The tried and tested time loop narrative gets another incarnation of sorts in Matthew Butler-Hart‘s impressively made Infinitum: Subject Unknown. Filmed during the UK’s first lockdown entirely on an iPhone, the evident budget issues that may cause ire from some eyes are all the more forgiven when looking at its scope as a whole.
The time loop here involves Jane (Tori Butler-Hart). There isn’t much to know about Jane, other than that she awakes, bound and gagged, in a chair in an attic. It’s a strange set-up in an otherwise normal seeming London suburb, and just as the resilient Jane learns how to escape, she’s sent all the way back to the attic without so much as a logical explanation.
It doesn’t take long for Jane to realise she’s in a time loop, gradually travelling further and further away from the attic as each reset allows her to maintain certain nuggets of information to assist in her eventual escape. Just what she’s escaping though is a mystery in itself. There’s little to suggest that Jane has abilities or skills that would earn her prime subject placement, more that she’s been randomly selected, which somehow makes her psychological torture all the more painful.
She may not know entirely what’s going on, but two people that do are Professor Aaron Ostergaard (Conleth Hill) and Dr. Charles Marland-White (Ian McKellen) who, whilst only fleetingly appearing throughout in talking heads segments, relay informational importance throughout that suggests a bigger picture scenario. Therein lies one of the main issues with Infinitum though, as it slowly starts to uncover some of the who’s and why’s behind Jane’s predicament before an abrupt ending leaves the audience with a definitive “what?”; apparently there are further stories planned as part of the wider universe Butler-Hart has concocted, meaning this cliffhanger ending could hopefully be resolved.
As frustrating as the conclusion may be, and the film’s early stages run the risk of repetition as we witness Jane’s attempted escape from the attic, the little clues dropped throughout each scenario – photographs and bloodstains being two of the more prominent easter eggs – and the dedication from Tori Butler-Hart, essentially delivering a one-woman show (or is that a two-woman show?), allows the film to continually overcome its limitations.
Given that the Covid experience itself felt like a time loop for us all in various stages of lockdown, the creative input for Infinitum shines a light on the silver linings of such a tragic situation. The shots of a desolate London prove all too eerie knowing there wasn’t any computer trickery to earn such an effect, layering the hopelessness that we as a society experienced, as well as linking us to the mind frame of the confused Jane. A little film with big ideas, Infinitum: Subject Unknown may not entirely land as a fully formed realisation, but the creative intricacies present deserve respect all the same.
THREE STARS (OUT OF FIVE)
Infinitum: Subject Unknown is available to rent or buy digitally in Australia. It will be coming to select theatres and available on VOD in North America from August 6th, 2021.