The Framework

If there is no main character, no resolution, what are the goals of the editing of the nonlinear film? The first goal must be to assure that the narrative coheres, that it holds together. Each of the narrative tools of character, structure, genre, and tone may be used, but it is structure that is most critical in a macro sense.2 The structural option most directly applicable to the nonlinear film is a shaping device. The murderous career of Mickey and Mallory is the shaping device in Natural Born Killers (1994); the battle for Guadalcanal is the shaping device of The Thin Red Line (1998); identity crises are the shaping device in Pulp Fiction (1994); an Atlantic island off of Georgia is the geographical shaping device and the day of migration is the temporal shaping device in Daughters of the Dust (1991). Whether the shaping device is an event, a place, a time, that device is the most general structural tool that helps the narrative cohere.

The second macro device is the voice of the filmmaker. As we saw in Chapter 1, Bunuel's narrative goal was to subvert narrative, and this dialectic highlighted his voice. Godard undermined the narrative to introject his political views through the narrative. The Coen brothers use irony to loosen us from our genre expectations in their work. Voice is the second important device that makes clear how we should experience the nonlinear narrative.

On a more detailed or micro level the nonlinear filmmaker has to concern him or herself with the issue of energy. Every narrative, linear or nonlinear, must engage the audience in an energetic experience. In the linear narrative this is far easier. The goal-directedness of the main character, the barrier of the antagonist, and the barrier of plot, provides a structure that keeps the dramatic arc moving from the critical moment of entry into the narrative and on to the culmination and resolution of the narrative. Each device implies the critical role that pace and camera movement and placement will play in energizing the narrative. The filmmaker and editor know that the close-up punctuates the most important events of the narrative.

Because the filmmaker has opted for a nonlinear narrative does not mean she can sidestep the energy issue.

What is removed from the narrative approach must be compensated for elsewhere, as an example will illustrate. The gangster film gains enormous energy from its plot: the rise and fall of the main character, the gangster. The gangster's career is in essence the plot of the film. In Pulp Fiction, however, which is a nonlinear narrative, the first thing we notice is that it has very little plot. In fact, the major plot is concentrated in the second of three stories that make up the narrative. Those stories occur out of chronological order, thereby taking temporal momentum out of the structural mix as a potential source of energy. Instead, the energy in Pulp Fiction comes from its dialogue, from the conflictual and conflicted nature of the characters. It also comes from considerable camera movement. It does not come from the traditional narrative source, the plot.

Filmmakers must replace the energy that would be more easily generated in the linear narrative. Here is an important role for the filmmaker and editor in the nonlinear edit—to find new sources to energize the narrative.

The issue for us then is to look for and to highlight those macro and micro editing strategies that make the nonlinear film connect with its audience. We turn now to our case studies.

Film Making

Film Making

If you have ever wanted the secrets to making your own film, here it is: Indy Film Insider Tips And Basics To Film Making. Have you ever wanted to make your own film? Is there a story you want to tell? You might even think that this is impossible. Studios make films, not the little guy. This is probably what you tell yourself. Do you watch films with more than a casual eye? You probably want to know how they were able to get perfect lighting in your favorite scene, or how to write a professional screenplay.

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