Primer Writer-Director’s Next Film Comes Into Focus

Slate's Culture Blog
Jan. 16 2013 1:33 PM

Primer Follow-Up Comes Into Focus

Shane Carruth and Amy Seimetz in Upstream Color.
Shane Carruth and Amy Seimetz in Upstream Color.

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It’s been almost a decade since filmmaker Shane Carruth appeared out of nowhere with the microbudget mindbender Primer and won the Grand Jury Prize at the Sundance Film Festival. Next week Carruth will break his long absence from filmmaking by returning to Sundance and presenting his follow-up, Upstream Color.

Over the last month or so, Color has trickled out with two striking and evocative, if inscrutable, teasers. “I have to apologize,” began an unseen character in the first. “I was born with a disfigurement where my head is made with the same material as the sun.” But in the last 24 hours or so, Upstream Color has begun to come into focus, first with a profile of Carruth in the Los Angeles Times, and then yesterday with its first full trailer.

You can enjoy the trailer on its own, but it makes more sense alongside the plot synopsis provided by Mark Olsen's Times profile. “In the movie, a young woman (Amy Seimetz) is abducted and seemingly brainwashed via an organic material harvested from a specific flower,” Olsen reports. “She later meets a man (Carruth) and after the two fall for each other, they come to realize he may also have been subjected to the same process.” Thematically speaking, Olsen says the film is about "the mutual psychosis that can be an essential part of romance, the agreement of a shared madness," which you can see in the cross-cutting of this trailer.

So it’s Eternal Sunshine meets Martha May Marcy Marlene, in Hollywood-pitch-speak? Probably not: Carruth’s first film was unlike any other, and we expect this one will be, too.

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The Times’ profile, which is worth reading in full, also touches on the status of Carruth’s other projects. He refers to an unfinished previous effort, A Topiary, as “the thing I basically wasted my whole life on.” If he’s finally moved on from developing that ambitious-sounding screenplay about children discovering a mysterious powerful box, it may at least have freed him up creatively. He plans to start shooting his next movie, The Modern Ocean, by this summer.

Forrest Wickman is a Slate staff writer. 

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