Today we have a guest writer: blogger/BLOCKBUSTER Online employee/all around swell guy Randy Hoyt.
Most movies present events in chronological order, one event following the other in a linear fashion. This is not surprising, since we experience the real world in chronological order. But some movies, often categorized as “non-linear” movies, present events in some alternative order to achieve certain effects.
The enjoyment that many movies provide comes from the tension or the suspense of not knowing the ending of the story. Non-linear movies often turn this around by showing the ending first. The movie Bandits (2001), for example, opens with a scene that occurs near the end of the story. The characters played by Bruce Willis and Billy Bob Thornton are involved in a bank robbery that has gone awry. The events from earlier in the story are then presented in between moments from this robbery. A different kind of suspense is created as you puzzle over how their early nonviolent and even fun nighttime robberies turn into the heavily-armed robbery in broad daylight.
Non-linear movies often have some connection to memory. Although we experience the world in chronological order, we do not remember it that way. All the events we have experienced exist in our memories simultaneously, and our recent memories are much more vivid and easier to recall to mind than our earlier memories. Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004) takes advantage of this aspect of memory in its non-linear presentation. The characters played by Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet both have each other erased from their memories. During the erasing procedure, we travel through the memories of Jim Carrey’s character in (more or less) reverse chronological order to see the couple break up, then grow cold towards each other, then fall deeply in love, and then meet for the first time. The story of their relationship is incredibly powerful when presented in this manner.
Here’s a short list of some good non-linear movies to get you started. What others do you recommend?