Reverse chronology

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Reverse chronology is a method of storytelling whereby the plot is revealed in reverse order.

Contents

In a story employing this technique, the first scene shown is actually the conclusion to the plot. Once that scene ends, the penultimate scene is shown, and so on, so that the final scene the viewer sees is the first chronologically.

Many stories employ flashback, showing prior events, but whereas the scene order of most conventional films is A-B-C-etc., a film in reverse chronology goes Z-Y-X-etc.

In interactive fiction, reverse chronology is a well-known technique. [1] For instance, the story Beanstalk the and Jack, [2] tells the fairy tale Jack and the Beanstalk using reverse chronology: the opening scene [3] depicts Jack chopping the beanstalk down and killing the giant. The next scene features Jack being discovered by the giant and climbing down the beanstalk in fear of his life. Later, we see Jack running into the man with the infamous magic beans, then, at the end of the story, being sent off by his mother to sell the cow.

Purpose

The unusual nature of this method means it is only used in stories of a specific nature. For example, Memento features a man with anterograde amnesia, meaning he is unable to form new memories. The film parallels the protagonist's perspective by unfolding in reverse chronological order, leaving the audience as ignorant of the events that occurred prior to each scene (which, played in reverse chronological order, will not be revealed until later) as the protagonist is.

In the film Irréversible, an act of homicidal violence takes place at the start of the movie (i. e., it is the final event to take place). During the remainder of the film we learn not only that the violence is an act of vengeance, but what exactly is being avenged. The film was highly controversial for its graphic nature; had the scenes been shown in chronological order, this violent content would make it a simple, and pointlessly brutal, revenge movie. However, as it is, told in reverse, the audience is made to consider the exact consequences of each action, and there is often "more than meets the eye."

Examples of use

Literature

The epic poem Aeneid , written by Virgil in the 1st century BC, uses reverse chronology within scenes. [4] In "The Three Apples", a murder mystery in the One Thousand and One Nights , the middle part of the story shows a flashback of events leading up to the discovery of a dead body at the beginning of the story. [5] The action of W. R. Burnett's novel, Goodbye to the Past (1934), moves continually from 1929 to 1873. [6] The Long View (1956) by Elizabeth Jane Howard describes a marriage in reverse chronology from 1950s London back to its beginning in 1926. [7] Edward Lewis Wallant uses flashbacks in reverse chronology in The Human Season (1960). [8] The novel Christopher Homm (1965), by C. H. Sisson, is also told in reverse chronology. [9]

Philip K. Dick, in his 1967 novel Counter-Clock World , describes a future in which time has started to move in reverse, resulting in the dead reviving in their own graves ("old-birth"), living their lives in reverse, eventually ending in returning to the womb, and splitting into an egg and a sperm during copulation between a recipient woman and a man. The novel was expanded from Dick's short story "Your Appointment Will Be Yesterday", first published in the August 1966 edition of Amazing Stories.

Iain Banks's novel Use of Weapons (1990) interweaves two parallel stories, one told in standard chronology and one in reverse, both concluding at a critical moment in the main character's life.

Martin Amis's 1991 novel Time's Arrow tells the story of a man who, it seems, brings dead people to life. Eventually it is revealed that the story is being seen backwards, and he was a doctor at Auschwitz who brought death to live people. He escaped to the United States, and the novel starts with his death and ends with his birth. Amis writes in the Afterword that he had a "certain paragraph" from Kurt Vonnegut's Slaughterhouse Five (1969) in mind. As he waits to be taken by aliens to the planet Tralfamadore, the protagonist, Billy Pilgrim, watches a war movie backwards. American planes full of holes fly backwards as German planes suck bullets from them; bombers take their bombs back to base where they are returned to the States, reduced to ore and buried. The American fliers became high school kids again, and, Billy guesses, Hitler ultimately returns to babyhood.

