A successful and rich philosophy teacher who is paid to think and publish books by a renowned university is experiencing Deja Vu at an alarming rate. He turns all his attention into understanding the phenomenon but as he thinks some more he gets to uncover something really wrong with his existence. His Deja Vu episodes no longer reflect reality. Events and people are changing everyday, contradicting his previous memories of the events. Understandably it makes him question not only his sanity but also the normal flow of time and the reality we have all come to believe in.
One of the ways to explain Deja vu is if we have actually lived those moments before. Somehow we must have gone back in time and relived the same events as if in a time loop. Through Deja vu we can remember having lived those events before and we can change what is to come. If we had many Deja vu episodes and could drastically change our future when we go back in time, then tomorrow I could be a theoretical physicist instead of an author. This is the basis of this film.
I suggest the story takes place in a few days and everyday life is different from the previous day. Henry will be a philosophy teacher for the first day and then he will become successively a medical doctor, a parapsychologist, a theoretical physicist and a psychic medium. This should give us the chance to analyze what is Deja vu from different perspectives.
The idea here is that the future, the past and the present are always in movement. As a result one day we are a philosophy teacher and the next day we can be a medical doctor as it is possible to change the future whenever we go back into the past and are aware of the future. Yet, everything seems fine and we don't question this fluctuating timeline. We don't completely remember having lived in the future (except through deja vu, intuition and feelings).
Deja vu is what will get Henry to understand that something is not right, that perhaps yesterday he was not a medical doctor. He remembers events from a different past and can even predict the future to a certain extent, a future very different from his actual life. As he struggles to understand what is going on, he will speak to his wife and colleagues about Deja vu, trying to explain them, wondering if perhaps he is crazy and suffering from hallucinations.
At the end he will be a theoretical physicist explaining Deja vu via Einstein's Relativity and Quantum Mechanics. He will not know exactly what is going on, if perhaps people are trying to deceive him to prevent him from thinking and reaching conclusions about the mechanics of existence. He will look for a way out and might find one somehow…
So the story will start slowly, our man will have some Deja vu and will try to change things, so it is different from his Deja vu. This is all he will do at first. He will get interested in the phenomenon because he will have four Deja vu in the same day. He will talk about it to his class after his second experience.
His fourth Deja vu episode will show him that something is not right. What he remembers is not what is happening. His wife will not be or say what his Deja vu is telling him. Moreover he will get to know something about his wife that there would be no way for him to know. This should be a freaky experience, not only he remembers that his wife is not what she says she is, but on top of it he knows things about her he should not know, things he would have seen in the Deja vu.
So in a way the Deja vu is a powerful vision as it is right, he has now a clairvoyance gift, he knows things through some sort of sixth sense. But at the same time he does not want to give credit to the Deja vu as the person is clearly not who he remembers her to be. So he does not know what to make of it.
The next day his life has changed. We follow him and we understand that he is no longer a teacher of philosophy as he was able to change the future somehow when going back in time and reliving the same events.
Our philosophy teacher needs to experience Deja vu and I thought of an interesting way to represent that on the screen without looking too much like the Matrix, Groundhog Day or The Truman Show. I feel I came up with something new that has never been done before and should be quite interesting on the screen.
The teacher will actually live just before - or while it is happening - a Deja vu episode that will or will not correspond to reality. The way to show the Deja vu will be a split screen. We will have two realities playing simultaneously. Sometimes one of the screens will become full, then the other one will take over. It would show that two realities are playing out at the same time and sometimes they are identical, sometimes they are different, and sometimes they are identical but out of sync.
Of course, as soon as you realize that you are experiencing Deja vu and that you mention it, you can no longer be doing what the Deja vu shows on the second half of the screen. At that point your reality differs from the Deja vu, especially if you do try to change the events so you don't repeat the same actions over and over again. You feel trapped in a time loop and you are looking for a way out. And by doing everything differently, you might just get out of it (or so you think anyway).
The thing is, if you were to have many Deja vu you could change your life dramatically in comparison with what would have actually happened. As our teacher is an extreme case and experiences Deja vu many times a day, he gets to change his life to a point where even him would not recognize it a few days later. The Deja vu at that point shows us what would have happened if he had not changed anything in his life because of the Deja vu (so it becomes a Jamais vu or Never seen before).
How can he change his life like this, why would he suddenly be someone else tomorrow or that the people in his life are no longer what they were supposed to be? Why this multiplication of different timelines? Good question and important answer for this film.
You see, a Deja vu indicates that somehow we are in a time loop. We live a linear existence up to a point where we go back in time. Could be hours, could be days, could be years. When we go back in time we usually live a very similar timeline unless we get a glimpse of the future, unless we remember something perhaps traumatic, like clairvoyants and mediums can do. At that point you can change the future, you can change who you are, you can influence everyone in your timeline to the point that they too take different decisions.
