Fantasia presents Beyond the Infinite Two Minutes; book tickets here.
Back in 2017, Shin’ichirō Ueda’s ground-breaking One Cut of the Dead burst its jugular all over both horror and genre fans alike. Its whip-smart, witty style and ambitious filming style leading to widespread critical acclaim and box office success. People couldn’t get enough of its creative ingenuity in what is generally an overworked genre. Now, in 2021, theatre troupe EUROPE KIKAKU have achieved something similar with their mind-bending sci-fi comedy, Beyond the Infinite Two Minutes.
This marks a feature debut for the troupe, already popular in Japan, specialising in work around time and science-fiction. Their jump into filmmaking, a natural stepping stone considering their previous work. On the face of it, the plot of their first movie appears deceptively simple. Here we have a cafe owner discovering a temporal link between the cafe downstairs and his flat upstairs; both linked by two monitors. However, he quickly realises there’s a strange two-minute delay between these monitors, one held in the past and one in the future.
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The deceptively simple premise becomes a temporal mind-twister once the gears begin to move. Here, layers of both the past and future sit on top of one another like a deliciously dangerous cake. And this complex cake only becomes even more impressive as you consider the practicalities of engaging with both your past-and-future selves in one singular take. It shouldn’t work so effortlessly, but Junta Yamaguchi makes it look like child’s play. This creatively ambitious direction is supported by Makoto Ueda’s brilliantly clever script, which probes its own questions; do any of these people have free will or is everything in the film genuinely self-determined?
Equally impressive is the ease with which Ueda’s script shifts from a time-travelling sci-fi romp to a crime thriller, comedy and rom-com. All while maintaining its creatively complex construction. So many time-travel features take long periods to explain their elaborate rules and problems, but Beyond the Infinite Two Minutes streamlines this by trusting audience knowledge. The only new detail it brings to the table is the Droste Effect, which I, for one, hadn’t heard of until this! Trust me, it is worth a google if you’re unfamiliar, but even if you’re completely unaware, the film gets the idea across succinctly.
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One has to wonder how this devilishly complicated script came into being. Maybe they started at the end? Or perhaps it was mapped out on a plethora of whiteboards? What’s clear is that EUROPE KIKAKU has created a masterful marriage of theatre and cinema that many others could only dream of all in one take.
What delights me most about Beyond The Infinite Two Minutes is its simplicity. Yamaguchi and Ueda make the final movie look impossibly easy, which is always the sign of an insane amount of hard work hidden away. It’s emblematic of the calibre of film you hope to see at any film festival. Placing creative ambition at the fore while screaming “to hell with a big-budget!.“ It shoots for the moon and ends up on Mars. It’s the kind of film that millions of aspiring filmmakers dream of creating and the big studios wish they could emulate. Here, Junta Yamaguchi, Makoto Ueda and the entire troupe of EUROPE KIKAKU have proved that filmmaking is still alive and that the most remarkable films will always be those with a truly brilliant idea and experimental spark.