Julia Alvarez's novel How the García Girls Lost Their Accents (1991) opens in 1989 with one of the characters returning to her native Dominican Republic. The story of why the family left and their attempts to succeed in New York are told in reverse chronological order, with the last events happening in 1956. [10]

The Night Watch (2006) by Sarah Waters is written in three episodes moving backwards from 1947 to 1941, beginning in post-war London and moving back to the early days of the war. It was shortlisted for both the 2006 Man Booker Prize and the 2006 Orange Prize. All the Birds, Singing (2013) by the Australian author Evie Wyld, relates two stories in parallel, both beginning from the same point in time, one running forwards and one backwards. The novel won the 2014 Miles Franklin Award and the 2014 Encore Award. [11]

Theatre

A number of plays have employed this technique. George S. Kaufman and Moss Hart's 1934 play, Merrily We Roll Along , is told in reverse order, as is the Harold Pinter play Betrayal (1978). Kaufman and Hart's play was adapted as a musical comedy by Stephen Sondheim in 1981, and Pinter's play was made into a film in 1983.

Film

In 1927, Jean Epstein's La glace à trois faces (The Three Sided Mirror) features a sequence where the events happen in reverse, beginning with the protagonist's exit from a room until the viewer sees the entrance. The Czech comedy Happy End (1966) is a farce which starts with a guillotined man finding his head popped back on his shoulders and ends with him as a new-born being pushed back into his mother's womb. [12] Atom Egoyan, influenced by Pinter's plays, tells the story of The Sweet Hereafter (1997) in reverse chronology, with the first scene of the film set in 1977 and the last in 1968. [13] The technique was later employed in Peppermint Candy (2000), by South Korean director Lee Chang-dong; in Memento (2000), a mystery directed by Christopher Nolan about short term memory loss; and in Jean-Luc Godard's short film De l'origine du XXIe siècle pour moi (2000). [14] In Irréversible (2002), the technique is used so thoroughly that the end credits are not only shown at the beginning of the movie, but they roll down the screen, rather than upwards as is familiar.

The first several scenes in 2003's film Identity , starring John Cusack, occur in reverse order.

The 2004 film 5x2 , directed by François Ozon, tells the story of a relationship between two people in five episodes using reverse chronology. [15]

In Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004), a main substory is told in reverse.

Coup de Sang, a French film by Jean Marboeuf (2006), uses limited reverse chronology. The film begins with the revelation that the main character will commit a murder one week from the next scene, although it is not revealed who will be killed or why.

In the 2007 movie P.S. I Love You , the scenes in which Gerry Kennedy (Gerard Butler) meets and courts Holly (Hilary Swank) are shown in reverse. [16]

In the 2010 Tamil movie, Manmadan Ambu , the song Neela Vaanam (visuals inspired by Coldplay's "The Scientist") is shown in a reverse sequence.

Television

The made-for-television drama Two Friends (1986), by Jane Campion, and the 1997 episode, "The Betrayal", of the hit sitcom Seinfeld , employs the technique. The Seinfeld episode is a take-off of the Harold Pinter play Betrayal and has a character named "Pinter." [14] "Redrum", a 2000 episode of The X-Files, uses the technique in focusing on a character experiencing the events in reverse along with the audience. The 2002 ER episode "Hindsight" uses reverse chronology to illustrate the events leading to traumatic car accident. A 1997 Star Trek: Voyager episode, "Before and After", which writer Kenneth Biller claimed was based on a Martin Amis novel Time's Arrow, also features a character experiencing the events in reverse along with the audience. The Sealab 2021 episode "Shrabster" is also in reverse order. For a few seasons, the revived Doctor Who had an extensive storyline focusing on a relationship between the Doctor and his companions' daughter (River Song) from the future based on "opposite timelines" (i.e., as the Doctor was travelling through time on one path, River was travelling on an opposite path) causing them to interact in opposite chronological order. In 2017, the British tv mini-series Rellik (Killer backwards) tells a story about a serial killer in backwards order. In 2018, the episode "Once Removed", from the series Inside No. 9 uses reverse chronology to tell a dark story about a family who is moving house, and the murder that subsequently begins. Also from 2018, the second installment of the FX anthology series American Crime Story focuses on the assassination of designer Gianni Versace, employing reverse chronology through the course of several episodes to explore the background of Versace's killer Andrew Cunanan.

