Film Flashbacks Example Thesis Chapter


A narrative device used in Film (as in literature) to go back in time to an earlier moment in a character’s life and/or history, and to narrate that moment. Flashbacks, then, are most clearly marked as subjective moments within that narrative. Flashbacks are a cinematic representation of memory and of history and, ultimately, of subjective truth. (Hayward, 1996)

The flashback is a privileged moment in unfolding that juxtaposes different moments of temporal reference. A juncture is wrought between present and past and two concepts are implied in this juncture: memory and history. (Turim, 2013)

Oldboy 2003 Movie Poster Small
Oldboy 2003 a film by Park Chan-wook

Oldboy (2003) Directed by Park Chan-wook. The film starts immediately into a flashback or in this case a flashforward sequence, this is due to where this sequence is positioned in the timeline of the film, however the audience would not be aware that this is a flashforward, due to there being no preceding historical reference, this is not a memory of an event from Dae-su’s past. We see a dishevelled man dressed in a suit and restraining another man by his tie, this man, also wearing a suit and for an unexplained reason incongruously holding a small white dog. They are on the roof of a tall building, the man with the dog hanging precariously at the buildings edge over a long drop to the street below. The only thing stopping that fall from happening and the man and dog’s imminent death is the other man holding his tie, this is a suicide attempt, interrupted by the man grabbing at the tie. “I just wanted to talk” he says, “who are you” says the other, “my name is” we see a troubled face, a man struggling to remember his name as the camera zooms closer into a face that is hard to see but we see a man struggling to remember his name as we jump cut to a matching shot this time of a business man with a bloody nose, Dae-su he says. Is this the man from the roof, whose face we couldn’t really see and who struggled to remember his own name? What could have happened to this man, that brought him to the top of a tall building and without any memory of who he is? As the scene continues and Dae-su exits the building there is a loud crash and we see the body of the man falling onto a parked car, crushing the roof as the dog falls from the dead man’s hands.

Oldboy 2003 Roof Scene
Roof scene from Oldboy (2003)

The use of a flashback/flashforward in this context I believe was to ether prepare or further disorientate the audience for what is to come, leave them with open questions, for example what did happen to the business man, how did he come to find himself on the roof of a building preventing a suicide attempt, while not knowing who he is and what where the events that led him to be in this situation? The use of a flashforward is relatively unusual and rarely used when compared with the common use of flashbacks to link back to a past event, a memory from a character’s history. This may be very confusing to the audience, because the conventional use of a flashback is to reveal a past memory, a personal memory of this character, that is, in this businessman’s past, the audience is probably thinking, is this something that Dae-su is remembering? After viewing more of the film, we know that this flashback is a link to something that will happen to this businessman’s future self, in 15 years’ time and with hindsight this flashforward makes more sense. This presumably was an editorial choice made by the director, for without this opening sequence the film would have started with the somewhat less dramatic opening and the audience being introduced to the main character, Dae-su waiting to be processed in a Police Station, nursing a bloody nose and still very drunk, rather than the life and death situation at the top of a tall building.

Oldboy (2003) Octopus scene
Oldboy (2003) eating a live Octopus

Some flashbacks directly involve a quest for the answer to an enigma posed in the beginning of a narrative through a return to the past. (Turim, 2013)

Oldboy (2003) Hallucination of a giant Ant
Oldboy (2003) Mi-do hallucinates a giant Ant on the subway train.

In the next flashback scene which involves his daughter Mi-do, Mi-do is reading Dae-su journals and his description of ants crawling all over him, devouring from the inside, while he is held captive, as this develops into a discussion on loneliness the camera starts to zoom in, to a close up of Mi-do’s face, just as a subway train seemingly appears over her left shoulder until it fills the entire frame. We cut to an internal shot of the train; we see a young Mi-do looking towards the back of the carriage. In a reverse shot we look through the appendages of a giant ant. From Mi-do’s viewpoint we see the giant ant seated at the back of the train, the image is blurred like a distant memory is being recalled, which becomes more blurred as we return to a close up of the young Mi-do’s face.

