Primer (2004) - A somewhat better summary with a sequence of events

Spoilers, don’t read if you haven’t watched the movie

Since my first post about Primer, I have watched the movie a few times. I have read some of the recent (and even old) threads on r/primer. I think I understand everything a bit better now.

The First Revision from Abe’s perspective

Trying to draw a complete timeline from the beginning is not that useful, but turns out to be the easiest way to understand the details of the movie:

(When does the grocery shopping scene and the petrol bunk scene happen? Tuesday evening, Wednesday morning?)

And now, Aaron has become the hero

Till now, things were linear. Suddenly, there’s the scene where Aaron went to Robert’s birthday party. From Aaron’s dialogue later in the movie, we know that there were two versions of the party:

  1. The one which Aaron didn’t go to
  2. The one which Aaron went to and rushed Will (the ex-boyfriend)

(1) happened only once. (2) happens again and again, as the narrator illustrates. Aaron re-does it until he gets everything perfect, exactly as he wanted it.

In the timeline when Aaron does go to the party, which is what the world will remember because the final revision does have Aaron going to the party. In that revision, Aaron goes to the party on Monday night. Abe may or may not go with him.

The Second Revision from Abe’s perspective

*1: I feel like they are sort of stretching it here. They discuss what he did, plan their next morning. Apart from they also have to build a completely new box for Aaron1 to use the next morning. They don’t go the party the first time, so this gave them something like 7-8 hours to do everything and get back home, have dinner with Kara and Lauren, do the dishes, and wake up next morning to execute the plan. Since they didn’t go to the party, and Abe was around to tell him exactly how to build the box, this might very well be possible. It just feels really fast.

The one big question I have now is How did Aaron find out about the failsafe? When did he use it?

When he did use it, he went to Aaron’s house right after emerging from the failsafe (Aaron in the Hoodie), he drugs the milk and puts Aaron in the attic. Now, he is in control. The first time Aaron goes back, he records the conversations of the day. The next time he goes back, he brings the recordings with him, and then follows the script.

He also brings back a coffin with him at one point, because then, he can emerge from the box, start the coffin up and then go on with his Monday morning. That way, he will always be able to go back to Sunday morning. ( Remember that as soon as someone emerges from a box, they can’t turn it off. They MUST wait till atleast the time the machine has been turned off, their double has gotten in and it has cooled down before they can start it again. This is the meaning of one-time use only, they can use it only one time to go back to a particular point in time, the point when they start the machine. )

Finally, when Aaron comes back the first time, he drugs his double and puts him in the attic, but he can’t keep doing that. Starting from the second time, the Aaron who was already there convinces the Aaron who just emerged from the box to leave town so that he can continue on his plan. Seeing that the narrator left, it’s fair to assume that most of the Aarons would.

In my previous post, at the end of it, I ask a few questions.

Q1: Granger, how did he come back?

I have started to believe that Granger’s appearance is a jarring reminder to Abe and Aaron that they are NOT prescient because they might know the past, to the last point in a basketball game, but they have no control over their future selves who might do whatever they think is fit.

Q2: Fail-safe, who built this machine? Why?

Clearly, Abe built the first Failsafe. While building a machine, knowing what the machine was doing, he built two machines and turned one on before Monday. Probably Sunday late night. Now, he has the ability to go back to Sunday late night and not tell anyone about anything, if he so wishes by taking care of his double. He would have to kill him / incapicitate him, so as to take control of his character.

Although, by all accounts, Aaron used the machine before Abe had the chance to. This is the debt that Aaron owes Abe (I think), that the narrator alludes to “Now, I have repaid any debt I may have owed you”

Q3: What is the exact sequence of events?

I have tried to answer this for the first part of the movie and that part is very clear to me now. There are a new set of questions though:

  1. How does Aaron find out about the failsafe? Why did he go to the storage facility and look at the manifest without Abe being with him? Did he go there so he could build his own failsafe and put it in another room, just as Abe did and happened to notice the two rooms registered to Abe?

  2. When does Aaron use the failsafe? Does he use it on Tuesday night?