Comics

The story "The Time Eater" from issue 40 of the comic "Vampirella", scripted by Jack Butterworth and published in 1975, included the concept of human lives running backwards. People were shown to be exhumed, reunited with families, separated from their spouses in order to attend school, and finally returned to the womb. Dialogue was reversed also. Alan Moore's 1983 short story "The Reversible Man" from issue 308 of the comic "2000AD" told an ordinary man's life backwards, using the same concept as Butterworth but recasting it as a first-person narrative. Brian K. Vaughan wrote an issue of the ongoing Midnighter series told in reverse chronology. The issue explored the fact that the character Midnighter has the ability to calculate millions of possible scenarios for any given situation. The issue does not have the scenes in reverse order, but rather the individual pages run backwards.

Issue 43 of Bongo's "Simpsons Comics" is told in reverse order: the story opens with a depiction of a crane lifting a crashed car out of a lake; each subsequent scene (which lasts for one page) carries a caption informing the reader that it took place, for instance, "20 minutes earlier". The penultimate page jumps back thirty years and shows Homer Simpson as a child

Anime

The 2007 anime television series Touka Gettan employed entirely this narrative method. All 26 episodes were aired in chronologically reverse order, with the first episode being the ending of the story while the last episode being the beginning.

Music

The lyrics to "All Along the Watchtower", written by Bob Dylan, are, he says, "in a rather reverse order"; indeed, the final verse begins with the words "All along the watchtower", and if reversed, the verses would tell the story in the correct order.[ citation needed ]

The lyrics to "Apparition. Apparitions." by Trophy Scars describe the events leading up to a woman's suicide in reverse order, beginning with her death and ending with her initial romance with her boyfriend.

The song "One Thing Leads to Another" by the Pet Shop Boys (on a limited release of their 1993 album Very ) describes the events leading up to a man's death in reverse order.

Multiple music videos—including, perhaps most famously, Coldplay's "The Scientist"—use reverse chronology in which a scene plays backwards while someone sings normally. This is done by filming the video chronologically but getting the actor to sing the lyrics backwards (if applicable). The music video for Enigma's "Return to Innocence" uses reverse chronology showing a man's life, beginning with his death as an old man and ending with his baptism as an infant. The music video for Linkin Park's "Bleed It Out" also uses the same method, whereas the band performs normally, but everything else is reversed. In 2016, Malaysian singer-songwriter Yuna used reverse chronology in her music video "Lanes". Mutemath also achieved widespread popularity with its music video for "Typical".

The events of the song "Reverse" by SomeKindaWonderful, as said in the title itself, are told in reverse chronology.

The lyrics in "Rewind" by NaS also tell a story in reverse chronology, with some of the dialogue even being in reverse order.

The album "Good Mistake" by Bahram Nouraei is the first Iranian concept album ever made inspired by reverse chronology as the storytelling method. [17]

There have also been several discussions as to how the picturisation of Neela Vaanam "Manmadan Ambu" (sung by Kamal Haasan himself) has been slightly inspired from official video of Coldplay's "The Scientist". The whole song has been depicted in such a way so as to highlight the events that led to the death of Mannar's (Kamal's character) French wife Juliet, in reverse.

Video games

The announcement trailer of the 2011 video game, Dead Island , also present in reverse chronological order with flash of chronological action edited into the whole video. [18]

See also

Related Research Articles

In film and video production, split screen is the visible division of the screen, traditionally in half, but also in several simultaneous images, rupturing the illusion that the screen's frame is a seamless view of reality, similar to that of the human eye. There may or may not be an explicit borderline. Until the arrival of digital technology, a split screen in films was accomplished by using an optical printer to combine two or more actions filmed separately by copying them onto the same negative, called the composite.

