**Note: this post contains mild spoilers about Shane Carruth's "A Topiary." If you don't want to know anything about it, stop reading now.**
It's been a while since Shane Carruth's twisty time travel debut "Primer." The 2004 film, made on a meager budget, was an impressive, if inscrutable, debut from the young filmmaker (quite literally a film maker, Carruth did damn near everything on that film, from acting in it to scoring it) that we'd highly recommend checking out. Since then, we haven't heard much about Carruth besides a tweet from director Rian Johnson ("Brick") claiming that "[Carruth] has a mind-blowing sci-fi script. Let's all pray to the movie-gods that he gets it made soon" and that the film would be titled "A Topiary."
As io9 points out, Carruth has shown recent activity on the project in the form of a website for the film registered to his name. As of now, the site only has a cryptic image (shown below) declaring that "over and over you have been promised adventure but have not found it." A Google search of the site also reveals the site's description: "The Chorus is warming up."
Fortunately, as we've gotten a hold of Carruth's script, we can confirm that despite what the above description may imply, Carruth is not making a film about a time traveling church choir or anything of the sort. 'Topiary,' like its predecessor, is not readily completely understood (especially in its current written form), but we can reveal some basic plot details without getting too complicated.
The script begins with a head-scratching thirty minute prologue involving Acre Stowe, a municipal worker of an undisclosed city in the 1980s. Carruth notes that scenes change at a pace of thirty to forty seconds each and that this part of the film is paced somewhat like a combination of a conventional film and a "previously on" segment of a TV show. With the prologue spanning over eight years (it seems that Charlie Kaufman's "Synecdoche, New York" may be an apt comparison in terms of pacing), we can't imagine that it'll be an easy follow for audiences (though there is no reason to expect that it would be). Acre begins his journey investigating strange starbursts he sees in the sky and eventually meets up with a group of people who are also researching this phenomenon and its consequences, amongst other scientific projects ranging in subject from thermochemistry to archaeology.
The main story, at first ambiguous in its relation to the prologue, revolves around ten boys aged seven to eleven living in a small rural town (Carruth is ambiguous in both location and time here) and takes up the remaining two hours of the film. The boys are in possession of a mysterious black box called a "Maker," which in turn creates mysterious white discs called "funnels." The group of kids are at once puzzled and fascinated by the nature of the box, and eventually manipulate the discs into other peculiarly named artifacts (petals, arcs, fronds, etc.). Their creations and constructions lead up to their manufacturing of seemingly sentient quasi-mechanical beings dubbed "Choruses." Almost as if 'Topiary' were an abstract arthouse take on Pokémon, you can imagine the competition and troubles the beings create amongst the children.
As you can guess, the script is quite intriguing and the film is apparently in early stages of pre-production (which we hope means he has initial funding of some kind to work with). We’re curious to see how Carruth, who we assume is working without the backing of a major studio, will get his brainy concepts on the big screen. The casting for the group of ten boys who could play pre-pubescents as well as carry a serious sci-fi film will be key, as will the FX work which will require a higher budget than what Carruth had for "Primer."
If/when it does get in front of cameras, “A Topiary” will certainly be a unique, ambitious film that will give sci-fi nuts something a bit different (okay, maybe much different) from the usual fare. We'll be on the lookout for any new info regarding the project, but let’s hope Carruth can get all the pieces he needs in place. There’s always room for smart, ambitious sci-fi and we hope “A Topiary” can get some movement behind it.