Despite its minuscule budget of $7000, Primer turned out to be a well-produced piece of film.
Montage was most certainly present throughout the movie. Primal montage, in particular, was everywhere- after all, the movie took place over the course of several days. It appeared between the creation of ‘the box’ and the eventual discovery of its side effect. It appeared during the instances of time travel- after all, there are very few who would want to watch an actor confined in a box for six real-time hours.
However, there were also instances of tonal or emotional montage, to help set the mood for certain scenes. For instance, the scene immediately following Abe and Aaron’s test run of the box with the egg has the events sort of skip around in odd timing- the cell phone rings, Aaron is depicted talking on the phone, and then he’s shown getting up to answer it. The odd skipping sets the confused mood for the scenes immediately afterwards- where Abe describes the side effects of the machine. This odd skipping appears more than once, and fits in with the ‘time chopping’ depicted in the movie.
Much of the film used earthy, neutral colors to set the kind of ‘down to earth’, ‘done in a garage’ kind of feeling. Many time-travel movies tell the discovery of time travel technology as being created in a lab with high-tech equipment and a clear purpose to do so. However, Primer depicts it as an accident, done with a homemade, scrap-scavenged machine they built in a garage. The shaky ‘home video’ style camera work also suggests a homier, less professional feeling to their discovery and to their experiments.
As for the concept of time travel itself, it was very well explored within the piece. It required a lot of testing. It had a lot of rules that had to be followed, lest the user deal damage towards themselves. The characters fought over whether to reveal it or not due to the possibly major consequences and the dangers of letting loose untested data. It wasn’t simple, and that is the beauty of the way it was depicted here, because that is more like how it feels to discover something totally new than the way it is usually depicted.
Primer proves that one doesn’t have to be a famous director or have a huge budget or fancy special effects to be able to produce a spectacular movie. All one needs is a grasp on the concept they depict, and knowledge of the workings of cinematography.