How nonlinear storytelling spice up movies
Start writing a post
Arts Entertainment

How nonlinear storytelling spice up movies

Nonlinear storylines is the secret sauce for mainstream movies to become blockbusters

161
How nonlinear storytelling spice up movies
Pulp Fiction (1994). Courtesy of alphacoders.com

Have you ever seen "Memento?" It was one of Christopher Nolan's best movies, especially in production value and success. The main story is simple: Leonard Shelby is looking for his wife's rapist and murderer to kill him for revenge. Sounds like a pretty simple and straightforward murder mystery with nothing too special, maybe some climax points here and there for dramatic effect. But Nolan's interpretation of such a plot was different because he had in mind a perfect plot device: anterograde amnesia. You see, Sheldon had an accident, thus making him lose all his short-term memories; this unfortunate detail was Nolan's secret weapon to spicing up his movie.

Nolan's perfect use of Sheldon's amnesia allowed him to tell the story in a fragmented fashion, patching the story together with nonlinear sequences yet still building up to a mystery within the plot. Using this technique, Nolan has built up more tension and confusion in the story, putting the viewer in the shoes of Sheldon whose frustration at his own amnesia eventually reached a breaking point.

"My car." - Leonard ShelbyVariety

Nonlinear storytelling has been used quite extensively in the past couple of years, due to its cheap method of building up non-existent tension. It was a powerful tool, making boring, clichéd movies feel like they were ingenuous. Nolan's "Memento" must have felt legendary or even pioneering for its technique when it was first released. But the real king of nonlinear storytelling here is not him; that man is Quentin Tarantino.

Known for his lively dialogues and high-quality, parody-like movies, Tarantino was a legend amongst the film industry, but little is known about his first project - one that incorporated nonlinear storytelling right into the draft script. Tarantino set his first step into the world of Hollywood by writing a script for an obscure movie called "True Romance." In his script, the story was already nonlinear, and the story that Tarantino wrote would have built up to a more suspenseful and action-packed scenario than what was portrayed in the final product if it wasn't for Tony Scott's revision of the script.

Tarantino and Patricia Arquette at the premiere of "True Romance" (1993)The Independent

However, nonlinear storytelling is not for every one, and not every director had the "necessary insanity" to do so. In an interview for the 25th anniversary of the release of "True Romance," Tarantino explained the reason behind the script revision, "From what I've heard, [Scott] tried my structure but went nuts with it – went far beyond what I did." He's not wrong, though, some scripts are crazier than others, and nonlinear scripts definitely take the cake. Have a look at Nam Wook Kim's story curves and see for yourself.

Kim's story curve is a simple representation of how the plot of a movie progresses over time. It displays the movie runtime as well as the sequential progression in a 2D graph heading downwards slowly towards the end of the movie. It is a very interesting tool that allows us to look at a movie and see its pattern of progression. Take Tarantino's cult classic "Pulp Fiction," for example. It runs a pretty much random order of sequences, according to linearity, at least, but the movie itself contains separate stories that connect to one another by themes. This allows a director to trickily piece together related information to draft up a false storyline to eventually bomb the sequences with a shocking reveal.

Pulp Fiction's Story CurveNam W. Kim's Story Curves

Complex? Sure is. But look at things this way. The complexity builds up the tension and mystery within the story. It also acts as the glue that binds seemingly unrelated plot elements together. It could also be that "aha!" material within a critical-thinking-inducing flick. Nonlinear storylines are great, and when they work well, they can make any movies great. What's better about this technique is that due to its complexity, you don't find that many movies having such elements. That equates to a genre that might never get old.

Interested? For this weekend, grab your best buddies, kick back, relax, and enjoy some movies that messes with your mind! My recommendation? "Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind," starring Jim Carrey, available on Netflix now!

Report this Content
This article has not been reviewed by Odyssey HQ and solely reflects the ideas and opinions of the creator.
the beatles
Wikipedia Commons

For as long as I can remember, I have been listening to The Beatles. Every year, my mom would appropriately blast “Birthday” on anyone’s birthday. I knew all of the words to “Back In The U.S.S.R” by the time I was 5 (Even though I had no idea what or where the U.S.S.R was). I grew up with John, Paul, George, and Ringo instead Justin, JC, Joey, Chris and Lance (I had to google N*SYNC to remember their names). The highlight of my short life was Paul McCartney in concert twice. I’m not someone to “fangirl” but those days I fangirled hard. The music of The Beatles has gotten me through everything. Their songs have brought me more joy, peace, and comfort. I can listen to them in any situation and find what I need. Here are the best lyrics from The Beatles for every and any occasion.

Keep Reading...Show less
Being Invisible The Best Super Power

The best superpower ever? Being invisible of course. Imagine just being able to go from seen to unseen on a dime. Who wouldn't want to have the opportunity to be invisible? Superman and Batman have nothing on being invisible with their superhero abilities. Here are some things that you could do while being invisible, because being invisible can benefit your social life too.

Keep Reading...Show less
Featured

19 Lessons I'll Never Forget from Growing Up In a Small Town

There have been many lessons learned.

50044
houses under green sky
Photo by Alev Takil on Unsplash

Small towns certainly have their pros and cons. Many people who grow up in small towns find themselves counting the days until they get to escape their roots and plant new ones in bigger, "better" places. And that's fine. I'd be lying if I said I hadn't thought those same thoughts before too. We all have, but they say it's important to remember where you came from. When I think about where I come from, I can't help having an overwhelming feeling of gratitude for my roots. Being from a small town has taught me so many important lessons that I will carry with me for the rest of my life.

Keep Reading...Show less
​a woman sitting at a table having a coffee
nappy.co

I can't say "thank you" enough to express how grateful I am for you coming into my life. You have made such a huge impact on my life. I would not be the person I am today without you and I know that you will keep inspiring me to become an even better version of myself.

Keep Reading...Show less
Student Life

Waitlisted for a College Class? Here's What to Do!

Dealing with the inevitable realities of college life.

122059
college students waiting in a long line in the hallway
StableDiffusion

Course registration at college can be a big hassle and is almost never talked about. Classes you want to take fill up before you get a chance to register. You might change your mind about a class you want to take and must struggle to find another class to fit in the same time period. You also have to make sure no classes clash by time. Like I said, it's a big hassle.

This semester, I was waitlisted for two classes. Most people in this situation, especially first years, freak out because they don't know what to do. Here is what you should do when this happens.

Keep Reading...Show less

Subscribe to Our Newsletter

Facebook Comments