The Communal Pleasures of Beyond the Infinite Two Minutes

The Communal Pleasures of Beyond the Infinite Two Minutes

Long takes and one shot films are supposed to be immersive, a way to trap you in the moment with the characters, but, especially in their most self-consciously virtuosic form, they always draw attention to their own construction; who can deny trying to spot the hidden cuts and often finding them so easily you wonder if they were meant to be seen? There is not one invisible cut in the supposed one-take Beyond the Infinite Two Minutes (2020) and that’s to its credit. There’s a real handmade quality to Junta Yamaguchi’s film, it tries to impress you in the personably way of a friend showing you a card trick they just learnt, and then teaching it to you too, you are invited in, as if part of the small production yourself.

The premise—a young man, Kato (Kazunari Tosa) sees himself looking back from the security camera of the café he works at and lives above, it’s showing two minutes into the future, his future self explains, then Kato must run downstairs to repeat this explanation to his past self—whilst catchy, is still a little flimsy. The security TV downstairs clearly does not have a camera and really has no reason to be sitting in the middle of the room, facing mostly just a window, and Kato’s desktop seems to have the worlds longest cord as he brings it down to face the TV and create a loop, like two mirrors facing it creates multiple layers, allowing them to see further into the future. But the film is always clear in the ways it needs to be, once you allow the pieces to be put where they must, it develops crisply and organically, multiple characters draw diagrams to keep one other, and us, up to speed.

It feels like the film was shot in the café one of the crew members works at in their day job, and that they could only convince the owners to let them shoot at night, after it’s closed, since the phone cameras cannot handle low-light whatsoever. The most amusing example of the camera’s limitations is when it tries to zoom right in close on a cocoa tin and not only does it struggle to get in focus, but when it does, the image is incredibly noisy and low quality. It’s interesting then that the writer, Makoto Ueda, is quite successful, most known for his incredible anime work with Masaaki Yuasa, The Tatami Galaxy (2021) and Night is Short, Walk on Girl (2017), no question the budget is low, but some of the crafted feel is at least illusory, if not constructed; by no means a fault when it never once rings false.

The tone is consistently light and unpretentious, only Kato takes the ‘Time TV’ seriously, telling his friends to leave it alone, but they ignore him and joke about its limits, even with the loop, they can at best see sixteen minutes into the future, not much use apart from silly tricks like dressing up as mystics (putting cloths on their head) or pretending the apocalypse is two minutes away by putting a picture of a destroyed city in front of the camera for their past selves to see. They end up using it for minor gain, but for the most part they just think it’s awesome, it’s a film filled with joyful shouting and laughing.

Not that it’s without standard genre pleasures, the increasing complexity, especially when different characters are all moving on different levels of the loop, is fun to try and keep up with, and having reveals before they happen, seeing them first on the future screens—whether it’s new characters joining, or later some mild threats—is a nice little dramatic gimmick. The film is primarily interested in good vibes though, I know some people fall off when the time and space bureau police appear with their toy guns, screw holes completely visible, but I think of it in the same way as the ending of Multiple Maniacs (1970), where a giant lobster is suddenly in the last five minutes; both are here for no other reason than their own sake, the director wanted them and thought they’d be fun.

When the film finds a bit of time for character stuff at the end of its naturally plot-y, but low-stakes seventy minutes, it’s so straight forward: Kato doesn’t like the future because as a kid Nostradamus’ predictions scared him, and his love interest, Megumi (Aki Asakura), doesn’t like music because a boyfriend ditched her when his band got big. It’s so silly that they both have to laugh, in the end it’s a lovely and heartfelt celebration of simplicity and connection.

It’s never a problem that the performances are consistently slightly amateurish—you can feel everyone trying to hit their marks—and in fact, it takes on an interesting metatextual angle as the characters have to try and stay in sync with what they’ve seen their future selves do, remembering their lines like the lines of a script. At a certain point, fun does turn to responsibility as they must show a happier tone on screen than they feel off as the film builds to the moderate danger of two gangsters, one of which can’t tie a knot and even then, there’s such a positive energy put into the idea of fulfilling a role. Never has the behind the scenes footage that plays over the credits felt more a part of the film, a film which not about immersing yourself in another world, but in the real one, watching a group of people come together to create something, and taking great pleasure in that.