A Single Life (a short time travel animation)

“A Single Life” is a short animation where time is bi-directional on a single time-line. “You might think your life is never ending” – but only for as long as the duration of your life.

A Single Life

The Netherlands does it again!

I’ve written several times about how the Netherlands is making its stamp when it comes to things time travel. An appearance in one of the first time travel novels, the time travelling train, the temporally challenged table cloth and months to name but a few instances.

And now Joris from the “Job, Joris & Marieke” animation studio in Utrecht (the Netherlands! ๐Ÿ˜‰ ) has alerted me to a brilliant time travel animation: A Single Life.

I could mention that A Single Life was nominated for the 87th Academy Awardsยฎ in 2015 for best animated short film and that it’s been awarded with 40 prizes. But pictures paint a thousand words. Come to think of it, a movie trumps the lot – so here it is!

Groove-y eh! ๐Ÿ˜‰

A Single Life operates on a beautifully simple idea; that time follows a single time line but that it’s bi-directional. A straight-forward (and backward! ๐Ÿ˜‰ ) idea, but one which got me thinking about a few issues.

Dead end

If the vinyl record (or “single”) plays the soundtrack to your life, maybe there’s an underlying story. A book of life, maybe. And as many authors are aware, there’s a beginning a middle and an end. Time travel is allowed only during this person’s life. The middle. Obviously there’s interesting stuff going on here!

A Single Life - as a baby

But time travel to before or after isn’t possible; it’s a hard stop. A point of singularity beyond which you can’t say “actually I zoomed on a bit too fast there, I think I’ll go back and not die/not be unborn” because there is no “go back” when you’re on a point. The line has literally ended; time travel in “A Single Life” isn’t possible beyond the point of death, or birth.

A smooth progression?

So time is progressive within boundaries – but it can also jump.

A Single Life - with a record player

I love the idea that the needle follows a scratch in the record and causes a time hiatus, a moment where two discontinuous points in time are adjacent to each other (an idea played with (rather badly) in Time’s Eye by Stephen Baxter and Arthur C. Clarke).

(Come to think of it, this seems to be a little similar to the idea of wormholes in space which connect two otherwise separate locations).

Time for progress?

Music enthusiasts would have us believe that the analogue sound quality of a record player is superior to the digital formats from CDs and MP3 players.

A Single Life - vinyl single

I’m not one to judge sound quality – or in this parallel, the quality of a person’s life, but it would be interesting to consider different kinds of music players as a time travel machine.

How would a time travelling CD track play out? The laser reads digital points located at specific locations on the disk, so in theory, with programming this could give us the same result as a needle following a groove (or scratch). We know this because we can easily skip from track to track, for example. This wouldn’t be so simple with an audio cassette when it comes to time jumping. I’m guessing an MP3 player would act similarly to the CD player – although perhaps we’d be open to effects due to corrupted files. Anything can happen with viruses

The personal touch

That’s the time travel machine – this one needs an operator / operatee…

One of the things which first struck me whilst watching this animation is that the hand was always able to remain on the record whilst the surroundings were changing in response to a change in time. It brought to mind my earlier thoughts about the time in a time machine (see my comments in my review of “Piercing the Elastic Limit“).

Naturally, the hand is connected to the rest of the body, so in which case I’m interested in what happens to the person during time travel.

Whilst biological changes are evident (she gets older / younger), her mental state is not so clear. She can remember that she needs to keep her hand on the record, for instance, but is there a more general preservation of memory? What’s the difference between living life (or a part of it) the first time round and say the fifth time? In the latter case, the memory of how to ‘play’ the record makes sense, but are there life experiences to recall? I’d guess not, but it seems inconsistent.

Several novels and movies have dealt with this issue. Memories are clearly kept in Groundhog Day allowing Phil Connors to cumulatively educate himself. And in the movie Click (where a remote control allows fast forwarding through life) Michael Newman’s mind goes into zombie mode whilst his body plays out the actions without a real mental presence. And of course I should mention Buckyball by Fabien Roy where a particular musical track brought about time travel and replays (memory preserved).

The cast of "A Single Life"
The cast of “A Single Life”

Whether memories are preserved during replays or not, or whether it’s a good idea to go forwards past seemingly dull moments in life, I think the take home message of the animation is clear:

We have one single life – live it! ๐Ÿ™‚

Paul

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Author: Paul Wandason

I love astronomy and science fiction, but I love my family more. So I love time travel too!

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