• Film reviews

    #472 – Ancient Relic (2002)

    Ancient Relic (2002)

    Film review #472

    Director: Sebastian Niemann

    SYNOPSIS: At an archaeological dig site in Israel, archaeology student Steffan Vogt stumbles upon an unbelievable discovery: a 2000 year old skeleton that has a metal implant, and the instruction manual for a video camera that has not been commercially released yet. Alongside it, a note detailing the existence of a video recording made of Jesus Christ when he was crucified. While most of the crew believe it to be some form of hoax, Steffan believes that the only possible explanation is a time traveller that went back into the past to film the momentous occasion. When a secret order starts to take control of the dig and silence anyone that knows about this discovery, Steffan teams up with Sharon and Joshua, who were also at the dig site, to uncover the truth about what is happening, before they too are silenced…

    THOUGHTS/ANALYSIS: Ancient Relic (Also known as The Hunt for the Hidden Relic, or The Jesus Video) is a German 2002 TV movie based on the novel by Andreas Eschbach. The opening of the film shows an archaeological dig site in Israel, where one of the students at the site, Sebastian Vogt, accidentally stumbles upon a burial site that’s full of mystery: a 200-year old skeleton that has signs of being form the present, such as a metal splint on his legbone, and the instruction manual for a video camera. Most of the archaeologists believe it is some form of hoax, but Steffan believes that the only possible explanation is that it is the work of some time traveller. A handwritten note accompanying the skeleton suggests that they actually videotaped the crucifixion of Jesus, which would be irrefutable proof of his existence. When Steffan tries to investigate further, he is shut out by a mysterious group who arrive and take control of the discovery. Steffan tries to sneak in and get more information, but starts to be hunted by this group as apparently he now knows too much. Steffan goes to fellow archaeologists Sharon and her fiancée Joshua, and the three attempt to unravel the mystery and find the video camera before they are killed. The plot is pretty typical conspiracy, ancient order, religious stuff; with secret groups trying to get a hold of the supposed video recording of Jesus as it would apparently be a weapon of such power, that if it disproved the existence of Jesus, western civilisation would simply collapse. I think that’s a bit of an overstatement, as I’m sure people that didn’t want to believe evidence that doesn’t fit their worldview can just call it a hoax and move on. Most of the elements of the story are left pretty vague, including these ancient orders and what they actually do. It’s probably something that’s more fleshed out in the book, but instead this film just opts for constant chase scenes and stalking that never really goes anywhere, and never arrives at the interesting bits, such as actually seeing the content of this recording, which is saved until the very end, and reveals a “surprise” twist that is entirely predictable, and just leaves open more questions that it answers.

    The characters are all pretty uninteresting. Steffan just a young, well-built lead that can do all the action sequences and take a lot of cuts and bruises. His opening trait that he is an atheist doesn’t really play much of a part in the story, although obviously as the whole “Jesus video” thing starts emerging, he starts to question his atheism in a very predictable fashion. The love triangle between Sharon (the only female character), her fiancée Joshua, and Steffan is entirely without note, and again very predictable. The villains are basically henchmen of this secret organisation, and are never given any character development, or motivation, because we never get a clear sense about the purpose of this organisation.

    As mentioned, we don’t see the contents of the video recording until the very end, and as a pay-off it doesn’t really deliver something satisfying that required nearly three hours of build up. The aspect of time travel is barely explored, and only explained through exposition and recordings that have no direct effect on what’s happening on-screen. The whole idea of a camcorder recording Jesus also seems a bit unbelievable, particularly it’s being able to work two thousand years later. The most notable aspect of the production is the English dubbing, given that this was originally a German production: The dubbing is terrible, and none of the voices have any real emotion or direction, which is constantly distracting from any drama on screen. Overall, Ancient Relic has an interesting story and fits into that genre that the Da Vinci Code really popularised. It is however, not a great example of the genre: the organisations and conspiracies are intangible and don’t really connect to anything specific, the mystery is very generic, and the pay-off isn’t worth it. I’m sure the novel is a lot more interesting than this poor adaptation, and I would suggest checking it out if you like these sorts of stories, because this film adaptation won’t satisfy.

  • Film reviews

    #8 – Primer (2006)

    Primer (2006)

    Film review #8

    dir. Shane Carruth

    An independent film all about time travel. Two guys working on a range of bizarre inventions stumble upon the secret to manipulating time itself…

    For an independent, low-budget movie, Primer should be noted for it’s very complex and technical plot. As each step in the development of this time travel experiment is discussed and laid out in the dialogue, it is obvious that there is a lot of technical thought that has been considered. Even when stepping into the scientific unknown of time travel, there is still a lot of technical background, which although works nicely within the context of the script, it may take scientific and mathematical liberties at some points, but with the sheer amount of technical information pouring out of the script, it is difficult to determine the real and fake science, which I would say work’s in the movie’s favour.

    There is a real trash aesthetic throughout the film. Being an independent film about two guys working from their garage, this is probably what you should expect. The cobbled-together machines give no clue or framework for understanding what is going on, so it requires an attentive viewer to decipher how everything works.

    As you can guess, it is pretty easy to get lost in this movie. If the techno-jargon doesn’t get you, the amount of different timelines that start piling up most certainly will. Just google search “primer timeline” and you’ll get a large number of graphs and charts which people have used to try and decipher the events of Primer. Interesting fact: I never heard the word “time” or “time travel” anywhere in the film.

    If there is one clear message to take away from Primer, it is this: Time travel is messy. Just by doing one simple journey backwards in time throws up so many complications, and even with the precautions the main characters take to remove themselves from the continuum, everything still manages to pile up so much that they have to leave their old lives behind while another version of themselves goes on in their place.

    It’s very much a Pandora’s box: Once you open it, you can’t really put it back. Perhaps the “time machine” (this definition is never used in the movie by the way) being in the shape of a box signifies this rather nicely.

    So is it possible to answer the tag-line question: What happens if it actually works? Not in my opinion. What happens seems to be far out of the control of two guys working in their garage.