Looking for film/lit examples of pre-destined relationships
January 24, 2014 2:00 PM   Subscribe

There's a trope in literature/film where one character is pre-destined to have a particular relationship with another character (e.g., A and B will always fall in love). I'm looking for examples where this happens multiple times with the same characters.

For example, you could have a story where there are multiple realities, but A always ends up murdering B, no matter how the reality starts. Or you could have a story where A falls in love with B and then, during a rough spell in their relationship, ends falls in love with an online stranger who was actually B all along.

What are some movies, books, songs, tv shows, etc that use this trope?

Bonus question: what is this trope called? Kismet? Soul-mates (but not for good things always)? My wanderings around tvtropes.org haven't led to anything that feels right.
posted by eisenkr to Writing & Language (41 answers total) 18 users marked this as a favorite
Daughter of Smoke and Bone!
posted by goodbyewaffles at 2:05 PM on January 24, 2014

Cloud Atlas the movie does this, albeit rather clumsily in my opinion. I thought the book was a bit more subtle.

Aronofsky's The Fountain does it, as does The Butterfly Effect.

This is a theme I like a lot, so I'll be watching this thread, too!
posted by chatongriffes at 2:06 PM on January 24, 2014

Dead Again?
posted by Melismata at 2:07 PM on January 24, 2014 [3 favorites]

tvtropes coughed up Love Transcends Spacetime. Is that what you're looing for?
posted by MonkeyToes at 2:07 PM on January 24, 2014

Does the character of Agrajag from the Hitchhiker's Guide franchise count? He becomes aware that his soul is being reincarnated again and again, only because by a series of unhappy coincidences, Arthur Dent kills him every single reincarnation.
posted by radwolf76 at 2:11 PM on January 24, 2014 [2 favorites]

There's a kind of weird trope in contemporary Dracula adaptations in which Mina Harker is the reincarnation of Dracula's one true love--e.g., Coppola's Dracula and Karen Essex's novel Dracula in Love (in which Mina has gone through multiple incarnations, according to D).
posted by thomas j wise at 2:11 PM on January 24, 2014

Sliding Doors turns into this at the very end.
posted by EmpressCallipygos at 2:12 PM on January 24, 2014

Midnight Bayou? (I read the book but I am assuming the movie is the same.)
posted by mochapickle at 2:13 PM on January 24, 2014

This is the crux of the relationship between Serena/Usagi/Sailor Moon/Neo-Queen Serenity and Darien/Mamoru/Tuxedo Mask/King Endymion.

Oh dang, it is a good day when I get to bust out a Sailor Moon reference.
posted by These Birds of a Feather at 2:13 PM on January 24, 2014 [4 favorites]

tvtropes coughed up Love Transcends Spacetime. Is that what you're looing for?

It's really more Reincarnation Romance.
posted by zamboni at 2:14 PM on January 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

Bioshock Infinite does this extraordinarily well (if you are looking at video games also).
posted by mochapickle at 2:15 PM on January 24, 2014

also, there is an episode of Buffy where this happens. "I Only Have Eyes for You." Teacher/student romantic relationship that ended badly; their ghosts keep possessing the bodies of current students and forcing them to re-enact the end of the relationship, causing death and mayhem etc.
posted by goodbyewaffles at 2:16 PM on January 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (Jim Carrey and Kate Winslet break up and delete each other from their memories, but end up meeting and falling in love again, not realizing that they previously dated. I believe there's even a deleted scene that has another character telling us that they've done this many more times over the course of many years)
posted by sunset in snow country at 2:16 PM on January 24, 2014 [5 favorites]

The Shop Around the Corner is the original version of You've Got Mail. A and B hate each other in real life, but fall in love as pen pals, not knowing the pen pal is the person they hate.
posted by NoraCharles at 2:19 PM on January 24, 2014

The Gargoyle
posted by Serene Empress Dork at 2:26 PM on January 24, 2014

Butterfly Effect with Ashton Kutcher.
posted by bleep at 2:31 PM on January 24, 2014

It's been decades since I've seen it, but I thought Somewhere In Time had something like a pre-destined relationship.
posted by janey47 at 2:40 PM on January 24, 2014

There's a lot of YA with this, particularly YA written by LJ Smith. One notable example is the rather obviously named Soulmate.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 2:45 PM on January 24, 2014

Vampire Diaries (TV show version) - Two of the characters are "doppelgangers" who are fated to fall in love in every incarnation.
posted by robocop is bleeding at 2:49 PM on January 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

Sandra Bullock in Practical Magic, though it's technically a spell she cast as a child, setting the exact characteristics of the man she would love. All her other lovers were cursed and died after being with her.

Otto and Ana in Los Amantes del Círculo Polar.
posted by ipsative at 2:51 PM on January 24, 2014

Robert Jordan's Wheel of Time features souls reborn, and two characters of varying importance are bound this way- literally, they always become lovers, if I recall right
posted by Jacen at 3:10 PM on January 24, 2014

The YA novel "Midwinterblood" by Marcus Sedgwick.

There's some interesting playing with the trope in the manga series "Please Save My Earth," where a group of teenagers are the reincarnations of ancient scientists living on the moon, but things are more complicated than they initially appear.
posted by Jeanne at 3:11 PM on January 24, 2014

Only You with Robert Downey and Marisa Tomei. Serendipity with John Cusack and Kate Beckinsale.
posted by madstop1 at 3:18 PM on January 24, 2014

"One Day" - Blurb: "...the drama-laced, "When Harry Met Sally" dashed English fairytale featuring Hathaway and Jim Sturgess has hit the internet, outlining the plot and melodrama in the big screen adaptation of the best selling book.

