Examples of timelines in movies and other pop culture?
November 13, 2012 1:13 PM   Subscribe

I'm looking for examples of visual timelines in movies, video games, or fiction. Scenes where a span of time is represented metaphorically, preferably as a physical object, diagram, or action. A good example is this scene from Me and You and Everyone We Know in which two characters use a street as a visual metaphor for their potential relationship.

My meager collection of examples:
- The scene in Vertigo where Madeleine uses the cut tree cross-section to show her past life (this scene is referenced in La Jette and 12 Monkeys, as shown here).
- Picnicface's Growing Boy skit.
- Jason Rohrer's game Passage (walking represents the passage of time).
posted by oulipian to Media & Arts (17 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
In Marilynne Robinson's wonderful novel Housekeeping, a lake, with its changing water levels, represents the passage of time. It's a complicated theme that runs through the entire book.
posted by Corvid at 2:12 PM on November 13, 2012 [1 favorite]

My understanding is that in old Superman cartoons, scenes of him flying "backwards" (counter to the earth's normal rotation) around the earth to turn back time were originally intended as metaphorical but were taken as literal by the audience.
posted by Michele in California at 2:32 PM on November 13, 2012

Check out Time Tropes.

Also, do you want to include somewhat-more-literal things like the opening credits for The Parent Trap, or (sigh) Enterprise? If so, I suggest the tropes pages Credits Montage and Through the Years Credits (only some of the "through the years" stuff applies, and obviously, there are many candidates lurking in the montage category.)
posted by SMPA at 2:34 PM on November 13, 2012

Maybe too literal rather than metaphorical, but in "Back to The Future II" the Doc draws various time lines on a blackboard to illustrate to Marty the effects of time travel. (sorry no youtube at work)
posted by trialex at 2:50 PM on November 13, 2012

Do you mean something like this scene in Notting Hill where Hugh Grant walks down the street and the seasons change behind him, implying the passing of time?
posted by Georgina at 3:18 PM on November 13, 2012

What about the throwing of the bone in 2001?
posted by perhapses at 4:01 PM on November 13, 2012

Also, there's an obscure example of an object representing a timeline in Andrzej Wajda's Everything for Sale, which was dedicated to the Polish actor Zbigniew Cybulski, who starred in Wajda's earlier film Ashes and Diamonds and died while trying to jump aboard a train.

The objects are several glasses of alcohol (vodka?) that have been lit and lined up on a bar. Cybulski's co-star in the referenced scene from Ashes and Diamonds is seated at the bar and turns to face the camera. The lit glasses are both a representation back to their shared scene, which was itself a representation of others who had previously died in the Resistance.
posted by perhapses at 4:30 PM on November 13, 2012

Another movie by Miranda July The Future does a thing where they use a metaphor of stopping time to talk about someone who is not engaging with or perceiving reality for a time.

warning this movie made me really really sad. something sad happens to a cat.

posted by bleep at 6:09 PM on November 13, 2012

The 1960 film of H.G. Wells' "Time Machine" has a scene in which a manakin's clothing rapidly flips styles chronologically to indicate the passage of time...?
posted by Specklet at 6:49 PM on November 13, 2012

do you mean like the final sequence from six feet under
posted by jannw at 4:30 AM on November 14, 2012

Another possibility that came to mind: The travel/map segueways in all of the Indiana Jones flicks. They show a map and indicate travel from one point to another to skip the relatively lengthy travel times in a pre jumbo jet era where it could take weeks or months to get from one place to another.
posted by Michele in California at 9:08 AM on November 14, 2012

If I remember right, 13th warrior has the foreigner sitting around a campfire listening to the (Gaelic?) being spoken around him, and slowly picking up a word here and there till he understands. Always thought that one was cool.
posted by Jacen at 10:15 AM on November 14, 2012 [1 favorite]

Thanks, everyone! The closest suggestions to what I'm looking for are the more literal timeline diagrams like the Back to The Future II chalkboard drawing and the Indiana Jones map montages (the diagrams are more map than timeline but also represent time). The time passing montages are not really what I had in mind, although many of them are interesting. If I can find a few more examples of the more literal timelines I might make a timeline of them....
posted by oulipian at 6:45 PM on November 14, 2012

There is a timeloop that the scientist draws for the time traveller in Nacho Vigalondo's Timecrimes.
posted by kandinski at 9:16 PM on November 14, 2012

Similar to the Indiana Jones maps: The Stargate scene where it shows the travel of the bot or probe across the galaxy.

It is not intended to show time, but it is shocking because it shows that it has traveled some place that should take many years to travel and did so in a few seconds. So it implies time compression in some sense -- that the form of travel is not natural/normal and defies such expectations.
posted by Michele in California at 9:33 PM on November 14, 2012

Heroes: Hiro's string web in Isaac Mendez's apartment
posted by monkey closet at 2:34 AM on November 15, 2012

The Emperor's New Groove has a scene with something that I think sort of qualifies?
posted by ashirys at 7:45 AM on November 15, 2012

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