Monday, May 25, 2009

Fight The Future

Some months ago, I watched a spate of time travel movies - "Timecrimes", "Primer", "12 Monkeys", "Donnie Darko". All had complex plot lines. None had the feel-good factor characteristic of such time travel movies as "Back to the Future" series.

A peculiar aspect of the screenplay of some these movies has grown upon me. In all these movies, the lead actors travel in time and interact with their own self. However, this interaction is at best of guarded caution while at its worst it can be downright malevolent. Their own self is their enemy.

An example of extreme worst case scenario comes from a movie belonging to a different genre. "The Prestige" has Hugh Jackman's character killing his own clones. I am still undecided which one of the clones would carry the feelings of the original Jackman and which one would be surprised to stare it his carbon / original copy getting ready to kill him. My thoughts start going on a tangent here - what does "self" mean, can memories be transplanted, can "self" exist outside body, can you harm your clone, etc.

I will explore that tangent some other time. Returning to the already mentioned theme of facing-off with own's self, a story idea has been taking shape in my mind. I will like to either write this story myself or experience it in any form of idea is someone has already taken a shot at it.

The idea goes like this. Tom, aged nearly 35, chances to experience time travel into past. He travels about 18 years back into time. Once there, he goes off to find his 17 year old self. Let me call Tom aged 35 as T35 and Tom aged 18 as T18. [Maybe this nomenclature is inspired by the upcoming "Terminator Salvation" movie and promise of the revival of Terminator series]

T18 is a brilliant kid. He is a geek, he understands time travel. He even dreams of experiencing it for himself in future. When T35 finds T18, the kid is not in for any massive shock. T18 is surprised but nothing more. T35 is thrilled to see his younger self. Together they hang around. T35 describes how things have shaped up in his life. The story of T18's future.

Here is the catch. The more T18 gets to know how the life turned out for T35, the more he gets uneasy. T35 appears a big time loser and all messed up to him. T35 has been shunned in his social circle, he is an outcast. T35 thinks that if no one else than at least T18 would be able to understand why things turned up that way. But he finds that T18 is not only aghast at T35's state, but is almost disowning his future self. T18 does not want to have anything to do with T35. He wants him to leave. He wants himself to leave.

That is the basic premise of the story idea. It will be interesting to witness the interaction with the same character's young and adult self. The young version -- all bubbly, positive, ambitious, raring to go. The adult version -- beaten blue and black, listless, defeated, out of spirit, out of luck. How will the young version deal with the apparent failure awaiting in his future and that failure personified in his future self? What will happen to T35 if the only person he had counted on to understand / empathize with him turned out to be the most disgusted after listening to his story?

One line summary of the above rant -- what if you went back in time and your younger self even refuses to recognizes you, feels disgusted at you? How did your life turn that way anyway?


Anjali Bhardwaj said...

There is a book on the same lines.
Richard Bach - Running from safety.

From - Amazon"While hang-gliding one afternoon, Bach is reminded of a promise he made to himself when he was a child: to write a book containing the sum of all he has learned and deliver it to his nine-year-old self, Dickie. But Bach finds that Dickie is angry and hurt at having been locked away for the last 50 years."

Gaurav Sachan said...

You have either under-estimated your current self OR your T18 version had over estimated the future.
The T18 version you talked about did not have handful of things to worry about, reson being, the protective environment around it at that time.
T35 version is on its own making its way ahead on the road of life.
Yes, its true to an extent, that T18 after listening to T35 would make sure he learns from its futuristic self's mistakes. Having said that, even T18 would not guarantee of not making any mistakes !!!
I might be wrong but I believe you are being a bit too critical of yourself.

Ankit said...

@Anjali: Thanks for pointing out that book. Seems promising!

@Sachan: Well, can't say that if T18 overestimated the future. T18 was optimistic and envisioning good things for himself. I guess even T35 or T50 will do that for their respective futures.

To clarify things, T18 is not so much unhappy about the mistakes T35 did in his life, but the kind of person T35 has turned out to be. It is T35's basic disposition towards life and general personality / nature which T18 finds hard to identify with.

I will agree that T35's nature must have been the result of sum total of his past experiences and that one can't disassociate the affect of those events. So, you have made a valid point.

You have raised an interesting point. That even if T18 were to come to learn about the mistakes he will make in future, will he STILL make those mistakes when the time comes or will he be able to force himself to choose a different path.

Lastly, I can't successfully obfuscate the nature of this post. :) Yes, it is self critical. Though, the fiction stretches that critique for a more dramatic effect.

Yemula Pradeep said...


Regarding what you mentioned about the "The Prestige" movie. About who is original? I dont have answer but, I have a video on a thought experiment.

have a look...