The plot, as is apparent from the trailer, involves quiet Emma (Hathaway) meeting playboy Dexter (Sturgess) upon their college graduation, and the twenty year, very frustrating friendship the two endure as their lives go in separate directions."

Also, does You've Got Mail count?
posted by quincunx at 3:19 PM on January 24, 2014

Oh, and Mercedes Lackey's Valdemar, especially the Magic's Pawn/Promise/Price books.
posted by PhoBWanKenobi at 3:19 PM on January 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

For a non-love example, in the Sandman comic series, Cain murders Abel. Again and again and again and again. They're referred to as The First Murderer and The First Victim, respectively. (It's natural to initially think they're Cain and Abel from the Bible, but it's later suggested that they are older archetypes and predate the biblical story.)
posted by DevilsAdvocate at 3:35 PM on January 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

Made in Heaven with Kelly McGillis and Timothy Hutton and Next Stop Wonderland.
posted by foxhat10 at 4:12 PM on January 24, 2014

Oh and a very interesting book: Life after Life by Kate Atkinson. The protagonist is destined to meet up with Hitler. Probably the best story I'd read in a long time.
posted by foxhat10 at 4:16 PM on January 24, 2014 [3 favorites]

I think two characters in Kage Baker's Company books qualify for this.
posted by wintersweet at 4:37 PM on January 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

Perhaps 'The Years of Rice and Salt' by Kim Stanley Robinson.
posted by bq at 4:52 PM on January 24, 2014 [2 favorites]

The Black Jewels Trilogy, by Anne Bishop! Daemon and Jaenelle are destined to be together. It's about time for my, oh, twelfth-or-so reread.
posted by sevensnowflakes at 5:07 PM on January 24, 2014

Neal Stephenson's Baroque Trilogy & Cryptonomicon books features different generations of two families over several centuries unknowingly crossing paths and teaming up for similarly themed adventures. So, not exactly the same characters, but it's a variation on the idea.
posted by mannequito at 5:11 PM on January 24, 2014

Xenogears! In the video game Xenogears, which is a fast and loose retelling of Gnostic mythology plus giant mechas, multiple characters are continuously reborn with the same destinies. The game follows the final rebirth and the act of attempting to free everyone from the rebirth cycle.
posted by bfranklin at 5:13 PM on January 24, 2014

Seconding bq's The Years of Rice and Salt recommendation -- it's an alternate history running from the 14th to the 21st centuries, and although each chapter is set in a different place and time the characters of each are (through interstitial chapters set in bardo) explicitly stated to be reincarnations of previous versions. (It's also a very good book.)
posted by snarkout at 5:26 PM on January 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

Michael Swanwick's Iron Dragon's Daughter -- It's set in a fairy universe highly reminiscent of twentieth-century Earth, in which the protagonist keeps meeting sets of two people (a man and a woman) with the same True Names, and keeps enacting complicated variations on the same relationships with each of them. As Swanwick puts it here (but look out; spoilers!), "As to what's going on with K. and T. and Jane, well, you have to keep in mind that everything is given multiple and often conflicting explanations in the novel. But they're both permanently entangled with Jane's life."
posted by redfoxtail at 5:26 PM on January 24, 2014

Ken Grimwood's "Replay."

Shakespeare used some variation on this in Twelfth Night, Much Ado About Nothing, A Midsummer Night's Dream…judging by his comedies, Elizabethans apparently were very prone to mistaken identities. Or prone to be amused by them.
posted by adamrice at 8:02 PM on January 24, 2014 [1 favorite]

Adam and Eve is a lovestory spanning seven reincarnations of the protagonists, their love always ending tragically. The beginning is in Mesopotamia, the last incarnation in 1920s Romania (its a Romanian novel, published in 1925). Here an Amazon link.
posted by miorita at 8:39 PM on January 24, 2014

Dream of the Red Chamber (紅樓夢), which was written in the 1700s and became one of China's Four Great Classical Novels and which has an academic discipline devoted to it in Chinese scholarship, features this in the form of love in multiple lifetimes between reincarnated characters.
posted by XMLicious at 10:27 PM on January 24, 2014

On a hunch I went looking and found this passage in The Intimate Other: Love Divine in Indic Religions:
Deities like Krishna, Shiva, Vishnu and Rama, and various forms of Devi manifest in the world, respond to devotion with saving grace and are worshipped in various relational modes: as a servant, as a friend, as a mother, as a child, or in the passionate desire of a beloved for her lover. The lovers Krishna and Radha serve as divine models for the mutual love of God and devotee. Theirs is a love which shows itself in extremity of emotion, in ecstasy and intense longing, in despair and desperation at separation (viraha). Direct experience of Krishna is understood as ultimate bliss. Hardy points out that Krishna and Radha, as eternal lovers, are both separate and one. In the same way human beings are separated from the divine...
So what I'm thinking is, there may be a similar thing in other religions and mythologies, where a divine and transcendent relationship or interaction between deities is something that defines and connects similar, parallel relationships and interactions between mortals.
posted by XMLicious at 11:33 PM on January 24, 2014

The Fionavar Tapestry, by Guy Gavriel Kay, explores the classic Arthur/Guinevere/Lancelot triangle and suggests that it happens over and over again.

Eddings, of course, did the same thing but I don't think anyone past the age of 14 or so could or should be able to get through Belgariad and Malloreon.
posted by feckless fecal fear mongering at 5:03 AM on January 25, 2014

Two "dolls" in the Joss Whedon series Dollhouse - characters whose personalities are regularly re-written with new ones in order to perform various missions - keep falling in love no matter what personas they have been programmed with, and despite multiple attempts on the part of the scientists who manage them to erase their feelings for each other. I believe the characters are code-named Victor and Sierra.
posted by Rinku at 1:37 PM on January 25, 2014 [1 favorite]

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