Time Crimes – Paola Tamma

“Time Crimes” is a 2007 sci-fi movie by Nacho Vigalondo that was screened by the School of Philisophy, Psychology and Language Sciences, as an exciting pretext to initiate a debate about the ethics, logics, and physics of time travel, with the help and oversight of professor Alasdair Richmond, self-declared expert in time travel for a living.

We follow the protagonist as he creates earlier versions of himself, once, twice, until there are three of him. The first (Hector 1) has no clue as to what is happening to him: he unknowingly acts as a puppet, his future self being the puppeteer. The second (Hector 2) is told by the scientist who put him in the time travelling capsule (in the movie, Vigalondo himself) that to preserve consistency he must reproduce all events as he recalls them, which include stabbing in the arm his earlier self, or otherwise life as he’s thus far known it would cease to exist. Alas, by following this (compelling?) logic, he causes the death of a woman he believes to be his wife, and obliges the scientist to bring him back in time again to amend events. Hector 3 is master of his actions; he is the one bringing to an end this causal loop of events, but to do this he sacrifices the life of an innocent.

In the debate that followed, the first question Professor Richmond asked was: is Hector really guilty? Crimes presuppose freewill, but in a sense, Hector was compelled to act the way he did… But was he? Did he not have the choice to do away with consistency, thus challenging logics? What happens once you create a logical paradox, i.e. two of you existing in the same temporal and spacial spot? Is this logically possible at all?

The discussion twirled and branched in many fascinating philosophical and moral directions, concluding on the bewildering but logically compelling point that yes, time travel in one single history is at least logically possible. And the fact that they are not a physical possibility, as Richmond says with what sounds like a hint of regret, does not mean they are not infinitely interesting.

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