Reviving my Theory

Since I started writing the Expos’e, the idea of writing the thesis became more real to me and I got nervous about it actually. It did help me to form a method for checking if my hypothesis is true or not but besides that it stressed me out. It made me start thinking mainly about what I should write for a script, something that I will also be able to film, and that will somehow be possible to clarify by using a nonlinear narrative which then made me think if I’m losing the objective point and so on.. Yes, it’s clear, I became really confused and nervous. 

I got reminded that I know someone who is dealing with these kind of stuff all the time, my wife Anna, who is writing her Ph.D. right now, and tells me quite often how in the last few days she got stuck and full with doubts and somehow by speaking to some people and reading some more, she got back on track, so I called her and it was definitely a great idea. 

Anna reminded me why my theory does make sense, she said : “take memento for example, the story most probably been written linearly but was eventually edited to a non linear film to clarify the story better and especially because that this is how we (the viewers) could experience what the hero in the movie is experiencing”. It is so so right, because as the audience we develop such a great empathy towards “Leonard Shelby” the protagonist in the movie “Memento”. The empathy developing, which is one of the most important aspects for a story to be good, is thanks to the fact we see the world from his point of view, and this is the way the story is being told, by hints, non linearity, confusion all these are pulling us to Leonard’s own world. This movie would have most likely lost a lot of its greatness if it was linear but even more important also the clarity.

While writing these lines, an idea came to my mind, maybe I could write a script about writing this thesis, as it has a clear goal and an evolvement of character during the procedure it might work, linear and nonlinear. I just need to think of how to make it interesting. well.. based on a real life story is good enough.

Story and Narrative

After reading some more articles and papers written, concerning the nonlinear narrative, and also speaking to a few friends explaining what I am going to write about, for my master thesis, I figured out that nonlinear narrative isn’t a 100% clear idea, also not for me. As a matter of fact, I found out that also in the professional world of writing the issue can be somehow confusing.

The mix up between a story and a narrative is a common one though the difference is very significant. In a very simple way one could explain the difference by saying: A story is “what is being told” and the narrative is “how it is being told”. 

A nonlinear narrative is a way of telling a story by reordering the story events to a non chronological one. So basically, the story is chronological, while the narrative isn’t, and it will jump on the timeline of the story in order to tell the plot as the storyteller would like. This new order of the events creates a new relation between them, and can be used to manipulate the viewer or in order to explain a situation better than if it would have been told in a linear narrative.

It does get to complicated situations of defining if a story/movie is actually a linear or not in fea different situations, such as: flashbacks during a chronological story. The claim is, that using flashbacks doesn’t fracture the story, but is just a memory point that comes back to the chronological way of telling the story.

In a paper I am reading now “visualizing Nonlinear narratives with story curves” there’s a typology that has been written by Gerard explains the relationship between story order and the narrative order. I believe that would be a very insightful piece to read. Reading that paper and creating for myself a small dictionary regarding this theme are my next steps.

Bewertung der externen Masterarbeit

Non-Linear Narrative Structures in Contemporary Cinema

DIPLOMARBEIT of Valentina Schasché – Alpen-Adria-Universität Klagenfurt Fakultät für Kulturwissenschaften

1. Level of Design

The diplomarbeitNon-Linear Narrative Structures in Contemporary Cinema” has many graphs, and illustrations in order to make the text clearer. It is very common to use illustrations in texts that are written about storytelling, so i think it is very much required. 

2. Degree of Innovation

As much as I find the topic interesting, and also the movies that were taken as examples in this paper, i can’t find any innovation. The goal was to check what is the current situation in American movies and how the different narratives in nonlinear ways of telling a story are used. Also before this paper one could say that there are many ways of telling a nonlinear narrative. 

3. Independence

As for independence, it seems to me that the author put a lot of thought into it. The movies that were picked are decisions that could lead the trail to where she wanted it to lead.

4. Outline and Structure 

The paper is divided into three parts: just like a movie script should be, and also are called in the same way. To me, it makes sense, it makes it clear and has a nice connection to the topic of course. 

5. Degree of Communication

I would grade The communication degree in the paper as good. It is very understandable, and also self explanatory. I dislike it when I feel that one writes in a high level of language for no real reason. The idea, as i see it, is that such knowledge should be accessible to everyone, and this is the feeling i get from reading this paper. 

6. Scope of Work

As the paper contains 93 pages, I would say it is quite fine. In my opinion there is enough there for the theory part , maybe one or two movies more could make it better. Something I will definitely take in  mind for my paper. 

7. Orthography

I enjoyed reading this paper, it is thanks for the fact that  I am interested in the topic of course, but also because the writing way was fluent, made sense and there were no misunderstandings that might appear as a result of bad grammatic or typo’s. 

8. Literature

To write this paper, there has been a use of over 40 different literature sources, including, online. Besides that, also the movies themselves. 

