Movies: Please suggest examples of this specialized flashback technique
December 10, 2013 11:45 AM   Subscribe

I am looking for movies where a conversation is happening and someone is asked a question. But, instead of hearing the answer, the movie cuts away and continues with the story. At some later point in the movie, however, there is a flashback returning to that moment and we now hear what was said next.

1. It does not have to be a question and answer. It can be a story, where we hear the first half and then it is finished in the flashback. Or it can be a joke, where it is set up in the first half and then we later learn the punchline.

2. Sorry, my mind is drawing a blank as to examples.

3. Is there is a name for this technique other than "flashback"? I did not know any terms to search.

I hope my explanation is clear. I know it is kind of an odd question.
posted by 99percentfake to Media & Arts (24 answers total) 2 users marked this as a favorite
I am not at all positive, I haven't seen it for a few years, but the movie Memento immediately came to mind. There is a lot of half stories, half explanations, that all cut away and then later get explained and completed. The whole movie happens in reverse, so maybe this is way way off base from what you're looking for. (Regardless, if you haven't seen Memento you really should, it is a fantastic film.)
posted by PuppetMcSockerson at 11:49 AM on December 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

I think this is the case with Saving Private Ryan, which opens and closes in modern times in a cemetery in Normandy, with the rest of the movie taking place in flashback in WWII.
posted by Admiral Haddock at 11:52 AM on December 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

Kishōtenketsu contains four acts: introduction, development, twist and reconciliation. The basics of the story—characters, setting, etc.—are established in the first act and developed in the second. No major changes occur until the third act, in which a new, often surprising element is introduced. The third act is the core of the plot, and it may be thought of as a kind of structural non sequitur. The fourth act draws a conclusion from the contrast between the first two “straight” acts and the disconnected third, thereby reconciling them into a coherent whole.
posted by Tom-B at 12:08 PM on December 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

Shutter Island cleverly plays with this. The Usual Suspects, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind too IIRC.
posted by 0 answers at 12:12 PM on December 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

A lot of heist films/shows kind of fulfill this; they start plotting, pull off the heist, something goes wrong, then they flash back to the rest of the plotting, where it's revealed that the "going wrong" part was planned too.

If you're looking for TV Tropes, you might have luck finding examples under Futureshadowing, Instant Mystery - Just Delete Scene, and Once More with Clarity, although none of them are exactly right.
posted by specialagentwebb at 12:16 PM on December 10, 2013 [2 favorites]

Pretty sure Omertà does exactly this.
posted by oulipian at 12:22 PM on December 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

Not a movie, but the TV show "Damages" did this sort of thing with every season and also within individual episodes, IIRC. Open the season/episode with some shocking scene, then over the course of the season/episode slowly reveal how we got there.
posted by chazlarson at 12:25 PM on December 10, 2013 [2 favorites]

Or it can be a joke, where it is set up in the first half and then we later learn the punchline.

Arthur: "Let us ride to... CAMELOT!"
[cut away to song-and-dance number]
Arthur: "On second thought, let's not go to Camelot. It is a silly place."
posted by Now there are two. There are two _______. at 12:29 PM on December 10, 2013 [2 favorites]

Kill Bill uses this trope more than once, and augments it with different kinds of film stock.
posted by adamrice at 12:35 PM on December 10, 2013 [2 favorites]

Pootie Tang's framing device.
posted by Sticherbeast at 12:38 PM on December 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

I was going to say Pulp Fiction is the quintessential example of this, the opening Honey Bunny and Pumpkin diner scene especially. And because the plot is asynchronous, this also continues to happen during the movie with the various subplots. This doesn't technically qualify as a "flashback" though, it's just picking up where it left off.
posted by phaedon at 12:39 PM on December 10, 2013 [2 favorites]

There's a lot of potential for misdirection implied in the trope you are requesting examples of. 12 Monkeys is also another great example, in particular the airport scene. In the beginning, a dreamy flashback is established; at the end, you realize it is a young Bruce Willis looking at himself.
posted by phaedon at 12:47 PM on December 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

Life of Pi
posted by Wordwoman at 12:53 PM on December 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

Any type of movie that also involves a narrator who has memory loss or is dreaming would use this technique as well. I'd have to actually check a number of movies that I don't currently have to see if this is the case, but Vanilla Sky and every goddamn Wolverine movie pop up in my head as possible candidates, since I saw those recently and kind of gagged.
posted by phaedon at 12:57 PM on December 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

In the realm of new films, this happens in The Great Beauty.
posted by mykescipark at 1:09 PM on December 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

SNL did something similar recently
posted by rhizome at 1:25 PM on December 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

Oceans 11 or 12 or both? Slumdog Millionaire?
posted by TWinbrook8 at 4:03 PM on December 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

That's pretty much all the TV show Leverage ever does.
posted by Weeping_angel at 4:38 PM on December 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

Inside Llewyn Davis has a frame story that basically does this.

I don't know a specific name for this technique, though.
posted by lewedswiver at 4:56 PM on December 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

there's a bunch of this in Kids in the Hall's Brain Candy.
posted by 5_13_23_42_69_666 at 6:32 PM on December 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

One Day (2011) does this. It starts by depicting the two characters' first meeting in 1988, then follows their relationship over the next eighteen years, and ends by finishing the retelling of that first 1988 meeting. It's not a very good film, however.
posted by EXISTENZ IS PAUSED at 8:58 PM on December 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

I am Legend.
posted by phaedon at 11:14 PM on December 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

In the season three episode "A Man, A Plan..." of Boardwalk empire, Owen and Margaret have a conversation (and the conversation ends, seemingly). But at the end of the episode, we flash back to see that there was more to that conversation after all.
posted by middlethird at 9:45 AM on December 11, 2013 [1 favorite]

Thank you for these answers. Lots of good suggestions and I appreciate the help.
posted by 99percentfake at 7:04 PM on December 11, 2013

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