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A Primer Primer

What the bleep we don't know about the year's headiest puzzle movie

How many clones of each character are there by the end? The narrator is the second Aaron, so he doesn't have direct information about what happens after he leaves. There's a struggle between the second and third Aaron, and after that point [the narrator] is talking in very subjective terms: "How many times did it take before he got it right? Two? Three? 20?" He doesn't actually know. We're seeing information, but he doesn't have direct knowledge of it, so there's no way to know how many there are. There's at least three Aaron that he knows about, and at least two Abes. But it could be lots.

Can you elaborate on the concept of recursion in terms of time-travel paradoxes? I have a degree in math and my favorite subject was non-linear dynamics. You have an equation y = x, and you take that answer and feed it right back in for x, and you chart this and sometimes you get fractals and sometimes you get orderly systems. The idea of recursion and whatever it leads to—that informed a lot of the story, the idea of creating a feedback loop. This isn't really addressed in the film, but the reason Granger is unconcious is because he's suffering from recursion. What I think happened is that Abe told Granger about the machine. This man who's been told by Abe about the machine uses the machine to come back and somehow has an interaction with Abe so that now Abe probably won't tell him about the machine and yet he still finds himself there. Without coming out and saying it, the film is built on the idea that these paradoxes are a way to understand things. The universe is not going to explode or break down if you create a paradox. Whatever's going to break is probably going to be you.

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What's your next film? I've been working for a long time on this romance that has nothing to do with science. An 18-year-old oceanography prodigy falls for the daughter of a commodities trader; it's set at sea off eastern Africa and southern Asia, and it's about trade routes and smalltime transport. But now I'm sort of leaning towards this other story, which is science fiction, and would be a much bigger budget. Basically there are robots, but they're not manmade; they appear to be at first. The story starts in the past, and there's information given to people, symbols and glyphs and things they think they're seeing. It's not scientists, it's random people that it's happening to, and . . . the end result is we're talking about devices that the universe is inspiring people to make without them actually knowing it. The universe is 50 billion years old and we're on a planet that's 4 billion and it only took a fraction of that for us to get here. It seems like if you look into the night sky, you should see evidence of civilizations that are not 100 years more advanced but millions if not billions of years more advanced, and yet when we look, we don't see anything. This is the story to explain why that is.

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