Voice-over

Voice-over is a production technique where a voice—that is not part of the narrative (non-diegetic)—is used in a radio, television production, filmmaking, theatre, or other presentations. The voice-over is read from a script and may be spoken by someone who appears elsewhere in the production or by a specialist voice talent. Synchronous dialogue, where the voice-over is narrating the action that is taking place at the same time, remains the most common technique in voice-overs. Asynchronous, however, is also used in cinema. It is usually prerecorded and placed over the top of a film or video and commonly used in documentaries or news reports to explain information. Voice-overs are used in video games and on-hold messages, as well as for announcements and information at events and tourist destinations. It may also be read live for events such as award presentations.

Story within a story Technique in which one narrative is embedded inside another narrative

A story within a story, also referred to as an embedded narrative, is a literary device in which one character within a narrative narrates. Multiple layers of stories within stories are sometimes called nested stories. A play may have a brief play within it, such as Shakespeare's play Hamlet; a film may show the characters watching a short film; or a novel may contain a short story within the novel. A story within a story can be used in all types of narration: novels, short stories, plays, television programs, films, poems, songs, and philosophical essays.

Foreshadowing is a literary device in which a writer gives an advance hint of what is to come later in the story. Foreshadowing often appears at the beginning of a story, or a chapter, and it helps the reader develop expectations about the upcoming events.

A cold open is a narrative tactic used in television and films. It is the technique of jumping directly into a story at the beginning of the show before the title sequence or opening credits are shown. In television, this is often done on the theory that involving the audience in the plot as soon as possible will reduce the likelihood of their switching from a show during the opening commercial. A cold open may also be used to recap events in previous episodes or storylines that will be revisited during the current episode.

Narrative structure is a literary element generally described as the structural framework that underlies the order and manner in which a narrative is presented to a reader, listener, or viewer. The narrative text structures are the plot and the setting.

A frame story is a literary technique that serves as a companion piece to a story within a story, where an introductory or main narrative sets the stage either for a more emphasized second narrative or for a set of shorter stories. The frame story leads readers from a first story into one or more other stories within it. The frame story may also be used to inform readers about aspects of the secondary narrative(s) that may otherwise be hard to understand. This should not be confused with narrative structure or character personality change. A frame story is also called a "sandwich narrative" or an "intercalated narrative". One narrative is embedded or nestled within a second story and acts as a commentary on the frame narrative or vice versa. This framing device is a common literary technique within the New Testament. For example, Mark interrupts the story of the cursing and withering of the fig tree to place another story within it. The fig tree narrative acts as a commentary on the Temple cleansing.

A narrative work beginning in medias res opens in the midst of the plot. Often, exposition is bypassed and filled in gradually, through dialogue, flashbacks or description of past events. Hamlet begins after the death of Hamlet's father. Characters make reference to King Hamlet's death without the plot's first establishment of said fact. Since the play is about Hamlet and the revenge more so than the motivation, Shakespeare uses in medias res to bypass superfluous exposition.

A plot twist is a literary technique that introduces a radical change in the direction or expected outcome of the plot in a work of fiction. When it happens near the end of a story, it is known as a twist or surprise ending. It may change the audience's perception of the preceding events, or introduce a new conflict that places it in a different context. A plot twist may be foreshadowed, to prepare the audience to accept it. There are a variety of methods used to execute a plot twist, such as withholding information from the audience or misleading it with ambiguous or false information.

A flashback is an interjected scene that takes the narrative back in time from the current point in the story. Flashbacks are often used to recount events that happened before the story's primary sequence of events to fill in crucial backstory. In the opposite direction, a flashforward reveals events that will occur in the future. Both flashback and flashforward are used to cohere a story, develop a character, or add structure to the narrative. In literature, internal analepsis is a flashback to an earlier point in the narrative; external analepsis is a flashback to a time before the narrative started.

"Tomorrow and tomorrow and tomorrow" is the beginning of the second sentence of one of the most famous soliloquies in William Shakespeare's tragedy Macbeth. It takes place in the beginning of the 5th scene of Act 5, during the time when the Scottish troops, led by Malcolm and Macduff, are approaching Macbeth's castle to besiege it. Macbeth, the play's protagonist, is confident that he can withstand any siege from Malcolm's forces. He hears the cry of a woman and reflects that there was a time when his hair would have stood on end if he had heard such a cry, but he is now so full of horrors and slaughterous thoughts that it can no longer startle him.

