If you had the opportunity to talk to your future or past self, what would you want to say to them? There are many advantages to having some knowledge of things still to come, finding out next week’s winning lottery numbers for example or who’s going to win the Grand National, but on the other hand mightn’t you start to feel as if your life has no freedom or purpose if you find yourself compelled to do exactly as your future self advised? That’s something the future-hating hero of Junta Yamaguchi’s farcical time travel comedy Beyond the Infinite Two Minutes (ドロステのはてで僕ら, Droste no Hate de Bokura) can’t help feeling as he finds himself trapped in an infinite loop of communication with the him from two minutes previously.
Granted, getting knowledge of what’s going to happen in two minutes is not actually that useful. Cafe assistant Aya (Riko Fujitani) makes a point of asking her future self what the next era is going to be after Reiwa ends forgetting that it is almost certainly still Reiwa in two minutes’ time. Then again, it could help with very short term decisions such as whether or not to confess your feelings to a crush or which spots to scratch on your scratch card to win the best prizes, but maybe knowing only the immediate consequences of your actions isn’t very helpful either. Let’s say your future self finds a bunch of money and tells you to go get it, only the money belonged to gangsters and now you have a big problem with a two-minute head start. And then, can you really trust your future self? Maybe they aren’t being completely honest with you for reasons you may well understand in two minutes’ time. In any case, maybe you have better things to do than be struck in an infinite dialogue loop parroting back what you’ve just been told by your future self to your past self. Maybe you should learn to live in the moment.
That’s something cafe owner Kato (Kazunari Tosa) has had trouble doing, later confessing that he hates the idea of knowing what lies ahead largely because he over invested in conspiracy theories and prophesies about the end of the world and therefore failed to plan very much for his future. His friends, however, are childishly excited by the discovery that his upstairs TV is linked to the downstairs with a two-minute delay, realising they can extend its range through the “Droste” effect to send themselves messages from further into the future, but then again how long do they really want to keep all this up slavishly reenacting the same conversations afraid of deviating from the original path lest they create a time paradox or provoke some other kind of disaster. They find themselves trapped in the middle as if the present no longer existed and had become merely a conduit between an extremely near future and very recent past.
Yamaguchi captures their farcical dilemma with an ironic immediacy, filming with an elaborate one shot conceit that adds to the sense of wonder as the gang find themselves continually running upstairs and down to talk to themselves from either side of the time divide. The uncanny absurdity is the film’s greatest asset, placing this extremely bizarre scientific anomaly in the centre of an ordinary hipster cafe run by a guy who really wants to be a musician and is too shy to ask out the girl who works in the hairdresser’s next-door (Aki Asakura). By the time a pair of strange-looking gentlemen turn up claiming to be from the time travel police insisting that the guys stop all this nonsense before they cause a serious problem in the space time continuum you might come to sympathise with Kato’s resentment in feeling as if the future is controlling him but then there are always unexpected ways to rebel against fate and who knows, maybe your romantic destiny will work out after all with a little old-fashioned conversation only tangentially assisted by sci-fi hijinks. A charmingly whimsical take on time travel shenanigans and their existential dilemmas, Yamaguchi’s meticulously plotted farce is an indie gem.
Beyond the Infinite Two Minutes streams in Germany 1st to 6th June as part of this year’s Nippon Connection.
Original trailer (English subtitles)