Shane Carruth: An Underrated Genius And His Two Masterpieces

Posted on April 17, 2014 in Media

By Sahil Sankhla: 

In the present world of cinema, every film maker is trying to make a film that will get him/her truckloads of money and a ride to the ‘Oscar Ville’. In this crowd one man stand out, who doesn’t really care about what the audience thinks of his films. He has an idea, a vision and a mere $70,000- enough to create a masterpiece that might not be suitable for an audience that prefers spoon-feeding the stories and genius. But for the unconventional film lovers his movies are a treat to the brain. This filmmaker who shoots, edits, scores, produces and stars in his films, is a genius with the name-Shane Carruth.

Shane Carruth

The software developer turned filmmaker has created two films- Primer (2004) and Upstream Colour (2013).

Primer: Primer is a mind-boggling head-scratcher time travel film, about four entrepreneurs trying to invent a device to earn a better living. Two of them, Aaron (Shane Carruth) and Abe (David Sullivan) build a box shaped device later realizing that they have built a time machine.


The film is shot as a chaotic chit-chattering narration with zillions of technical jargons in the first few minutes of the movie. In the later stage of the film, Carruth brings the focus to how the machine affects the inventors’ relationship between themselves and individually, too. The film might appear to be a science-fiction but it is more than just that. It is a complicatedly realistic film that might make sense if the audience researches well, post-viewing. Primer is mentally exhausting but worth a watch (might turn out to be several watches to understand it well) for the sheer brilliance of a genius.

Upstream Color: Shane Carruth returns to the big screen after 9 long years with another cinematic puzzle- Upstream Color, made with the budget of just $1000. While you can understand bits and pieces of Primer, Upstream Color takes mysterious perplexity to a whole new level.


Unlike the chit-chattering Primer, this one is a visual narrative in most of its shots. Upstream Color is about the lives of two individuals connected by the string of an ageless parasitic worm. The worm is first transferred to a human body then to a pig and finally to the orchids. The human from which the worm is transferred to a pig becomes connected to that pig (similar events happening with the human and its pig). Each time the worm is transferred, the transferor is benefited in a financial way.

Upstream Color is an obscure painting of the highest level of intellect. The film is rated 6.9 on IMDB which is an insult to this masterpiece. Upstream Color redefines the word “beautiful”, makes you pull your hair and eventually allows you to fall for this mind-blowing film.

Shane Carruth is currently working on his next project titled as “The Modern Oceans” based on international shipping and the lives of those involved. The audience has not been able to respect Shane Carruth’s movies because of the complexity level but this idiosyncratic auteur does not seem to be affected by the lack of response. He has been creating masterpieces, he will be creating masterpieces. Truly, a genius!