Project 17

Choose a film with a nonlinear narrative.

  • Try to devise a diagram of the narrative structure that represents the relationship between the different time frames.
  • Upload your diagram and compare it with others.

This was more challenging than I first thought. I researched films with a non linear narrative so I knew what I was looking out for then scoured Netflix for such films. I started watching Total Recall a movie in which a man is plagued by nightmares (memories of his past) and as it’s a futuristic world chooses to have the memories of a spy implanted. Straight away I knew it wasn’t fitting the brief and opted for another movie. About Time, I had watched this only recently and it was fresh in my mind so reviewing it again I stared writing the diagram.

This wasn’t as easy as the diagrams drawn for liner narratives and I pondered over how to best represent the technique. In a flash of desperation I looked up at the sky asking for any idea and suddenly saw it, in the cloud positioning, the diagram I needed. I even took a photo (a few minutes after) as it sounded rather unlikely but here it is.


With this diagram now clear in my mind I started work. About Time is a romantic, moving movie about a young man, Tim, who discovers that all the men in the family have the ability to travel back in time. His father warns him you can only travel back in your own memories. He decides to use this new found power to help him get a girlfriend. What ensues is a wonderful romp of a film as he falls in love, messes with time travel only to see they’d never met, stalk her until she relents and fall passionately in love. I love the premise of the movie and how in the end he decides never to use time travel again but instead make the most of every single day.

My diagram is below. It spilled over onto two pages. I structured his life in linear then all the corresponding arrows indicate him time travelling, As you can see it its quite tangled up

View from top left to right


Scan 43Scan 44

I had a look for other students portrayal of the non linear chart, however I didn’t find many. One person had found it too complicated and said they’d just decided to write the synopsis out. I am looking forward to seeing what my course mate Ashley does and will review it here.

Look for good examples of time being contracted or expanded.

    • Try to find at least one example of each technique listed above.
    • Try to identify a couple of examples of the same techniques being used in very different ways. Describe them and explain how they work. If possible upload examples.

Speed up the footage – in Jane the Virgin, Petra’s sister Aneska is typing out an email but struggling with the English. She types slowly and the narrator (who is very interactive) states that he can’t bear to watch this and the scene is speed up, it adds humour (something which this series focuses on) and moves the scene along rapidly.

Transitions – eg wipe, dissolve, dip to black (fade-in/fade-out).

In Jack Ryan Shadow Recruit the helicopter is hit by a missile. There is resounding panic and screaming then the scene fades to black opening up to the hospital scene. The scene then fades to a black swipe linking to the panning camera in the next scene. It conveys the time that has passed from the horrific attack and the contrast to the recovering room. Also it shows how the attack has affected him and how he must move on and struggle with the consequences and after effects of the explosion.

This is also used frequently in the Seven Samurai, for which Akira Kurosawa was famous for. And which George Lucas adopted for StarWars.

Jump cutting- Guardians of the Galaxy – the music starts up as the gang prepares for battle. The main character listening to music, the brief., Rocket preparing his weapons, military strategy. This continues for the duration of the song with the stereotypical but always effective hero walk in slow motion. It increases the energy, adds interest and makes what could have been a static scene have more atmosphere.

Cutaway – Used in Divergent in the scene when Christina is hurled over a chasm and left to cling on. She is rescued but the scene keeps cutting away from her hands slipping on the wet walkway and back to the reactions of her friends. This generates more drama and involves the viewer.

Empty frame – In the award winning movie, Paper Planes the scene when the Grandfather takes Dylan to the air museum the car is filmed driving along the road, filmed from the underside of a plane. The car drives into the edge of the frame before changing shots instead of showing the car parking. Again it adds more interest to a static scene and avoids wasting screen time.

Time Expansion – Slow motion–  Is there a more famous example of slow motion than the Matrix scene which revolutionised the action movie. Filmed not by a dolly but by positioning over twenty DSLR cameras together capturing a still from every angle and using computer technology to create the iconic scene. It shows how he has mastered his powers and is a thrilling scene to watch as he seems to almost control time.

Overlapping or repeating action  – Merlin – In the finale scene of the first episode the witch tries to kill Arthur. She throws the knife. Shot from the front, we see the knife flying through the air to Arthur who stares unable to move with shock. An extreme close up of Merlin’s eye glowing. Merlin staring in horror and running in slow motion. The knife from side on in slow motion spinning towards Arthur. A close of up of the knife spinning closer. Side shot, Merlin grabbing Arthur. Shot from the front. Slow motion still. Arthur being dragged away. The knife slamming into the empty chair.Using repeating action amps up the drama and reinforces the energy of the scene.

Write a short script extract for two scenes that connect different parts of the same day.• The transition should suggest what has occurred in between.

• Upload your script and ask other students to describe what they assume has happened in the intervening time.

• Is this what you intended?

I used Celtx to write the script, it was very enjoyable and I enjoyed telling the story using time.

I realised though after writing the Script that I had included a gap of ten years instead of the day so changed the ending.

Time Script First Edition   – Time Script Final Edition


Student comments