Oldboy (2003) Mi-do Flashback matching shots
Oldboy (2003) Mi-do flashback matching shots

As the young Mi-do wipes her hands across her face there is a jump cut to the current timeline as Mi-do completes the hand movement across her face, we are out of the flashback and back to the present. This flashback appears to be of a memory of a hallucination she had rather than a memory of actual events A shared hallucination with Dae-su and therefore could this be related to the hypnotism we later learn both characters were subjected to? Dae-su in his cell and Mi-do at the restaurant where she works, this is revealed in another flashback where the hypnotist visits her at her work. Ants also have a significance in the South Korean creation mythology, the great flood, and Namu Doryeong, who is saved from the flood by floating on a tree and then proceeds to save first a family of ants, then mosquitos until he saves all the worlds animals. (Anon, 2018)

It seems appropriate at this point to talk about framing decisions made by the director, in each of these flashbacks. The character who is shown to be experiencing the flashback and whose memory this is, is positioned central in the frame and then using a zoom action or scale in to a close up filling the screen until we just see a head shot. When coming out of the flashback and returning to the current timeline the camera zooms out to a matching shot of the character in the current timeline who is also centrally positioned in the frame. To do this successfully requires great attention to detail in the pre-production stage. Matching shots between scenes and matching the framing takes planning, although exact matching can be achieved in the post-production stage using scale function but of course only if the shot has been taken during filming or taken at a later date as a pick-up shot.

Though avant-garde and art cinema and memory films constitute privileged locations for investigating cinema’s relation to memory, those relations extend to almost every genre and every period of film history—shadowing, if not coinciding exactly with the history of the flashback. (Radstone, 2010)

Dae-su clues lead him to the Millstone Hair Saloon to find out more about Lee Soo-ah. As he listens to the woman recalling past memories he is somewhat distracted, repeatedly looking to her knees as if trying to recall a memory, a key event from his past, then as the door opens, and a woman enters the Millstone Hair Saloon to the sound of the ringing of the door entry bell, the camera tracks down to the women’s bare knees and suddenly Dae-su seems to remember. The scene cuts to a flashback of a young Dae-su and his memory of a young women riding a red bicycle, accompanied by the ringing of the cycles bell and the pumping knees of the girl prominent in the framing. All these elements are used to match with the scene set in the present with this memory from Dea-su past. This is the memory of the first meeting between Dae-su and his antagonist, Lee Woo-jin and his sister Lee Soo-ah.

Bordwell says flashbacks can be initiated by any number and indeed types of cues. “For instance, there are several cues for a flashback in a classical Hollywood film: pensive character attitude, close-up of face, slow dissolve, voice-over narration, sonic ‘flashback,’ music. In any given case, several of these will be used together. In another mode of film practice, such as that of the European ‘art cinema’ of the 1960s, the same general paradigm governs a movement into flashback, but the conventional cues are not so redundant (e.g., pensive close-up but with no music or dissolve). The classical paradigm thus often lets the filmmaker choose how to be redundant, but seldom how redundant to be.” (Bordwell, Staiger and Thompson, 2002) p5

Shop woman’s knees
Girl on cycle knees
Shop Bell rings
Cycle Bell rings





This flashback sequence uses several elements, the ringing of the hair saloons shop bell, the visuals of the customers knees linking to the visuals and audio of the cycles bell and the bare knees of Lee Soo-ah riding the cycle around the school playground. This breaks away from the visual cues apparent in the preceding flashbacks, instead of matching shots of close ups of faces, in this instance matching visuals of the two bells, the bare knees and audio from the shop bell and the cycle bell. Contained within this flashback is the reason for the conflict, the basis for the entire film and the reason for Lee Woo-jin and his his vengeance on Dae-su. This is a good example for one of the key reasons for the use of flashbacks in film and literature as Radstone says “The flashback is a crucial moment in a film narrative, one that captures the cinematic expression of memory, and history.” (Radstone, 2010).

Oldboy (2003) Adult Dae-su and young Dae-su share the memory in a flashback sequence
Oldboy (2003) Adult Dae-su and young Dae-su share the memory in a flashback sequence

The flashback of the younger Dae-su and his first encounter with Lee Soo-ah is also observed by the adult Dae-su in this flashback, Dae-su, a spectator in his own memory of this crucial event. He follows his younger self in the flashback and sees what he sees from a different perspective, while remembering the event as it unfolds its causality, leading to everything that has happened to him, one of the contributing factors for his being incarcerated for 15 years. The flashback ends with the adult Dae-su walking away from the camera to a voice over by Mi-do “ No way, you were locked up for just saying that?”.

