Primer Movie Explanation?

I saw PRIMER yesterday, and even though I completely admired its writer/director/star Shane Carruth for creating the movie and making it look so good, I honestly "didn't get it" and didn't have time to watch it again. I need an explanation.
I was really impressed (considering the budget) and amazed by how short the credits were.
What happened in this movie, especially at the end? Can you explain?

asked by Bark in Movies | 19016 views | 11-02-2009 at 01:34 PM

I was confused as well after watching but I think I've figured it out for myself. Reading everyone's interpretations really makes me more confused. I'm going to try and make it as simple as I can.

Now, the night of the party is a very important thing. It sets up the motivation for a number of characters to go back in time. Let's just assume for a second that crazy dude with the shotgun went and shot Granger's daughter that night. Or if he didn't shoot, at least it scared the **** out of them and kicked off some event which would have led to something bad happening.

-That would have driven Abe to tell him about the machine, and it would explain how/why Granger went back.

-Aaron wasn't at the party the first time, but he wanted to see if he could really change the past, so he went back.

Now we're in the film. To me, that timeline on the website earlier in this thread is WAY too convoluted. I think there are only three timelines we have to worry about. The first is the one I just talked about, the second is where the majority of the film takes place, and the third is when Abe uses the failsafe.

-Aaron records all the convos and fails to change what happened at the party, so he goes back again. This is when Abe goes back.

-Aaron Prime (since he's from the 1st unaltered timeline) meets himself that went back before and they fight. Prime loses but convinces that Aaron to **** off somewhere (and this Aaron is the one who leaves the message on the machine so none of this will happen again)

-This time, Aaron Prime and Abe2 team up and change what happened at the party. Abe2 stays behind to look after Abe and his family, Aaron Prime goes off somewhere...and from the facial hair, he MAY have been the one at the end building the bigger box.

answered by Rap | 11-02-2009 at 01:34 PM

I was able to check out PRIMER a few times, and hereís my take on what happens when they try to perfect time travel for a few hours.

8:45am: The go to a U-Haul where they set the timer to turn the boxes on in 15 minutes (at exactly 9am), then they head to Russellfield- a town down the road.

9:00am: The timers tick down to zero and then turn the machines on. This is the moment Abe and Aaron will exit the machines, so itís important that they are not standing there turning the machines, which is why they use the timers. Immediately afterwards Abe and Aaron arrive at the hotel in Russellfield. They decide to isolate themselves by closing windows and turning off any radios or TVs in the room. This is important because they are trying to avoid causality issues or paradoxes. They don't even touch the subject of causality. They are just trying to use the machine for their financial again. Later in the day: Abe and Aaron leave the hotel, go to the library to check some stock and mutual fund info, and head back to the garage.

3:00pm: They turn a switch so the machines can start cooling down. As the machines are turning off, they enter. They then spend the next 6 hours in the box while moving back in time.

9:00am: After exactly 6 hours they exit the box. They find themselves in the same room but the machines are now warming up. The rest of the day they have freedom to do whatever they want without running into their former selves because they know that their former selves are Russellfield. So they trade stocks and bet on basketball games.

I think this circle of events works. They could do this most days and make a fortune. But things are happening in the meantime that arenít shown:

hereís where things get dicey and a bit difficult to comprehend:

- They find Mr, Granger outside of Aaronís home at 2am in the morning. As they chase him down, he goes unconscious. (Mr. Granger passes out. Heís not allowed to speak with Abe and Aaron because heís from the future. And if they speak, then Abe would go back in time and be sure not to tell him about the machine, thus making it impossible for Mr. Granger to travel back in time. Ahhhh the mystery of paradoxes!!!) Without success, they try to figure out how he got there. They each suspect each other told him about the machine sometime in the future. Itís obvious that he has used another machine and has come from the future. Abe freaks out, and uses a SECRETIVE Failsafe machine to travel back to very earlier in the week. Heís had the Failsafe machine running since then. Abe then knocks out his previous self and steps into his previous self's life. When Abe meets Aaron in the park Aaron is taking his cues from his ear piece. Abeís tired because heís been time traveling in the box for days. Aaron explains to Abe that he found the Failsafe machine in another room at the Uhaul facility. heís been trying to perfect the moment where he beats up Rachel's ex-boyfriend by going back in time numerous times until he gets it perfect. Heís trying to become Ďprescientí. The next jump comes when he explains that he put one box INSIDE the Failsafe machine then setting it up again. It seems that this allows them to travel back in time at a faster rate then before. 1 box in the failsafe would mean that every minute in the box gets them back in time 2 minutes. Aaron traveled back in time to earlier in the week, knocked out his previous self by drugging his milk and then hid the body in the attic. He then began recording all his conversations in case he had to go back that far again. When they see that he came back to knock out the version of himself that had just minutes earlier knocked out the initial prior version of himself with the drugged milk. However, this time he was not able to subdue his former self.

