This film could have been titled “There Will Be Beef.”
I remember the gleam in Mike Figgis' eyes when he talked of filming "Leaving Las Vegas" in cheaper, faster 16mm instead of the standard 35mm. "We didn't have to get a permit from the city or rope off the streets," he said. "We just jumped out of the car, set up the camera and started shooting." Yes, the result was the best film of 1995. Now he has directed a production where they didn't even have to set up the camera.
"Time Code" was shot entirely with digital cameras, hand-held, in real time. The screen is split into four segments, and each one is a single take about 93 minutes long. The stories are interrelated, and sometimes the characters in separate quadrants cross paths and are seen by more than one camera. This is not as confusing as it sounds, because Figgis increases the volume of the dialogue for the picture he wants us to focus on and dials down on the other three.
What is the purpose of the experiment? Above all, to show it can be done. With "Leaving Las Vegas," the camera strategy came second to the story and was simply the best way to get it on the screen. In "Time Code," the story is upstaged by the method, sometimes more, sometimes less, and a viewer not interested in the method is likely to be underwhelmed.
What Figgis demonstrates is that a theatrical film can be made with inexpensive, lightweight digital cameras and that the picture quality is easily strong enough to transfer to 35mm. He also experiments with the notion of filming in real time, which has long fascinated directors. Alfred Hitchcock orchestrated "Rope" (1948) so that it appeared to be all one shot, and Jean-Luc Godard famously said that the truth came at 24 frames per second, and every cut was a lie.