The flashback involving Mi-do and the hypnotherapist in the restaurant cannot be a memory of either Dae-su or Woo-jin as they were not present in that scene. This scene set in Woo-jin’s Penthouse Woo-jin describes how both Dae-su and Mi-do have both been hypnotised. As neither were participants in this event there is a change to the visuals in the flashback sequence, this flashback differs from the previous flashbacks, for this time there is a jump cut into the flashback sequence, without any attempt at matching shots as there where in all the others. However, within the flashback, the image of Mi-do being hypnotised cross dissolves into the matching image of Dae-su also being hypnotised in a different location. The flashback continues set in the restaurant and by using a split screen with Woo-jin in one side and the flashback sequence in the other, he continues to narrate the scenario in the flashback as he understands it, rather than as he remembers it, until the flashback sequence ends as Dae-su is revealed later in the flashback to be unconscious from the post hypnotic suggestion and is seated in the back a car driving away in the company of Mi-do presumably to Mi-do’s home. Leaving behind a devasted Dae-su, Woo-jin exits his Penthouse via the elevator, cue music while Woo-Jin appears to reach out to a hand extended from beneath him, from the floor of the elevator, there is a jump cut to a younger Woo-jin standing at the ledge of dam desperately holding his sisters wrist as she attempts suicide, falling to the waters surface, distantly below. She reaches out to the camera hanging around his neck and takes one last photo of herself. In the flashback the scene alternates between images of Woo-jin’s younger and adult self as the scene plays out, with the younger Woo-jin losing his grip on his sisters’ wrist who then falls to her death.

Oldboy (2003) flashback to Lee soo-ah death at the dam
Oldboy (2003) flashback to Lee soo-ah death at the dam

But then the scene switches again, back to the adult Woo-jin standing at the edge of the dam looking at his empty hand, the hand that lost its grip on his sisters’ wrist.

Oldboy (2003) flashback to Woo-jin hand forming the shape of a gun before his suicide in the elevator
Oldboy (2003) flashback to Woo-jin hand forming the shape of a gun before his suicide in the elevator

As he looks at his hand it begins to clench forming the shape of a gun, there is a jump cut back to Woo-jin in the elevator, he has just shot himself in the head, the shots matched between the clenched hand in the flashback and the current timeline where he holds a gun to kill himself. In this flashback Woo-jin was a participant, this was his memory of the event and so the screen visuals matched going into and out of the flashback. His right hand seemingly reaching out and holding his sisters wrist in the elevator which becomes the top of the dam and his empty hand at the end of the flashback forming the shape of the gun, which initiates the end of the memory and of the flashback, as his clenched hand becomes a real gun in the elevator.

If the film depicts a flashback, the jump back in time can be attributed to a character’s memory; the act of remembering thus motivates the flashback. (Bordwell, Staiger and Thompson, 2002) p30

Technical Notes Oldboy (2003) (IMDB)

Runtime 2 hr (120 min)
1 hr 41 min (101 min) (India)
Sound Mix Dolby Digital
Color Color
Aspect Ratio 2.35 : 1
Camera Arriflex 435, Zeiss Ultra Prime and Angenieux Optimo Lenses
Arriflex 535B, Zeiss Ultra Prime and Angenieux Optimo Lenses
Negative Format 35 mm (Kodak)
Cinematographic Process Digital Intermediate (master format)
Super 35 (source format)
Printed Film Format 35 mm (anamorphic)


  • Anon (2018) Korean Folktales – Korea Blog – Inspire Me Korea Blog. Available at: (Accessed: 21 February 2020).
  • Bordwell, D., Staiger, J. and Thompson, K. (2002) The classical Hollywood Cinema Film Style & Mode of Production to 1960.
  • Oldboy (2003) – Technical Specifications – IMDb (2003). Available at: (Accessed: 9 March 2020).
  • Hayward, S. (1996) Key concepts in cinema studies. London ; New York: Routledge.
  • Radstone, S. (2010) ‘Cinema and memory’, in Memory: Histories, Theories, Debates. Fordham University Press, pp. 325–342.
  • Turim, M. (2013) Flashbacks in film: Memory & history, Flashbacks in Film: Memory & History. Taylor and Francis. doi: 10.4324/9781315851761.

More Flashbacks in film

Week 16, February 17th and 21st

Mi-do on subway train

Supervisor Meeting 17/02/2020

Attending: Ian Hunt , Bruce Bennett

Feedback on my essay notes –  Films in Flashback.

