The Timekeepers Of Eternity


Reviewed by: Andrew Robertson

The Timekeepers Of Eternity
"This is intertext, existing in a twilight zone where the benefit of 25 years of distance and the loss of colour gives it the cast of something at least as old again."

A radical re-imagining, Timekeepers Of Eternity is not just metatextual but metatextural. Aristotelis Maragkos has taken a 1995 mini-series based on a 1988 novella and created something that is at once reactionary, reflective, redemptive. It is a striking piece of work, an absolute masterwork of technique and intent.

Stephen King's story The Langoliers may be known to some, it appeared in collection Four Past Midnight. A 'red eye' flight from Los Angeles to Boston is diverted by a strange occurrence, the few passengers find themselves in a world that is almost exactly like but not quite the same as our own. Refracted, if you will. Within its text there's reference to bad television movies and disaster films, and the two part adaptation by ABC might be both of those. In Q&A Maragkos talked about a desire not only to capture the film as he remembered it from childhood but to recontextualise a central performance by Bronson Pinchot.

Pinchot's performance in some ways presages Christian Bale's in American Psycho. There's a similar intensity in places that's underserved by the rest of the film. Pinchot was relatively fresh from sitcom Perfect Strangers, and while it seems that the show was shown in the UK as best I can tell it got stuck in an early morning slot before a Liberal Democrat conference and then a heap of episodes were shown in June of 1992. International celebrity might be more associated with roles in Beverley Hills Cop and Blame It On The Bellboy among other 'comedies'. While he was trying to move beyond comic turns the audience at 2022's Glasgow Short Film Festival didn't always feel so.

I don't know that it's laughable. I've never really got on with audience laughter, I can't say it's wholly down to misanthropy. There's a disconnect at times between what others react to and how I do but knowing where The Langoliers is going some of the humour apparently observed is washed away by knowing it is the product of trauma. As Craig Toomy, a hard charging slick-haired business guy, there's a degree of antagonism forced upon him. As with any Stephen King work it's not just the supernatural but the mundane that gets you, man is a monster among others and all that. There's plenty of King's watchwords as well, beyond filming at the airport at Bangor, Maine, there's a cameo from big Stephen himself, with a moustache that nearly defies description. It is a bit of facial fuzz that could at once embolden the villain of a Cormac McCarthy novel or adorn the sketchy face of a Simpsons bit-player, be a detail caught in yet another photograph of that grey and grassy knoll. Shining through like a dark tower standing against a mile of green sky. It exists outside of time.

As, perhaps, do the Langoliers. Certainly this film does. Created by printing frames from the television movie, running at (apparently) 18 frames per second. I could (and might yet) divert into the differences between NTSC and PAL broadcasting, as Greece used the latter after a 93 switchover from SECAM. Suffice to say that however Tom Holland's (no, not that one) film was shot by the time it is rendered in monochromatic ink or toner it has gained a uniformity no filter or colour grading can quite match. We are treated to a re-cut, if not a re-make, one able to layer strips and tears to grant the already extradimensional elements of the story a physicality. One sequence replaces the early CG of the originals monsters with, well, torn paper. Yet torn paper that so convincingly moves in relation to the planes of vision, movement, even airport, that it recalled the match-moving magic of the trench run or the approach of a train to La Ciotat.

There are other moments, a pair of hands might be creator, or, capitals aside, creator. There are questions of perspective, deduction, derivation. During the Q&A the question of copyright was raised but this is fair use, indeed, fairer use. The perfect kind of festival film, in truth, because it is almost impossible to imagine it anywhere else.

A first 'cut' was achieved by stacking papers, perhaps some 75 minutes. This is shorter, but still over an hour, though as a reduction of some 180 minutes of television that's no mean feat. This is a lightweight reconstruction, shedding others emotional baggage even as its mocking salutes and flight-readiness bring new allusions. It's not just those that reminded me of The Flight Of The Phoenix, though that it has a remake is itself an echo of proceedings here.

New shots are constructed by layering, twos from tears, with tearful eyes, eyes watching, watches eyed. Subtitles like (eerie ambient music) take the muddy finality of single-track pre-mixed audio and the tape-loop work of composer AMULETS and make something flat of it. Split screens abound, not just jagged interventions from other angles but polygonal artifice, bracketed and bounded. Veering from the vorticist to the vulval, the crumpled to the clean. At times even tabula rasa, carte blanche. Every once in a little while the film recalls Edwin Abbott Abbott's Flatland, a work from 1884 whose influences are felt not just within that nominative recursion.

If we call him 'Co-Director', Tom Holland had appeared in this, the previous year's (much better) version of The Stand, would direct Thinner the year after. Child's Play, the first one of that nesting doll of a franchise was one of his, as well as plenty of TV horror. His work has provided a substrate, a rock from which everything not Toomy has been hewn. There are other familiar faces, David Morse, Dean Stockwell, Patricia Wettig. Stockwell's presence does something else to all this, if the candy-coloured clown were a humbug we'd have the same palette and the leap is not to the quantum realm (of Ant-Man or otherwise) but somewhere more referential.

This is intertext, existing in a twilight zone where the benefit of 25 years of distance and the loss of colour gives it the cast of something at least as old again, the stolidity of stiff-upper-lipped disaster movies and television where the horizontal and the vertical are controlled but never mention made of sitting too close.

Stephen King is oft fond of re-using ideas and locations, and while this does not end with a running man it does stray from its source. One may not be able to cross the same river twice but you can definitely repeat an idea. In his act of repetition Maragkos has created something distinctive, delightful, demented, delicious. To pause for a moment and to consider that it creates the sense of an object moving in three dimensions relative to another by the careful placement of torn paper in a frame made of printouts of a television programme based upon a written work, to from that intersecting vector make more real the fear of a scampering man on a concrete field? Eat it up, if you have the time.

Reviewed on: 25 Mar 2022
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The Timekeepers Of Eternity packshot
Footage from a forgotten Stephen King mini-series is edited, printed and animated into a hypnotic paper nightmare.

Director: Aristotelis Maragkos

Writer: Aristotelis Maragkos

Year: 2021

Runtime: 64 minutes

Country: Greece, UK

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