On this timeline, if you were to have another Deja vu episode when in fact it is the first time that you are living this new timeline, it could tell you instead what was happening in the previous timeline, before you went back in time. This is what is happening here. Both Deja vu and changing the future come from this time loop that brings you back into the past.
Though this could be a normal physical phenomenon, we will make it more interesting by adding another mysterious knowledge to be gained from this phenomenon. Something more spiritual. Understanding this about the existence will give the chance to our teacher to understand much more about the universe we live in.
In my idea we don't repeat the same events over and over again. But from one Deja vu to the other Henry's reality will change. In his Deja vu people will have different functions, different job titles, are no longer there, etc. Though he will clearly remember having lived this before, in time what he will feel that he experienced is no longer happening in real life. Then, to his horror, he will change, though he will not remember that everything in his life has changed. Only via the Deja vu will he get to understand that he has already lived this life before but he was not a doctor, he was a teacher.
So this is a good twist about Deja vu that differs from reality, making our character question the mechanisms of existence. At one point what Henry will be experiencing is no longer a Deja vu (already seen) but a Jamais Vu (never seen before). He will no longer recognize his reality and actions. He will feel lost because he will remember having lived this in a different way. And while he will try to understand what is going on, he will experience Presque Vu (almost seen), as if the explanation was within his grasps and yet escaping him. He needs to find a way out of these time loops so his life is no longer switching from one timeline to another.
This said, in order to be different from Groundhog Day, he is not going to wake up on the same day every day. He will not relive the same events over and over again. The way to make it look good is that he will appear to live a normal linear life in which he will remember that he has lived that before, and eventually that he lived it differently and that people are no longer who they were. In any case I don't intend to do another cheap version of Groundhog Day. I have a mystery to expose and to understand: Deja vu, and the story is a mean to get some answers.
There will be Deja vu episodes just before and while the real events are taking place, to remind him of another reality while his life is going berserk. Normally he should not be aware that everything has changed slightly from one day to another. The idea is that life is not linear or chronological, even it changes everyday though we are usually unaware of this fact. The Deja vu in this context will help him understand that something is not right with reality, that things are changing even though his memories do not contradict anything from one day to another.
The way I explain how this is possible is via a fluctuating timeline due to the effects of relativity and also via the Many-worlds interpretation of Quantum Mechanics. For more details please read my report about Deja vu available on my website.
This film will have a slow start so the viewer can get into the story before losing patience, and I will try to be as evident as possible so they won't lose it, but it is something special and different. Cinema is in great need of more complex stories and this is it. All right, all right, I will try to make it easy to understand, but the viewer will need to be ready to accept that one day our teacher is a doctor. One day he is married and the other he is not. Not only that, all this will not seem weird to our teacher, he will accept all these changes as if nothing happened, like if yesterday he was not someone else. Only through Deja vu will he get to understand that something is not right, that yesterday he was not a doctor. The day is not repeating itself, but every day is different even though we continue on some sort of linear and chronological timeline.
So at first only small changes, and then big ones. Just like in dreams, new universes every day that appear completely logical at the time, only to be dismissed as illogical when we wake up.
Introduction. First Deja Vu. Day 1. Early morning. Home hardware store
The film starts in a home hardware store where Henry Williams, a slightly eccentric philosophy teacher at a renowned university, is waiting at a counter for some help. He is late for his class, he cannot wait any longer and impatiently asks the clerk to speed up a bit. While he waits he sees a 4 year old child wandering around the shop.
This first scene is about Henry experiencing his first Deja vu which will give him the chance of saving a young child from having a fatal accident.
(While waiting at a counter.)
I need two dozen screws. You know the ones that go into the ceiling and get stuck there?
They're like little Vs that snap into a hole you previously made in the ceiling. Then it holds there and you can suspend a plant or something...
You really intend to hang 24 plants from your ceiling? Where do you live, in an institution?
Don't worry about that...
(We see the kid in the background running around.)
I've only recently started here, after failing my degree, so I'm not exactly an expert "in weird screws that go into the ceiling". I'll have to ask my supervisor.
For god's sake, I'm late! I have to teach a class in 15 minutes! Please, screws that go into the ceiling, to suspend things, it can't be that difficult!
Let me speak with my supervisor...
(While the clerk disappears on to the shop floor. Henry is talking to himself...)
Finally... just go, it's your mission, find me screws for hanging stupid plants! What can be so hard to understand, 24 screws, when you're sooo late!
I'll have to come back, I know I'll have to come back... I'll just have to come back after school... crazy idea to believe I could buy 24 simple screws before my class starts... and people wonder why we become neurotic.
It's madness! 24 simple screws! Why can't anyone help me! Where's the supervisor! Where's the manager? This home hardware store is filled with incompetent people! If I was that stupid in my job, I would have been sacked years ago!
The first Deja vu starts, the screen splits into two. On the left hand side of the screen Henry shows an interest in the child, he's not sure why. He asks him to come over, wants to know if he's lost, wonders where his parents are. He tells him to be very careful.
