The Incident (El Incidente)
Director/Screenplay – Isaac Ezban, Producers – Salomon Askenazi, Isaac Ezban & Miriam Mercado, Photography – Rodrigo Sandoval, Music – Edy Lan, Visual Effects Supervisor – Marius Henry Hoyo, Production Design – Adelle Achar. Production Company – Yellow Films
Hermon Mendoza (Roberto), Gabriel Sontoya (Daniel), Humberto Busto (Carlos), Nailea Norvind (Sandra), Fernando Alvarez Rebeil (Oliver), Santiago Mendoza Cortes (Roberto Age 10), Paulina Montemayor (Camila), Raul Mendez (Marco)
Carlos returns home to his brother Oliver just as the detective Marco bursts in to arrest them. They flee, pursued by Marco but all three end up in a stairwell that is caught in an endless loop where the top flight connects back to the bottom and the exit doors do not open. At the same time, a family on a car journey find that they are trapped interminably passing along the same stretch of road. Thirty years later and the two brothers are still stuck in the stairwell, having endlessly reused the supplies from the dispensing machine that replicate every time they are moved. So too are the family on the stretch of road where the husband and wife have grown old, while the young son Roberto has grown into an adult.
The Incident is a directorial debut for young, rising Mexican director Isaac Ezban. The film gained some reasonable play and word of mouth at international and fantastic film festivals.
The Incident is a variant on the timeloop film that we have seen in films such as Groundhog Day (1993) and more recently in Edge of Tomorrow (2014). In these and imitators, the protagonists have been forced to repeat the same limited strip of time over and over again with endless variation. The film that The Incident comes closest to is the amazing Triangle (2009) in which characters were forced to loop through the same events over and over as we saw dozens of discarded identical items nearby. There is the same sense here – of characters trapped in the same single space akin to an M.C. Escher painting or a Moebius Strip where time progresses but they are unable to leave and the objects in their physical space keeps replicating and creating new copies every time they are moved. One of the most conceptually mind-boggling scenes here is where we jump forward thirty years into the future of the stairwell and see dozens of identical copies of the same books, discarded food wrappers, backpacks, water bottles and so on to the point that they are nearly filling the space. The film vies between these two parallel timeloops – the two brothers trapped in the stairwell and the family in their car on a stretch of road.
I liked the film’s fascinatingly weird concept. Philip K. Dick’s Time Out of Joint (1959) plays a significant part in the film – the title could be a perfect description of the film, even if the book’s plot about a man’s alternate version of reality is quite a different story to the one we have here. I kept expecting The Incident to break out into a reality bending work like Open Your Eyes (1997), Dark City (1998) or Oblivion (2013) where we get a stunning aha explanation as it eventually becomes apparent what is going on. The problem here is that about the point that Isaac Ezban comes to explaining what is going on, The Incident starts to get weird. I am not sure I fully followed the explanation we get – something about alternate versions of a person being created in a pocket universe so that they can do all the emotional struggling of the original person throughout their life, which provides energy to young people (although apparently not for old people) to go forward. Towards the end, we see the two imprisoned people released and going on to live their various lives where it is simply not clear how the pocket universes feature in this.
Isaac Ezban subsequently went onto make The Similars (2015), another conceptually fascinating film about people trapped in a bus station who all start transforming into the same person, and is next set to make the English-language multiverse film Parallel (2018).