A Topiary - Shane Carruth

18" by 24"
Hand SIgned & Numbered
Giclee' Print on Enhanced matte

Limited Edition of 150

Each print comes with a movie ticket which will have the number of the edition.

A Topiary would have been Shane Carruth’s ambitious follow up to Primer. An enigmatic time travel film that wowed audiences even on its shoestring budget.

A Topiary would be a drastic leap in scope. A film akin to 2001: A Space Odyssey.

The plot is difficult to describe. There are two seemingly separate stories. The first concerns a man plotting the perfect location for an emergency services center. He’s is tasked with sifting through car crash data and finding the center point so that the emergency center can be in the best possible location. His calculations lead him to an intersection. When he’s told to use a different data set because the intersection is undesirable, the calculation are the same. No matter what data set he uses the center always leads back to this intersection. He becomes obsessed with the intersection, finding more and more coincidences, following odd glints of light to other coincidences and numerological oddities. Eventually he comes across a group of people who share in his obsession who are being drawn together to find items to build something. That something leads them to build another contraption. The film follows these mysteries to cyclical dead ends. Visually represented in a scene where the characters obsessively organize a series of polaroids in a pattern on a wall which is revealed to be a vague image of them looking at the polaroids on the wall.

Then we cut to a spectrum of light. The spectrum morphs into an image of a forest. Two children run out of the forest with a machine.

That’s it for the characters from the first half. We do not see them again. The rest of the film which makes up the bulk of the film concerns a group of ten children and their experimentation with this machine which we quickly start to realize has some fantastic elements.

The following is as stripped down as I can summarize the amazing sequence of events that occur in the second half of the film:

Through trial and error they discover the machine produces disks that turn into tubes that break down and turn into smaller parts that can be assembled into structures that seem to have an intelligence. They build the structures into animals which build more complex structures which produce even more complex bodies for the creatures.

A group of adults with their own creations attack the children to steal their machine and a war breaks out. Whether this group is the same as the group building the mysterious machine in the first half is unclear. At the climax of the battle one of the children has a vision thousands of years in the future in deep space. A long shot passing asteroids and ships and planets ravaged by the creatures ending at a pulsar that spins and emits a pulse of light.

I’m doing the film a huge disservice in my summary so I encourage you to read the script which can be easily found online. It has elements that harken back to Steven Spielberg in a way that would eventually be capitalized on by Stranger Things.

Carruth even developed his own special effects for the film, footage of which he used in his follow up film Upstream Color.

A Topiary garnered the attention of Steven Soderbergh and David FIncher who lended their name in an effort to get the film made. However despite Carruth’s best efforts for almost a decade the film never came to fruition. Disappointed Shane Carruth went on to make a much more intimate film Upstream Color. He then went on to work on “The Modern Ocean” a mysterious star studded effort which seems to be plagued by similar issues as with A Topiary.