Reflection on lectures

Andrey Sudarikov – “Design Lecture”

I enjoyed andreys lecture very much, one of the reasons is, thanks to the fact, that I could feel how much he is into what he is involved in, which grabs the listener into his lecture.

Besides that, the fact that he is trying to show the hall procedure of the project is really interesting and gives a lot of important information. For example, while explaining about the project I was mostly impressed by (the museum in volgograd), he said that that frozen moment of the soldiers while the camera is still moving, is actually a budget reason that had to become a “language used in the video”. I really appreciate it when a speaker is giving more aspects for one decision to really share his knowledge, and i think that Andrey did it all along his lecture which made it very informative,

The projects themselves show how much creativeness is required but at the same time how much preparations and planning. I think that with andrey showing his projects from the beginning until the final result, it is possible to imagine the real world of designer’s daily work,

Saskia Schmidt – “WORK WORK BALANCE”

Saskia is sharing with us her professional life journey as a designer. I always enjoyed autobiographical stories, this way one can really relate to the story.

Through her story she is also showing her projects and telling how she got to the ideas of what she finally made.

Also the way she divided her lecture was great and made it even easier to follow. During her lecture I couldn’t stop myself from getting reminded of my own journey that I went through until today, but at the same time maybe understanding where I went wrong and also learning from those mistakes.

Part 4 was the one where I found myself thinking of the time I started a job for the wrong reasons, I didn’t want to be a freelancer anymore, so i joined a hitech company as a project manager.the problem was that I had no interest in the outcome of what I did. That’s when I figured out that, when the main goal of the whole project isn’t something I truly care for, I will have a bad feeling about myself because of not giving enough effort. So eventually, all sides are losing. 

After being on both sides, self employed as well as a company employee i can say I would still prefer being an employee but not if I am not interested enough in the outcome of what i am working on.

Wolfgang Schlager – “RADIO WORK”

As I was having my first ever course in radio production (2008) in my bachelor, one of the major topics in the first few meetings was: what changes are about to happen in radio, if it is gonna be consumed as much as it was back then.

Today it is quite clear that radio is not going anywhere. As Wolfgang mentions, the radio has a few advantages in other media and I would like to add a few of my own thoughts to that.

As mentioned, the radio is more of a simple medium, as one speaks not necessarily planned too much, clearly not as films or most of other visual contents. Besides it is a medium that provides content that one can consume using only one sense, which gives the option to do something else meanwhile. I think we also like to listen to people speaking, telling us their own opinions, their understanding  of situations or just clever interpretations.  

This is also the reason that radio is still playing a big role in politics, because it has a good option of influencing the listeners.

To conclude- radio is not going anywhere

Other Lectures

Lecture 3

Astrid Kury: Why collaborate

I believe that Astrid Kury is very much right about the idea that creative people should work together. For me the main reason is because creativeness is feeding others while being fed by others creativity. This way a group could get to better results.

Lecture 4

Florian Doppel Prix – “IS IT ART OR CAN WE TOSS IT?”

From all what Florian showed I loved most the idea of showing what his customers think that he is doing and what his relatives think he is doing.

I could relate to that very much as I always felt my parents never understood what I was really doing as a film production manager. 

Lecture 6

Sylwia Ulicka – Questioning Our Material Culture

I find the topic of this lecture very interesting and important as well. Using design to make a real difference is a blessed way to use creativity.   

Then and now- how could it help me?

While getting more familiar with the avant garde movement, which actually asked out loud ”why do things have to be done in this way and not in another way” I got more and more into my theme. 

I think that in order to ask such questions in those times, required quite special characteristics from those who decided to “say” something in that matter. The growing connection between  politics and art in the first few decades of the last century, made that issue very important. 

In my opinion, it seems that without it, we would have missed a huge part of the content in our times.

That leads me of course to relate to the nonlinear storytelling, But, at least the 80S and 90S movies by some theories are being part of the postmodernism movement.  And if I would try to give a name to the time we are living in today, referring to film and tv content with the use of nonlinear storytelling, it is almost kitsch. It’s amazing to see in how many documentary series, movies and normal series, the nonlinear method is being used, in many times it’s not the main theme of the story but it is being used as a method to tell the story. 

In documentaries for example the movement from time to another is being explained while in non documenting contents it usually is not. I think it is an interesting thing to check why that is. That might help me figure if the intention of the creator is to help the viewer where we are on the timeline has to do with understanding if the use of the nonlinear is artistic or is it because it is a need in order to be able to tell the story.

Theory research

To get more familiar with non linear storytelling it is required to go back in time and read where the idea of telling stories  in a different way compared to the conventional way in general, and creating movies in particular, came from.

I started from the oldest movie that uses a non-linear narrative that I know: Citizen Kane. Citizen Kane is a film released in 1941 by Orson Welles, who acted as producer, co-screenwriter, director next to playing the title character. It seems necessary to me to look further into art and theories Welles has been influenced by.