So I think there are 3 versions of Aaron that we know of. 'A' was knocked out by 'B'. 'C' tried to knock out 'B', but couldn't. So B is living the life with the wife and kid. I donít know where A is. And C left town. So he decides to leave his life- one of his doubles is already living it so it's clear that he can't hang around without constantly battling himself and Abe. The last scene indicates that he's trying to build an even bigger machine somewhere out in the world.

I know this doesnít explain the entire movie, but itís what I can piece together. I think i need to see it a few more times to fully understand everything that happens. The director doesnít give much away, but if you look for the clues it seems that theyíre all there. I just need it a few times to get more piecesÖ

answered by Mell | 11-02-2009 at 01:35 PM


here's my version of Primer's events. I break this down in "timelines". I hope this helps some that are confused, though most posters know everything that is here.

ORIGINAL TIMELINE (never seen in the film)

1: Abe discovers what the box does.

2: Abe builds failsafe machine and turns it on.

3: Abe builds a "general usage" box and uses it.

4: Abe finds Aaron on the park bench and tells him about the box. Aaron has no earpiece. A second general usage box is made.

5: That night, Robert has a birthday party where Rachel's ex-boyfriend pulls out a shotgun. Abe and Aaron were not at the party.

6: Abe and Aaron likely do some stock market stuff, though you never know for sure.

7: At some point in the original timeline, Aaron discovers the failsafe hidden by Abe. He's angry that Abe could reset the timeline and, in essence, control Aaron's reality.

8: Aaron takes one of the general usage boxes and folds it up into the failsafe. Upon exiting the failsafe, he sets up his own presumably in a second locker. There are now two failsafes.

TIMELINE 2 (what we see in the film)

1: Aaron2, back via failsafe, goes to original Aaron's home and drugs him and stuffs him in the attic.

2: Abe meets Aaron2 at the park bench. Aaron2 has an earpiece and is recording all conversations. Not sure why an earpiece would be needed for recording but I believe he's just recording at this point.

3: That night, Aaron2 goes to Robert's birthday party. He knows what happens since he was told though he doesn't know exactly how it goes down. He "rushes" the ex-boyfriend. Persumably it wasn't perfectly executed.

4: At this point we see how things progress as this is the bulk of the film.

5: The night Abe wants to take Aaron2 to punch Platz, a Granger double appears. Abe panics as they have no idea how he learned about the boxes.

6: Abe decides to use the failsafe. Aaron2 uses his own failsafe.


1: Aaron3, back via failsafe, goes to original Aaron's home. Aaron2 was already there to drug the original Aaron and stuffs him in the attic. Aaron3 encounters Aaron2 (from timeline1) and gets beat up by him. But Aaron3 explains to Aaron2 that he's already done the recordings and already done the party, so he's better equipped. Aaron2 leaves.

2: Abe2, back via failsafe, gases original Abe and stuffs him in a closet.

3: Abe2 meets Aaron3 at the park bench. Aaron3 has the earpiece and the recorded conversations. Abe2 faints from exhaustion as Aaron3 is responding improperly based on the recordings.

4: Aaron3 explains to Abe2 what's happened.

5: Aaron3 and Abe2 go to the party and Aaron3 does it "better".

6: Aaron3 leaves, Abe2 sticks around to try and prevent Abe and Aaron from finishing the general usage boxes.

7: Aaron2 calls Aaron to tell him everything that has happened so far, presumably so he can get one up on Abe and Abe2 and gain the power he desires.

8: Aaron2 or Aaron3 (never revealed) are shown perhaps constructing a bigger box to feed his power hunger.

The End.

answered by Tori | 11-02-2009 at 01:36 PM

explanation video
i made an primer explanation video, check it out

answered by Guest | 12-20-2009 at 03:48 AM

Originally Posted by Tori View Post
2: Abe meets Aaron2 at the park bench. Aaron2 has an earpiece and is recording all conversations. Not sure why an earpiece would be needed for recording but I believe he's just recording at this point.
I think that the earpiece is in during the recording because he knows that there's a good chance that Abe will ask about it during the "playback" timeline. Playing it safe, he needs every factor to be identical.

answered by Tim | 01-26-2010 at 11:05 PM

Primer book found
I found a website that has a lengthy explanation. It use to be endorsed by Shane Carruth himself. The Primer Universe is the best Primer explanation. I wonder how many times its author had to watch this film.

answered by Amy Saph | 10-23-2010 at 06:05 PM

Book? Thanks
The Primer Universe is a must read. It almost seems to have inside information. Everyone else seems to just say that we see this and we see that but this book details what really happened.

answered by Onecooldude | 05-23-2011 at 09:47 PM

Thread Tools
vBulletin® Copyright ©2000 - 2019, Jelsoft Enterprises Ltd.