SXSW 2024: Alice Lowe’s TIMESTALKER Tells of Obsession Across the Ages

A fantastical and bloody affair weaving together romance, revenge, and reincarnation

Winston Churchill once said, “Those that fail to learn from history are doomed to repeat it.” It’s an idea that runs through the core of Timestalker, or more specifically the lives of it’s protagonist Agnes (Alice Lowe). We first meet her in Scotland, 1688, where upon attending a public execution, falls madly in love with a heretic preacher (Aneurin Barnard). Minutes later she dies, pretty gruesomely, and with her dying breath pledges to find him. A generation later, we meet Agnes in a new reincarnated form. Surrounded by opulence, she has an ache in her heart that she cannot fill, until she encounters a highwayman (Aneurin Barnard again) who has aspirations of fame and notoriety. Her pursuit of him again results in her death, this time at the hands of her loathsome husband George (Nick Frost), who after her betrayal promises to punish her in eternity. A trio now eternally entwinned, in an ever repeating cycle. Unto each generation an Agnes is born, and each time her lovestruck nature leads her to her doom, which is typically a form of decapitation. Timestalkers is a romp through the ages, following Agnes’ mistakes and misadventures across time and space. Until 1980s New York, when an incarnation finally starts to reflect on matters of the heart and mind, as well as her complicated past.

Back in 2017, Alice Lowe (Sightseers, Garth Marenghi’s Darkplace) delivered unto SXSW Prevenge, a slasher driven by the melancholic brooding and anger that consumed a prenatal woman. Lowe served as writer, director, and star of the film, and if that wasn’t impressive enough, she was actually pregnant during the shoot. Lowe is back with her with a love-story of sorts. Timestalker, another showcase for Lowe’s particular brand of dark and dry humor, was similarly affected by real-world occurrences, notably the pandemic and another pregnancy. A six year effort in total, to get things off the ground, finally cumulating in a 22 day shoot to get the film made.

The result is a beguiling affair. Witty, dark, and at times pitch perfectly silly. Visually inventive, and playful in structure and design. Dreamy cinematography is complemented by a moody and playful soundtrack by UK outfit Toydrum. Granted, there’s certainly a sense that the finances didn’t match Lowe’s imagination, but it adds a clunky charm to proceedings.

At its core,Timestalker is a film about mortality, or more specifically about how you use the time you have. Even though you may have multiple lives, if you don’t use them correctly, whats the point. The cyclic nature of things is reinforced not just by the love-locked trio, but also by the support of Kate Dickie, Tanya Reynolds, and Jacob Anderson, who in their respective incarnations provide humor, as well as counsel for poor Agnes. It all feeds into a bit of a Blackadder feeling, which is no bad thing. While the trip through time is entertaining, the meat comes in 1980s New York, where flashes of her past lives force Agnes to engage in a spot of therapy to deal with her obsession. This time manifest in the form of Alex Phoenix, a Spandau Ballet-esque musician. Again, Agnes isn’t following her own path, just tied up in his and events conspire to help her break the wheel and look to reinvention, rather than reincarnation.

In the Q&A after the premiere, Lowe shared her inspirations and aspirations for the film, notably about trying to encapsulate artists chasing a dream. Agnes is a surrogate for that. A woman led by her heart not her head, ironically sacrificing her own future while we see this man achieve his own dreams of fame, albeit over a few hundred years. What Lowe achieves with Timestalkers is a distinct feat. A fantastical, bloody trip through time that champions the idea that you need to choose your own adventure, and not be so wrapped up in someone else’s.

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