On the right screen however, where Henry hasn't asked the child to come over, we can see Louis pretending to be a plane running around the shop with his arms stretched out. He gets dangerously close to a pedestal sink on demonstration. We can see him put his little hand over the sink and the whole thing crashes down on top of him. The screen returns to one frame after that.
As Henry will have seen what was going to happen in the deja vu, in real life he will be able to prevent the accident.
RIGHT SCREEN (deja vu)
(Tugging on Henry's trouser leg.)
Who are you talking to?
What? Just get lost... I'm waiting for my screws...
Yeah, go away! I'm going to be late!
(Leaving to go towards the pedestal sink that will fall on him with disastrous consequences.)
Yeah, yeah... I've seen just about everything today... It's just my day! Where is that guy?
(Witnessing the pedestal sink falling over Louis.)
Oh my God! Careful! Oh dear, now I'll be really late!
LEFT SCREEN (real life) Louis
(Tugging on Henry's trouser leg.)
Who are you talking to?
Oh, who are you? What's your name? I know you, I recognize you from somewhere, don't I?
My name is Louis. I am 4 years old.
(While Louis is walking away.)
That old, he? No, no, no, don't leave, come here.
What do you want?
Are you lost?
No. Are you? You seem lost...
Yes, most of the time... listen, where's your mom and dad?
I don't know...
You should go and find them right now.
Because it's dangerous to be on your own at your age.
After Henry has finished speaking to Louis, the child runs straight towards the sink which, in this reality, has not fallen yet. The clerk is back and asks Henry if this is what he wanted. When he sees Henry fascinated by the child, he asks if everything is OK.
Here, I found these screws for you. Are they what you wanted?
(Looking at the child instead of the clerk.)
Wait a second... look at that kid...
Something terrible is about to happen...
What, you've seen my supervisor? You've already complained about me?
No, you moron. That little boy, something horrible... I have a bad feeling...
Oh... a bad feeling...
Suddenly we get a close up of Louis' little hand reaching out for the sink, and Henry's hand at the very last second preventing him from touching the side of the sink. Suddenly the parents of Louis arrive on the scene and are not pleased that a stranger has touched their child. Henry apologizes but explains to the supervisor now present that this is very irresponsible to have such a dangerous installation in a shop.
Hey you! Don't touch my kid!
We could sue you for that!
Really? I'm not a lawyer, so I don't know just yet the extent of my crime.
Wow! Calm down! I just saved your child from a horrible accident!
Yes! It is pretty irresponsible to have such an installation! It could have killed Louis!
You know his name?
(Taking her mobile phone out.)
That's it, I'm calling the police! They know what to do with people like you! Straight to the electric chair!
This sink will fall any second now! It would have killed your child! Are you all crazy?
This is madness, this is not going to fall, it's been there for days!
(The sink falls by itself.)
There, you see?
This is magic...
God, he's right!
(With her mobile phone in her hand.)
So I shouldn't call the police?
How did you know?
(Kneeling down to Louis.)
My poor Louis... it is Deja Vu... I saw you getting hurt. Thankfully I was able to prevent it and change your destiny...
Are you not going to be late?
As a matter of fact, I'm terribly late... I have to go!
What about your screws?
(Starting to run.)
You know what you can do with those...?
Second Deja vu. Day 1. Morning. green in front of university
The second experience will simply be a normal Deja vu and Henry will not react until the Deja vu is finished where he will say: strange, I feel I have done this before.
Henry has a lot of money and has written many books. He walks over the grass to reach the pavilion where his class is waiting for him. He meets one of his students along the way.
(Looking at his watch.)
Oh God, oh God, oh God... I hope they waited for me!
What now? I'm late! I can't deal with that, I just cannot! Not now! I'm terribly late!
(Handing an essay as he reaches Henry.)
The screen splits into two where on the left we see real life and on the right we see a Deja vu. For this whole Deja vu both realities are identical for the only time of the entire film. The meaning is that Henry needed to change something but he did not. He will get a chance at the end of the film to act differently at that very moment.
LEFT AND RIGHT SCREEN
EsTEBAN ESTEVEZ (CONT'D)
(Giving his essay to Henry to look at.)
It's not fair! I shouldn't get an F for this!
Esteban, Esteban, Esteban... you know you deserve an F for that essay...
Why! I worked very hard on it!
Esteban... when I correct everyone's paper, I see wonderful things, intelligence, a great future. When I come to your essay, it makes me despair.
Nooo? It can't...
You simply have no future in this university or any other.
But I want to enter the Masters degree program...
There's no way this will ever happen, I'll make sure of that!
What is there left for me then? As a career, I mean...
Well, there's a home hardware store close by hiring people like you... perhaps one day you'll make it as a supervisor, if you work more seriously there than you studied in your entire life.
END OF SPLIT SCREEN
Strange, I have the feeling we already had this conversation before...