I went back to read about the nonlinear basics. When reading the sentence:”Nonlinear film emerged from the French avant-garde in 1924 with René Clair’s Entr’acte, Dadaïst film and then in 1929 with Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dalí’s Un Chien Andalou (English: An Andalusian Dog).” I understood I had to go back in time even further than I thought.

“The Avant-garde pushes the boundaries of what is accepted as the norm or the status quo, primarily in the cultural realm” . The Avant-garde concept was about creating art pieces differently, as well as more  of a critiquing tool than the “mainstream” art and media were. 

As the non linear storytelling isn’t, or at least wasn’t the mainstream way of telling a story it is considered to be affected by the avant-garde concept. I shall read much more about those before writing about my opinions, and how it will lead me to my subject in the next blog entry.

Research method 1

At this point, my aim is to examine whether nonlinear storytelling is chosen for artistic reasons only, or whether this decision derives from the narrative that is being told. The question I am asking is: Are there stories that must be told in a nonlinear way so they will be appealing and/or even understandable for an audience? 

Right now I am getting more familiar with the basic theories of ideal and appropriate ways of storytelling. 

I am using articles and books written by script writers whose theories had a significant impact on the ways stories are being told in movies and on TV in the last decades.This will be essential for me in order to be able to accomplish my next step: analyse nonlinear movie scripts. 

Also, I have put together a list of movies that I would like to analyze:

Citizen Kane


Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind

Molly’s Game

Most likely I will analyze other movies as well in order to get a more comprehensive overview on the subject.

Something that I’m not too sure about yet is if I will be able to find any other way besides rebuilding the scenes in a linear way and follow if the basic methods of storytelling could be kept in order to tell the story in an ideal way. So, to establish a precise and practicable methodology will be the next goal I have set for myself. 

The history of the nonlinear story part 2

While in the decades before, the amount of movies which used the nonlinear narrative method in them were around ten, in the second half of the 1990’s there were about 10 each year. This  was probably the outcome of the success of few nonlinear movies in the first half of the 90’s such as “reservoir dogs”, “forrest gump”,” pulp fiction”, “natural born killers” and the “usual suspects”, which all won prizes and were successful in the box offices as well. 

The second half of the 90s introduced us to few other known films in which the same method was used in them such as “the english patient, “magnolia” and “titanic”. 

Coming into the 21 century the  nonlinear narration became a very frequent method, in movies as well as on television. Between 2000 and 2009, a lot of very well known and memorable movies came out such as  “memento”, “city of god”, “vanilla sky”, “kill bill” and many more others. 

Since 2010 there has been a decline in the usage of the nonlinear narration method in movies but a significant increase in the television content. Between 2000 and 2009 there were about 12 different tv series aired in HBO, ABC, BBC and NETFLIX while between 2010 and 2017 more than 60. 

It seems that just like most of the film industry is moving to the smaller screen the nonlinear method is as well. 

The history of the nonlinear story-part 1

The first nonlinear stories written were  the “Iliad” from the 8th century BC and  the “Mahabharata” in 5th century BC.The “Mahabharata” is one of the two major Sanskrit epics of ancient India. It is actually a poem just like the “Iliad” is. The “Iliad”  tells the story of the last few weeks in the final year of the Trojan war. These two poems have a common nonlinear narrative between them, which is called  “into mid-affairs”: This story either begins in the middle or in its conclusion.

So, the idea is not new and has been used for a very long time, but of course the majority of books, movies or any other form of story-telling have been written in a linear way. In the 19th and 20th centuries few novelists, such as Virginia Woolf, William Faulkner, or Marcel Proust, used nonlinear narratives in their books. 

Besides “Citizen Kane” by Orson Welles published in 1941, it was only after the Second World War that the nonlinear storytelling became known to a broader audience, mainly through cinema. There was Stanley Kubrick’s “The Killing” from 1956, but the 60ies really were the next step. “La Dolce Vita” by Federico Fellini and “Breathless” by Jean-Luc Godard set the start for a relatively packed decade. No greater developments were made in the 70’s and the 80’s.

Finally, the 90’s was the decade in which the nonlinear narrative took the center of the stage, with a lot of financial success, winning many prestigious awards. 

What is A nonlinear storytelling ?

For me, the plot was always the most important part in a movie, TV series and books. If the story itself wasn’t interesting enough I got bored. I was mainly influenced by movies that have been told in a non-chronological way and I also tended to watch those movies at least once more.

So, what is actually a nonlinear story?
Nonlinear storytelling is a non-chronological way of telling a story. It means that the past, the present and the future are mixed together to tell one plot. Sometimes the story would begin with a situation that the cause for it will appear later in the story but actually happened before.

In this blog, I will write about my own research to understand better and get deeper into the “ingredients” of the nonlinear storytelling, as well as the reasons to use it, how to create one and probably many other ideas that will come along the journey.