this scene, almost every plot element left me baffled. Do I understand correctly that Abe was forcing his double to breath that gas, or was that Thomas whom he was forcing it on? If it was Abe, I guess this was Abe-before-the-machine-was-built and Abe had just gone through the “fail safe” machine to a time before the whole thing had started. So… did he kill himself? Meanwhile, what was Aaron doing to hispast self and why? And why would he have had to do this more than once? And I know that it was some phase of Aaron who was the “pests” in the attic, but which phase, and which Aaron eventually pushed his way out of there? And what was the purportedly morally questionable thing Aaron did which made Abe so upset with him in the last scene? And am I supposed to understand how Thomas Granger got brought into the mess and why he was comatose? And why was Aaron trying to “get a three second lead” on the conversations in which he would be participating for the day? What advantage, towards what goal, did this give him? And finally, what was the significance of the idea of “putting one box inside another”? What would this accomplish, and who did what with this idea?

Any and all help and discussion will be appreciated and enjoyed.


Primer wants you to think it’s a good movie, but actually it just sucks. There are far too many lines of technobabble, spoken simuntaneously with other lines of technobabble so that the result is just a bunch of speechlike noises. Throw in some plot twists for the sake of having plot twists, and you have a pretentious pile of crap.

I’m not sure how lines of technobabblte spoken simultaneously with other lines of technobabble necessarily add up to a movie that sucks.

You say the result is “just a bunch of speechlike noises” but since “lines of technobabblte spoken simultaneously with other lines of technobabble” isn’t necessarily the same thing as “just a bunch of speechlike noises,” I’m afraid you haven’t made your case.


Unlike my curmudgeonly husband sturmhauke, I, like you, enjoyed this movie, while simultaneously feeling utterly clueless.

I spent quite a bit of time after watching it surfing the internet looking for some explanations. I won’t even try to summarize what I found, because I still don’t understand everything, but I’ll give you some links. The first one is the movie’s official website forum, which has a ton of info & discussion. The other links include a village voice review with some info, and some direct links to threads on the official forum.


Have fun trying to unravel it; it made my brain hurt (but in a good way).


I didn’t really care for the movie, especially the first 45 mins before the time travel stuff starts up. After reading the above link, it was a more interesting movie and I went back and watched it a few times. It’s definitely far more complex than it comes across as. Complexity is a good thing in my book. Too bad the dialog was so boring, and the techno-babble was so distracting.

We just rented and watched this movie today. I came out wondering what the hell just happend. The main problem with the movie is that it doesn’t do much exposition. You’re essentially thrown in the middle of a plot trying to figure out who’s who and what the hell they’re doing. I get to the point where they’re in the car driving, and notice who they think is Mr. Granger. Then poor lighting and bad sound leaves me baffled. After that I’m really only comprehending about 10% of the plot. I can’t really tell who’s who or what they’re doing or why they’re doing it. Usually I love a movie that makes me connect plot elements in my head afterwards, but after contemplation, and searching online, finding nobody who’s exactly figured out what the hell happend, I’m going to step closer to the camp that says the movie was made to be pretentious and relied on technobabble and convoluted plot to make you think you’ve seen a good movie when you really hadn’t.

I saw the movie and although the intricacies have grown blurry in my personal memory, it seemed perfectly logical. A redundant overcorrection of dissonant temporal mistakes played out along a single timeline of objective view. That is what is realistic about it. It approximates realistic temporal quandries.