The Movie Waffler New to VOD - THE TIMEKEEPERS OF ETERNITY | The Movie Waffler


Experimental remix of Stephen King's The Langoliers.

Review by Benjamin Poole

Directed by: Aristotelis Maragkos

The Timekeepers of Eternity poster

Aristotelis Maragkos’ experimental film, The Timekeepers of Eternity, is a partly animated re-edit of the old television mini-series The Langoliers, which is based on the extended short story by Stephen King. Although it is quite possible to understand and enjoy Maragko’s film without watching its predecessor, as part of a professional obligation to provide a full critical analysis of the remix I also took the three whole hours of the initial TV movie on the chin. Here are my notes:

Directed and written by Tom Holland, 1995’s The Langoliers is an awful film. Starring jobbing actors who will be familiar to connoisseurs of this sort of fare (Dean Stockwell, Bronson Pinchot), the plot involves a small group of passengers who awake on an overnight flight to discover that every other commuter has disappeared. It turns out that by passing through an unseasonable aurora borealis our passengers have been shifted slightly backwards out of time. The ragbag of archetypes - sweet little girl, square jawed hero, obnoxious yuppie etc - are then made privy to the dark secrets of temporality when it transpires that the past and all it consists of is eventually ‘eaten’ by flying alien spheres resembling outsize nu-metal Pac-Men - yikes, etc.

The Timekeepers of Eternity review

Apart from Pinchot’s extra-value for money performance (‘Captain my butt’- hahaha), what I liked about The Langoliers was its central metaphor of air travel, and how Holland (after King) links it to the subject of time. An airport is by definition a liminal area, somewhere in between your destination and the place you are leaving. They are exciting spaces, but uniquely terrifying if you are stranded in one with the means of departure out of your control. This goes double for flight, which has immense potential for nightmare scenarios. The Langoliers does touch upon these features, however the main aspects of air travel that it replicates is the tedium of it all; the hanging about, the prolonged waiting for something to happen. At the mid-point of the film, someone screams ‘Make it STOP!’, but I was hoping that someone or something would make it ‘START!’; upping the pace of this TV paced longueur, and making the most of its chewy, fun sci-fi concept (I’ve just realised: ‘Langolier’ is a play on longueur, isn’t it?).

It is said that when Michelangelo made La Pietà, the sculptor approached the anonymous block of Carrara marble, and he could ‘see’ the image of bereaved mother and Son inside the stone. It was just then a matter of chipping away the excess marble to ‘free’ the sculpture within. With The Timekeepers of Eternity at a lean 70 mins, perhaps this is how Aristotelis Maragkos handled the VHS busting three hours runtime of The Langoliers. At its most simple, The Timekeepers of Eternity is similar to what a DJ would call an edit of an existing track, or, perhaps more accurately, it’s a ‘recontextualization’ (like that Girl Talk stuff or, my fave, Messypanda): the essentials are intact, but rejigged, with external elements added which allow us to re-experience the original text in novel ways (so, for example, a favourite childhood rap is refreshed when placed over, say, the break beat from a Kate Bush song: here a mediocre TV film is refreshed by technological filters and re-edits).

The Timekeepers of Eternity review

Duly, Maragkos strips the story back to foreground Pinchot’s unhinged yuppie. Mr. Toomey is plagued by nightmares of his overbearing father and is an unlikely Cassandra figure who alone understands the impending threat of the Langoliers (or, as Maragkos prefers, the Timekeepers of Eternity). BP was the only watchable feature of the OG, and by streamlining his story, The Timekeepers of Eternity now has an intriguing, psychological narrative. It helps that here (as in the 1995 version) Pinchot is as wonderful as he ever was; intense, funny, creepy - with the black and white giving him the menacing look and demeanour of a ‘30s Universal horror villain. In Maragkos’ re-imagining, the actor’s inherent desperate sense of his own absurdity is congruous with the film’s themes of negligible realities, too. When readdressing the dull televisual saturation of The Langoliers,  Maragkos not only filters the film to an elegant, silver monochrome but further manipulates the frame by drawing lines and ‘scrumples’ and tears across the screen, as if we are watching a moving image on stationary: material which is being ripped, layered, scribbled upon by hands beyond the immediate context. Enhancing the melodramatic emotes of the TV cast, the screen folds, scrunches and even splits apart in a plane of existence which is as thin as paper itself. The effect is pleasingly psychedelic.

The imaginative implications of the mise-en-scene are worn lightly, however, and serve as a mind-bending background to Timekeepers of Eternity’s focalised plot, which is tightly retrained from the ponderous flab of the '90s film into a lean, exciting sci-fi thriller. With a terrible chronometric fate drawing in on the characters, the mode of the film is vividly expressive of its story and ideas; as the plot builds to a scary and stunning cumulation of everything that has come before (no Pac-Men this time) at one charming point a Švankmajer-esque pair of hands even edge in from off frame to manipulate the visual set (the heightened cinema also manages to make sense of the absurd over-delivery of The Langoliers’ performances, too). And, yes, the meta relevance of the film (artefacts from the past being omnisciently cannibalised for purposes beyond both the understanding and the period of the initial situation) is bit on the nose, but even this feature of The Timekeepers of Eternity is given weird credence by odd and delightful moments of synchronicity: a character bemoans that tasting food in limbo ‘is like chewing paper’, another says that this sort of time travel doesn’t allow one to nip back and prevent the assassination of JFK (a concept explicitly explored in the King novel 11/22/63 which came two decades after the publication of The Langoliers), and, of course, Dean Stockwell was in Quantum Leap!

The Timekeepers of Eternity review

Speaking of King, there is a decent essay to be written about the symbiosis of the author and moving image. From inspiration to the most celebrated auteurs to the epitome of DTV dreck, King’s stories have provided IP across the whole cinematic gamut. His iconic status transcends even the screen - people know ‘redruM’ without having seen The Shining, my 7 year old nephew obsesses over ‘the it’ and its scary clown character which comes from a movie he has never seen (I think he’s read the book, though). Like Dickens - with whom he shares thematic concerns of class, along with a penchant for memorably crafted character names - King’s characters and stories have become part of our cultural lexicon in a way that is exceptional (what’s more, the films which SK was most closely involved with, the cartoony Maximum Overdrive and Creepshow, perhaps gives his literary audiences an intuition as to how absurdly King views his own work...). The symbiosis is reinforced by the great man’s cameos in adaptations, and he turns up here, too, as a phantom board-member haunting Mr. Toomey. The Timekeepers of Eternity is a fascinating addition to this corpus, as, like the best King, it takes the subject of stories and storytelling, and explores its motif in a way that is both exhilarating and entertaining. Constant reader, spend some time here.

The Timekeepers of Eternity is free to view on Vimeo throughout Otcober. You can watch it below or at