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September 2001, Week 3


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Linda Aronson <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Wed, 19 Sep 2001 11:38:55 +1000
text/plain (104 lines)
Dear List

I have recently published a book "Screenwriting Updated: New and
Conventional Ways of Writing for the Screen" (Silman James, Los Angeles
2001) which isolates four families of non-linear film narrative (I call it
"parallel narrative") . The interesting thing about all of these non-linear
forms is that they solve their inherent problems with pace, meaning,
connexion and closure by piggybacking on the traditional three act
structure - splitting, doubling and reforming that structure at its dramatic
high points I explain the mechanics of how this is done.

In short, the four families are:
1) Flashback narrative (which drops into two main families, Flashback as
Thwarted Dream - Shine, The English Patient, Remains of the Day - and
Flashback as Case History - Citizen Kane, All About Eve, The Usual Suspects,
Memento, The Sweet Hereafter - there is also Autobiographical Flashback eg
The End of the Affair, and Flashback as Lifechanging Incident - Twelve
Monkeys, Catch 22 etc -where an incrementally-building flashback works
towards a final twist reveal)
2)Tandem narrative. Multiple equal weight stories with an epic intent
running together, united laterally and via a macro 'group' plot - Traffic,
Magnolia, Crimes and Misdemeanors, .most of Altman
3 Sequential Narrative: Run Lola Run, Pulp Fiction, Go, Groundhog -
self-contained stories appearing in sequence and linking at the end as
'different versions of the same person or event' - often used to give
different versions of the same event
4) Multiple Protagonist/Antagonist Narrative - these 'ensemble' films are
typically quests, reunions or sieges (including social sieges, where people
are trapped in social roles, as in American Beauty ) They work because they
use multiple protagonists or antagonists who are all versions of the same
protagonist (eg in The Big Chill, The Radical Student Ten Years On, in
Galaxy Quest The Jaded Sci-Fi Actor, in Saving Private Ryan The Soldier ,
in Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon The Person who lives by Martial Arts etc).
Successful versions of these forms all use a macro, over-arching plot that
concerns the survival of the group) They also typically involve internal
conflict (to cope with the inherently static nature often, of their plots)
and often feature a set of characters including The Dominant Character (who
causes the trouble in the first place; the Outsider (who questions the
beliefs of the group)and The Traitor Within (who plots to destroy the
Dominant Character, and/or the group) Other examples of multiple
protagonist/antagonist form are Galaxy Quest, Ordinary People,, Fried Green
Tomatoes, Steel Magnolias, The Magnificent Seven, Saving Private Ryan, The
Full Monty, To Live, Meantime etc. Many non-American films frequently
utilise multiple protagonist siege form because their underlying philosophy
is class-based and/or fatalistic - they are about individuals trapped by
society (as opposed to the US paradigm of individual perfectibility - which
is essentially Bunyan's Pilgrim's Progress) .

These forms are fascinating but very difficult, even paradoxical. For
example, why do flashbacks in Shine prove that we are all victims of our
past, while flashbacks in Citizen Kane prove that people are more than the
sum total of their past? .Interestingly, while we tend to think of
non-linear storytelling as being as modern device, we can see this identical
pattern in the central flashback sequence in Homer's Odyssey, which in the
original is of course very much a non-linear multiple story structure

Hope this is useful.

Linda Aronson
Screenwriter and Novelist, Associate Australian Film TV and Radio School.

..----- Original Message -----
From: "Patricia Martin" <[log in to unmask]>
To: <[log in to unmask]>
Sent: Tuesday, September 18, 2001 8:49 PM
Subject: non-linear narratives

> Hi everybody,
> I am looking for films and resources for a course I am preparing on
> non-linear narrative. I am also analizing films in which you can
> detect the influence of multimedia visual strucutures/ metafors
> I' d appreciate any help and sugestions you may have.
> thanks
> --
> Patricia Martin
> Diretora
> Centro de Realização Audiovisual
> Instituto Dragao do Mar
> [log in to unmask]
> Oswaldo Cruz 2366
> Fortaleza, CE
> CEP: 60125-150
> Brasil
> telefone: (55)85- 2642560
> fax: (55)85-2643154
> ----
> Screen-L is sponsored by the Telecommunication & Film Dept., the
> University of Alabama:

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