<i>Times Arrow</i> (novel)

Time's Arrow: or The Nature of the Offence (1991) is a novel by Martin Amis. It was shortlisted for the Booker Prize in 1991.

A flashforward is a scene that temporarily takes the narrative forward in time from the current point of the story in literature, film, television and other media. Flashforwards are often used to represent events expected, projected, or imagined to occur in the future. They may also reveal significant parts of the story that have not yet occurred, but soon will in greater detail. It is similar to foreshadowing, in which future events are not shown but rather implicitly hinted at. It is also similar to an ellipsis, however an ellipsis takes the narrative forward and is intended to skim over boring or uninteresting details, for example the aging of a character. It is primarily a postmodern narrative device, named by analogy to the more traditional flashback, which reveals events that occurred in the past.

Nonlinear narrative, disjointed narrative or disrupted narrative is a narrative technique, sometimes used in literature, film, hypertext websites and other narratives, where events are portrayed, for example, out of chronological order or in other ways where the narrative does not follow the direct causality pattern of the events featured, such as parallel distinctive plot lines, dream immersions or narrating another story inside the main plot-line. It is often used to mimic the structure and recall of human memory, but has been applied for other reasons as well.

<i>Memento</i> (film) 2001 film by Christopher Nolan

Memento is a 2001 American neo-noir psychological thriller film written and directed by Christopher Nolan, and produced by Suzanne and Jennifer Todd. The film's script was based on a pitch by Jonathan Nolan, who wrote the 2001 story "Memento Mori" from the concept. Guy Pearce stars as a man who, as a result of an injury, has anterograde amnesia and has short-term memory loss approximately every fifteen minutes. He is searching for the people who attacked him and killed his wife, using an intricate system of Polaroid photographs and tattoos to track information he cannot remember.

<i>Betrayal</i> (play)

Betrayal is a play written by Harold Pinter in 1978. Critically regarded as one of the English playwright's major dramatic works, it features his characteristically economical dialogue, characters' hidden emotions and veiled motivations, and their self-absorbed competitive one-upmanship, face-saving, dishonesty, and (self-)deceptions.

"The Betrayal" is the 164th episode of the NBC sitcom Seinfeld. This was the eighth episode for the ninth and final season. It aired on November 20, 1997. The episode is colloquially referred to as a backwards episode due to its use of reverse chronology, starting with the final scene and playing in order backwards. The episode can be played in "correct" order (chronologically) on the DVD release of season 9.

Backwards (<i>Red Dwarf</i>) 1st episode of the third season of Red Dwarf

"Backwards" is the first episode of science fiction sitcom Red Dwarf Series III, and the thirteenth in the series run. It premiered on the British television channel BBC2 on 14 November 1989. Written by Rob Grant and Doug Naylor, and directed by Ed Bye, the episode has the crew travel to an alternate Earth where time runs backwards.

Jack and the Beanstalk English folktale closely associated with the tale of "Jack the Giant-killer"

"Jack and the Beanstalk" is an English fairy tale. It appeared as "The Story of Jack Spriggins and the Enchanted Bean" in 1734 and as Benjamin Tabart's moralized "The History of Jack and the Bean-Stalk" in 1807. Henry Cole, publishing under pen name Felix Summerly, popularized the tale in The Home Treasury (1845), and Joseph Jacobs rewrote it in English Fairy Tales (1890). Jacobs' version is most commonly reprinted today, and is believed to be closer to the oral versions than Tabart's because it lacks the moralizing.

Found footage is a film subgenre in which all or a substantial part of the work is presented as if it were discovered film or video recordings. The events on screen are typically seen through the camera of one or more of the characters involved, often accompanied by their real-time, off-camera commentary. For added realism, the cinematography may be done by the actors themselves as they perform, and shaky camera work and naturalistic acting are routinely employed. The footage may be presented as if it were "raw" and complete or as if it had been edited into a narrative by those who "found" it.

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