  • Wrong to state that the films have nothing in common, when they have so much in common.
  • Auteur directors’ films make good case studies and what is interesting about these films is that they are good examples of film form and playing with film form. You should use them to make your argument.
  • Not narrated entirely in Flashback – Yes, I corrected this statement on my blog page.
  • Flashback devices – must be much more detailed, you could easily make a 10,000-word chapter using these film examples. Lots of ways a flashback can be motivated – obvious is a problematic term. Explain in detail these devices.
  • Look in detail at the Limey as the flashbacks are not always memory related?
  • The question is what is a flashback showing us?
  • American film is realist, doesn’t risk itself with a narrative from a single character’s point of view. God like perspective, but in a flashback, we are brought into a single character’s point of view.
  • Flashbacks can be confusing, clarifying and disruptive, look in detail at this aspect, shot by shot, consider audio, visuals.
  • In the Limey the flashbacks try to emulate memory – faded, out of focus.


  1. Ongoing project – Write a chapter about the use of flashbacks in film. Use the same films and look in detail at some of the key sequences maybe the first 3 minutes or in detail of any flashback sequence. 10K+
  2. Ongoing project – Research and write a chapter about film as a memory piece.
  3. For the next supervisor meetings writing piece, write a detailed piece about one of these films in preference The Notebook or The Limey rather than then The Grand Budapest Hotel.
  4. OK to use flashbacks in my film practice (as I had originally planned). What about experimental use of flashbacks – investigate and experiment their uses in documentary.
  5. Check out the book from the library ‘The Classical Hollywood Cinema – done, read chapter 4.
  6. Watch Rashomon – it’s a good example of what we see in flashbacks cannot be real.
  7. I suggested watch Meet Joe Black (1999) as an example of causality.
  8. Watch Casablanca for examples of a classic films use of flashbacks.
  9. Writing Style – find a style that I like for example. Richard Dyer check out his books. He moves from close analysis of film, film theory and film history, simple writing style that is clear to read. But pick a style that engages me.
  10. I suggested going on the academic writing course if it is PhD level.

Flashbacks in film

Oldboy (2003) Movie PosterStarted writing an example chapter for my thesis on Flashbacks in films. I decided to use the South Korean Film Oldboy (2003) as one of the films to analyse along with a greater, more in depth analysis of The Limey (1999) and possibly The Notebook (2004). There are several other possibilities to consider primarily those films created by Auteur Directors, Independent films rather than mainstream Hollywood studio films.


Flashbacks in film

The Notebook Duke reading to Allie

FLASHBACK : A narrative device used in Film (as in literature) to go back in time to an earlier moment in a character’s life and/or history, and to narrate that moment. Flashbacks, then, are most clearly marked as subjective moments within that narrative. Flashbacks are a cinematic representation of memory and of history and, ultimately, of subjective truth. (Hayward, 1996)

The flashback is a privileged moment in unfolding that juxtaposes different moments of temporal reference. A juncture is wrought between present and past and two concepts are implied in this juncture: memory and history. (Turim, 2013)


Hayward, S. (1996) Key concepts in cinema studies. London ; New York: Routledge.

Turim, M. (2013) Flashbacks in film: Memory & history, Flashbacks in Film: Memory & History. Taylor and Francis. doi: 10.4324/9781315851761.

Week 15, February 10th to 14th.


After the previous weeks meetings I had a list of people and organisations to contact as possible participants and future collaborations in the films production.

  • Contacted the Palace Cinema in Preston – they have cinema screenings for people living with dementia.
  • Contacted a small company that runs training courses and provides entertainment services in care homes using vintage objects from the 1940s.
  • Contacted a musician and songwriter to discuss future collaboration on the film.


My research into the conceptualisation of their use in film has prompted my interest in incorporating them into my own film. I’m currently creating small sequences where these could be used as flashbacks in my own films.

One idea I’ve had is to set a poem about death, memory and loss to a dance sequence, after some research I’ve decided to use the poem Remember by Christina Rossetti. Although the poem appears to be more about death I believe it is also relevant to people living with dementia and their partners/carers who lose a bit of them each day as the memory loss increases.

Remember me when I am gone away,
Gone far away into the silent land;
When you can no more hold me by the hand,
Nor I half turn to go yet turning stay.
Remember me when no more day by day
You tell me of our future that you planned:
Only remember me; you understand
It will be late to counsel then or pray.

