CIFF 40 Film Review

House of Time

Lisa Sanchez

I’ve been having difficulty fully grasping and describing my feelings about House of Time, directed by Jonathan Helpert, but then I realized that is most likely the film’s soul motivation.

The action takes place in a secluded French castle where six friends gather to hear the ridiculous time travel fantasies of their friend Robert (Maxime Dambrin). All of the actions in House of Time are muted, especially the “time travel” itself. Nothing changes. There are no lights, sounds, or 2001: A Space Odyssey visual stimulation. Robert presses a button and the friends are flawlessly thrust into occupied France in 1944.

The group encounters a woman who is part of the Nazi resistance and even though she has been shot, some of the time travelers remain skeptical. The indecisive feelings of the friends echo that of the audience. Throughout the entirety of House of Time I wondered if the whole premise was an elaborate ruse established by Robert, an actual sci-fi miracle, or the writer and director simply dipping their toes into the absurd.

The World War II, time travel premise is only a framework for character development among the party. The setting could be that the friends are the first colonists on Mars fighting space spiders, but the director chooses to focus on their conversations, their fluctuating indifferent/accepting attitudes about time travel, and the over the top personality quirks of characters like American cad Zack or Nazi memorabilia expert Phillipe.

Considering House of Time’s beautiful, isolated setting, the character’s nonplussed attitudes, and the implied pointlessness of the film’s action, House of Time is decidedly the most “French” movie I’ve ever seen in my life.

Cinematographer Philipp Baben der Erde does an excellent job capturing the soft light and exaggerated motions typical of of pre-World War II cinema. Although there's no Vaseline on the lens, House of Time is an excellent exercise in paying homage to classic film tricks and motifs.

I laughed at the character’s dry wit, their disbelief, and the overall ridiculousness the creator’s were trying to convey. House of Time, much like the central question in the plot, doesn’t really go anywhere, but it’s a fun experience and a hell of a story to tell. ​