Movies become art after editing. Instead of just reproducing reality, they juxtapose images of it. That implies expression; that’s art. – Alejandro González Iñárritu
The structure is intrinsic to any art form. Most often the underlying structure defines the genre like modern jazz in music, Haiku in poetry or a three-act play in a theatre. Setup, confrontation, and resolution are the three acts that we are used to in a typical story that starts and ends on a progressive linear timeline.
But, why should events progress one after the other to build a story? Why should narratives be linear and not on a splintered and rearranged continuum? How do people invent the beauty of a fragmented narrative?
The traditional way to rupture a linear storyline is a flashback or time travel. But the proficiency of these broken movement practitioners has invented more formats. It ranges from interwoven stories or reinventing a structure that potentially mimics a state of mind. There are a few screenwriters and directors who have mastered the craft of a fragmented narrative.
Alejandro González Iñárritu has been experimenting with interwoven stories in Amores Perros and later in Babel. His deeply emotional and visually striking decoupage are compelling. Emmanuel Lubezki’s visualisations and cinematography enhance this poetic knot in an Iñárritu movie. Babel is a classic interwoven narrative movie.
Babel is a 2006 drama film directed by Alejandro González Iñárritu and written by Guillermo Arriaga, starring an ensemble cast. The multi-narrative drama completes Iñárritu’s Death Trilogy, following Amores Perros and 21 Grams. It is an international co-production among companies based in the United States and Mexico. The film portrays multiple stories taking place in Morocco, Japan, Mexico and the US. – Wikipedia
Take a look at this beautiful sequence of a deaf Japanese girl at a Tokyo nightclub from Babel.
Quentin Tarantino was my personal favourite till he started making his revenge fantasies. He had the style and panache for non-linear storytelling. He also popularised the irreverent aesthetics of violence and casual conversations. His Pulp Fiction has been widely regarded as a masterpiece, with particular praise for its screenwriting. The film’s unconventional structure and extensive use of homage have led critics to describe it as an important milestone of a postmodern film.
Pulp Fiction is a 1994 American black comedy neo-noir crime film written and directed by Quentin Tarantino, from a story by Tarantino and Roger Avary. Directed in a highly stylized manner, Pulp Fiction connects the intersecting storylines of Los Angeles mobsters, fringe players, small-time criminals, and a mysterious briefcase. The film’s title refers to the pulp magazines and hardboiled crime novels popular during the mid-20th century, known for their graphic violence and punchy dialogue. – Wikipedia
Watch this breakdown by Jack’s Movie Review.
Structure as a state of being
The most popular of the structure players is Christopher Nolan with his mind-bending screenplays in Inception or Interstellar. But I like his Memento.
Memento is a 2000 American neo-noir psychological thriller film directed and written by Christopher Nolan, and produced by Suzanne and Jennifer Todd. The film’s script was based on a pitch by Jonathan Nolan, who later wrote the story Memento Mori from the concept. It stars Guy Pearce, Carrie-Anne Moss, and Joe Pantoliano.
Pearce stars as a man who, as a result of a past trauma, suffers from anterograde amnesia, the inability to form new memories and suffers short-term memory loss approximately every five minutes. He is searching for the persons who attacked him and killed his wife, using an intricate system of Polaroid photographs and tattoos to track information he cannot remember. Memento is presented as two different sequences of scenes interspersed during the film: a series in black-and-white that is shown chronologically, and a series of color sequences shown in reverse order (simulating for the audience the mental state of the protagonist). The two sequences “meet” at the end of the film, producing one complete and cohesive narrative. – Wikipedia
Nolan’s films are rooted in philosophical, sociological and ethical concepts, exploring human morality, the construction of time, and the malleable nature of memory and personal identity. His body of work is permeated by materialistic perspectives, labyrinthine plots, nonlinear storytelling, practical special effects, and analogous relationships between visual language and narrative elements. If you have whole 18-minutes to spare you can watch Nolan explaining Memento in this video.
And if you have not seen any of these movies you better do it now.