Time Is of the Essence in “Beyond the Infinite Two Minutes,” a Delightful and Intellectually Stimulating Feature Film From Theatrical Troupe EUROPE KIKAKU
We go to movie theaters to see blockbusters. We go to film festivals to see experimental movies — and we hope that these cinematic experiments will have something fresh and new to offer. In 2021, film festival goers from around the world were able to satisfy their appetite for something new with Beyond the Infinite Two Minutes, the first feature film from Japanese theatrical troupe EUROPE KIKAKU. The film’s fluid long takes, stylized comedy, and mind-bending plot impressed audiences at the Brussels International Fantastic Film Festival, the Fantasia International Film Festival, Arrow Video FrightFest, and Fantastic Fest. Starting Tuesday, January 25, 2022, you can watch Beyond the Infinite Two Minutes from the comfort of home. And might I suggest getting really comfortable for this one, because it just might make your brain hurt.
Beyond the Infinite Two Minutes was written by Makoto Ueda, who founded EUROPE KIKAKU in 1998. The film was directed by Junta Yamaguchi, who has worked with the theater troupe since 2005. Beyond the Infinite Two Minutes is Yamaguchi’s feature directorial debut. From its opening shot to its closing credits, Beyond the Infinite Two Minutes is all about timing. Ueda wastes no time jumping into the story, placing the inciting incident before the three-minute mark. The story begins as the main character, Kato (Kazunari Tosa), closes up his café for the night and heads upstairs to his apartment. Suddenly, he hears a voice, his voice, coming from his TV monitor. Kato is shocked to discover that his TV has somehow formed a connection with the TV in the café downstairs. The screen in his apartment shows events taking place two minutes in the future, while the screen in the café displays events that occurred two minutes in the past. Before Kato can wrap his mind around everything, one of his employees and a few of the café regulars discover the strange phenomenon for themselves. When Kato’s brainy friend Ozawa arrives, he figures out how to make the time TV even more interesting. He comes up with a way to make the TV show events taking place 4, 6, 8, and 10 minutes into the future… and beyond.
At first, it seems like Beyond the Infinite Two Minutes is going to be incredibly tedious. After all, how many times can the characters run back and forth between Kato’s apartment and the café, playing little fortune telling games with their not-so-futuristic selves? Each time that Kato has to explain the TV to a new character, it seems like we’re in for a bumpy and repetitive ride. But the amazing thing about Beyond the Infinite Two Minutes is that it turns out to be 100% captivating from start to finish. Ueda’s expert writing is full of surprising twists and turns that hold our attention even as the characters run around in physical and mental circles. He reveals just the right amount of information at the right time, dodging potential continuity errors while keeping the script interesting. Ueda, Yamaguchi, and the entire EUROPE KIKAKU troupe prove to be masters of their craft by creating suspense in a film where the audience can see what’s going to happen two minutes in the future.
Beyond the Infinite Two Minutes is a short feature, clocking in at around 70 minutes. But the fast and frenzied plot makes it feel even shorter. The story hits the ground running and doesn’t slow down until it’s over, leaving us with no chance to look away. There’s no unnecessary exposition, no extraneous shots, and no frivolous dialogue. With a solid script and marathon-like performances from the cast, Yamaguchi creates the illusion that the entire film is a single, continuous shot. These long takes are the perfect fit for the story, creating a real-time feeling that makes the time TV concept all the more exciting for the audience.
The long takes also complement the cast’s theatrical skills, a fact that Ueda points out in his press statement for the film. According to Ueda, he wanted the film to highlight the theater troupe’s unique strengths so that it could adequately “compete in the cinema world.” In this endeavor, he succeeds. The cast’s unique skills give Beyond the Infinite Two Minutes a distinctive style that’s perfect for its subject matter. The cast has an amazing sense of space and motion that allows them to interact with the camera as a group. The cast also uses exaggerated, mime-like movements that could easily be mistaken for bad acting. However, their performances are so precise and deliberate that they come across as stylized rather than overdramatic. Throughout the movie, you get the feeling that the cast is trying to mock someone or something. But what? Scientists? Human progression? The desire to create and control technology? Our flawed perception of time?
There’s no right answer here — what’s important is that Beyond the Infinite Two Minutes is written, staged, acted, filmed, and edited so well that its audience can’t help but ask deep questions about time, technology, society, and relationships. You also can’t help but appreciate the genius work and performances that went into the film. Ueda’s clever use of time as a subject and the cast’s mastery of timing make Beyond the Infinite Two Minutes the incredibly unique film that it is. The plot rounds every turn so perfectly that it shows us how storytelling can be a wonderful and beautiful equation.
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