Palme D’Or 2016 Review – Timecode

The beginning of Timecode is suggestive of a rather normal and staid short. A woman, Luna, heads to an underground car park and changes into the clothes of a security guard. She takes over from her colleague, Diego, who works the night shift and settles in front of the security camera terminal, ready for another day.

Everything so far feels pedestrian. The non-descript car park shimmers in strip-lighted grey and the vaguely realistic camera work promises maybe a social-realist drama or perhaps a hackneyed thriller. But when events force our main protagonist to examine the previous night’s security footages, she notices that her night shift colleague is engaging in some strange behaviour – namely he seems to be dancing in the empty car park.

From this moment the entire film shifts tonally. She decides to show off her dancing skill as well and lets her colleague know just where on the security footage he can find it. They soon find themselves exchanging their moments of freedom whilst never actually saying a word to the other.

The dance film has always been a popular and vital genre within the short film world. But it has also rather niche and usually aimed at a specific audience. Here director Juanjo Giménez blends a dance film with a more traditional narrative that manages to surprise and delight.

On the one hand the film is an exercise in pure whimsy. The exchange of security camera footage through which two people develop a relationship sounds like the plot of an American romantic comedy while the final dialogue in the film is a brilliantly funny little punchline to the whole affair. But the film’s light-heartedness is not a failing and the subtle comedy on offer here never feels forced.

But there is more to the film than whimsical humour. As mentioned, Giménez begins by presenting a world of mundanity. Luna dresses in her uniform and is constrained to fulfil her role for the day. But in seeing the dancing through the security cameras, this normalcy is cracked. So often associated with oppression and surveillance, the cameras now give us a view of a world in which freedom beyond the rigid constraints of our careers seems possible.

Giménez also builds very carefully. At first Diego makes the odd move here and there, with an extended flourish when the opportunity presents itself. But as our protagonists urge each other on, the become bolder. More expressive. More free. The joy here is not just in the rhythm and movement of the dance itself (and leads Lali Ayguadé and Nicolas Ricchin are both clearly accomplished dancers) but also in the ability to do something beyond the norms of what is expected in day to day life. The blend of realism and the abstract gives a glimmer of something beyond the mundane.

The hybrid of spaces which the film inhabits should Timecode a home at varied number of festivals which will undoubtedly be multiplied by its Palme D’or win. It’s certainly a unique piece of work (and something of a surprise winner at Cannes) that should appeal to a wide audience.

Film Information

Original Title: Timecode
Director: Juanjo Giménez
Country: Spain
Year: 2016
Run Time: 15 mins
Contact: Marvin&Wayne - Short Film Distribution,

24 May 2016, by Laurence Boyce