A time-traveler becomes fragmented in disastrous ways, and so too does the film itself, in “7 Splinters in Time,” edited to ribbons in a schizoid manner that likely only makes complete sense to its maker. Writer-director Gabriel Judet-Weinshel’s feature wears numerous influences on its sleeve, yet derivation isn’t the problem here; rather, it’s a scattershot structure that undercuts the cohesiveness (and effectiveness) of its story about a man haunted — and hunted — by doppelgangers. Despite some serviceable lo-fi effects, its limited theatrical run will no doubt be a brief one, followed by a more extended home-video residence alongside similar VOD-grade efforts.
The film commences with so many fast-forward montages of baffling sights and half-formed scenes that it’s initially difficult to get one’s bearings, although a partially clear through-line does materialize. Darius Lefaux (Edoardo Ballerini) is a faux-hardboiled detective in a nameless industrial future-noir city who rejoins the force after an involuntary hiatus. No sooner has he resumed his duties than men who look just like him start to turn up dead — a situation that would be more surprising to Darius if not for the fact that he’s constantly walking past identical-twin strangers. If that weren’t confusing enough, Darius can’t remember anything about his childhood, and the world around him seem to be on the fritz, with structures and objects fluctuating in blasts of static. His illogical response to this turn of events? To stop taking his antipsychotic meds.
Using a cornucopia of film formats and rear-projection tricks, Judet-Weinshel brings to uneven life both Darius’ shadowy urban home and his home movie-ish memories of an incident involving a young man, his girlfriend (Giuliana Carullo) and two nude figures who materialize, out of the blue, in the middle of the road. That event ends in tragedy, but a lucid account of what has precisely taken place doesn’t come until much later. In the meantime, Darius randomly searches for clues about his doubles, one of whom is dressed in white and has a fondness for stabbing his look-alikes with a knife; he tends to an old lady named Babs (Lynn Cohen) with whom he lives; and he visits a psychiatrist (Emmanuelle Chriqui) who, like so many others, refers to him as Daniel.
Darius’ circumstances are soon explicated by run-ins with cryptic librarian Fyodor Wax (Austin Pendleton) and bald hermit John Luka (Greg Bennick), the latter of whom flies around in a ludicrous makeshift contraption and speaks into his own camera — and to the audience — in motor-mouthed close-up monologues. Aesthetically and narratively speaking, “7 Splinters in Time” melds bits and pieces of “Eraserhead,” “Blade Runner,” “12 Monkeys,” “Dark City” and “Looper,” albeit with such editorial business that any legitimate sense of place, character or emotion slips through the cracks. Full of piano, orchestral arrangements and other assorted noises, Judet-Weinshel’s score is as eclectic as the script is all over the place. While George Nicholas’ dynamic cinematography, fixated on spiral and mirror imagery, conjures an adequate fatalistic-dreamy mood, it’s not enough to compensate for a general lack of focus, exacerbated by clues that are introduced, explained and dropped on a dime.
Judet-Weinshel’s blitzkrieg aesthetics muddy his tale, whose themes of fate, sacrifice and salvation get lost in the convulsive shuffle. And his cast’s performances — at least one of which comes equipped with a hilarious fake mustache — range from the half-engaged (Chriqui) to the blandly blank (Ballerini) to the hyperactively grating (Bennick). Darius’ mystery eventually involves a project dubbed Omphalus, which in Greek is translated to “navel,” a fitting revelation for a chaotic film fixated, above all else, on its own style.