Benji Dunaief ’19 / Emertainment Monthly Staff Writer
If your friend whipped out a big calculator and declared to have discovered time travel, would you believe him? Even if he claimed to have already sent you back in time? That’s the question at the heart of the French film House of Time.
House of Time takes place entirely within the grounds of a secluded mansion in the French countryside, owned by Robert d’Eglantine (Maxime Dambrin). d’Eglantine invites several of his friends over, and reveals that by using an extremely simple looking device, he can open a rift in time and transport them all back 70 years to Nazi-Occupied France, he then activates the device seemingly sending them back in time. d’Eglantine urges his friends not to go outside of the mansion and disrupt history, but his friends don’t believe they’ve been sent back in time at all- instead they are insistent to prove that d’Eglantine has set up an incredibly intricate show, staging events and hiring actors.
While House of Time is definitely a Sci-Fi film, it chose to take more of a historical fiction/drama approach, focusing on character development and featuring no practical or special effects. Overall, the actors in lead roles were convincing and entertaining, with characters such as Louis Legarec (Pierre Deladonchamps) and Mathilde Bathelemy (Esther Comar) sharing some moments of genuine emotion that added to the momentum of the story. However, several of the supporting characters were clearly created solely for comedic relief, and they seriously impeded the momentum. These characters, most notably Philippe Petin (Benjamin Wangermee) stuttered and gawked the entire film, selfishly drawing attention away from the main action of scenes, and dredging on the performances of the serious, leading performances.
In addition to some mixed acting, the script and also failed to have a grounded storyline. In the beginning of House of Time, the characters find evidence that both support and deny their hypothesis that their time travel is all an act, and good initial writing isn’t quick to give away the truth. However, about halfway through the film, nothing the characters discover adds anything new to the plot and the energy is almost entirely lost. By the second half of the film, scenes begin to progress in aimless circles as the story can’t acquire enough speed to get off the runway. Additionally, the slow, lethargic pace of each scene wares away at the momentum and leaves the audience looking forward to the long-awaited finale. Yet, the finale is also a bit of a disappointment, giving a definitive and expected answer to the film’s central question before unceremoniously cutting to black.
Nevertheless, House of Time benefits from an original premise that makes you wonder how nobody had ever made a movie like it before, and is an intriguing entry in the Sci-Fi genre. Blending in elements of historical fiction, mystery, and comedy, the film leaves the door open for possibilities. Unfortunately, some annoying characters, painful overacting, sluggish editing, and ineffective storytelling leave the Sci-Fi Comedy in a purgatory between its two genres- it’s not really funny, and would probably have been more effective as a straight drama, maybe even as a short film.
Overall Grade: C+
Check out Emertainment Monthly’s list of future screenings coming up at the 2016 Boston Sci-Fi Film Festival.