Reinventing the reel : the "omni" text in nonlinear film discourses /

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Frame, Jeffrey
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Middle Tennessee State University
Narrative films have experimented with nonlinear storytelling structures since the beginning of film history. However, over the past 20 years, nonlinear narratives in film have become increasingly more popular. As these forms have gained momentum, filmmakers invoke them, from time to time, with a growing complexity and ingenuity. Even so, the study of what we often hear referred to in film criticism and commentary as the "nonlinear film"---an idea that distinctly challenges the strong temporal dependency of film art as opposed to the definitively lesser temporal demands of the written word---is alarmingly scant during a millennial transition when creative storytelling, particularly storytelling expressed through film, wants to reinvent itself in a rapidly expanding cloud of digital convergences internationally.
With the understanding that nonlinear films seem to serve as one valuable barometer of contemporary cinematic creativity since the early 1990s and stand apart from other alternate plot structures, the purpose of this study is to provide a discrete theory of nonlinear discourse in film and, in the process, delineate precisely what constitutes a nonlinear film (and what does not), how nonlinear films are constructed and work structurally, and how they signify thematically. What qualities do nonlinear films essentially share? How do they give polychronic primacy to a film narrative and what might this priority mean thematically, if anything? Are nonlinear films useful in terms of cinematic storytelling or tapping into film's potential as an art form and why should we care as viewers? Using selected narratological tools, a textual approach to reader-response criticism, and an ontological lens through which to perceive and interpret a fuller grasp of time, this study hopes to respond meaningfully to questions like these and determine what the ultimate usefulness of nonlinear films may be.
Adviser: David Lavery.