Yet if you should forget me for a while
And afterwards remember, do not grieve:
For if the darkness and corruption leave
A vestige of the thoughts that once I had,
Better by far you should forget and smile
Than that you should remember and be sad.

Christina Rossetti



Films in Flashback

The Limey Wilson in car scene

Films in Flashback.

While many directors and screenplay writers employ the flashback as a tool to enhance a character’s background or provide additional information to a scene, there are those films that are narrated almost in their entirety in flashback. A central character, a protagonist, narrates the unfolding story to another character onscreen and therefore in turn to the audience either as the story unfolds in the book or as their memory of events.

  • The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014) Wes Anderson
  • The Notebook (2004) Nick Cassavetes
  • The Limey (1999) Steven Soderbergh

The Notebook movie poster smallThese films have very little in common other than that they are narrated entirely in flashback. In The Notebook (2004) the character Duke, played by James Garner reads from his notebook to a another resident Mrs Hamilton in a nursing home played by Gena Rowlands about the life of a young couple who met and fell in love in the 1940’s and before America entered the war in Europe. The premise of the film until the very end is that Garners character is reading the story of this young couple, Noah and Allie, in the 3rd person, as Allie’s character played by Rowlands is in late stage Dementia and remembers very little if anything of her past life, including family or friends and doesn’t even remember that Duke played by Garner has read this story to her many times. Later in the film we learn that is Duke is actually Noah and is telling their story as Mrs Hamilton, Rowlands (Allie) is his wife and they are the young couple featured in the story (Cassavetes, 2004)

The Grand Budapest Hotel movie poster smallThe Grand Budapest Hotel (2014) Interestingly, the story is told entirely in flashback by the Author (the young writer, played by Jude Law) who is actually retelling the story of another main character in the film Mr Mustafa (Zero), it is Mustafa’s memories of the events involving himself and his association with the other main character, Monsieur Gustave H (played by Ralph Fiennes) and the series of misadventures, that befall them when trying to claim the contents of a will, the valuable painting of ‘Boy with apple’. (Anderson, 2014)

In both these films there is no obvious cinematic device used to differentiate between the current timeline and the past timeline, by this I mean a dissolve or blurring of the image but the jump in timeline is differentiated by a change in look and character. in The Notebook (2004) it is the opening of the notebook and as Duke (Garner) begins to read, the timeline switches to the 1940’s and the audience can identify with the change, this transition as the characters also change to their younger selves, they are played by the younger actors, Duke (Noah) played by Ryan Gosling and Mrs Hamilton (Allie) played by Rachel McAdams. However, in The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014) while there are no obvious uses of the flashback visual tools, that is a cut to a dissolve or blurring to identify the shift from the timeline of the Authors meeting with Mr Mustafa that is, Zero (set in the 1960s) and the recounted timeline (1930’s) however there is a marked change in the production design (Colours) and the choice of cinematic aspect ratio with the 1980’s shot in 1:85.1 format, the 1960’s in 2:35.1 widescreen anamorphic and finally the 1930’s shot in academy ratio 1:375.1. The hotel in the 1960’s is drab, mainly brown or as Wes says “his idea of the communist era, which is olive green and orange” while also appearing run down, meanwhile the 1930’s Hotel is bright, very pink and vibrant like a “wedding cake”. (Wes Anderson on the Colors and Ratios of ’The Grand Budapest Hotel – YouTube, 2015)

The Limey movie poster smallThe Limey (1999) Interesting example of the use of flashbacks, with the creative use of the editing process that seems to make it appear as if the film is always looking backwards or as the Director suggests, representing the fragmentation of Wilsons memory. There are flashbacks within flashbacks and flashbacks looking much further back, into a past with a young Wilson and young Jenny, these flashbacks were dropped into the edit from another film directed by Ken Loach, Poor Cow (1967) this works so well that the audience doesn’t have to imagine a younger Wilson or Jenny they can link directly through to the characters past and Wilsons memories of a young Jenny in the use of footage showing a young Terence Stamp playing the role of a petty criminal in Poor Cow (1967).

Poor Cow 1967

Of course, this somewhat relies on the audience not being aware that this footage is from another film made in 1967, however their use as a flashback make perfect sense. The grainy visuals from an earlier time using old film stock perfectly fitting into the flashback concept of showing memories from an earlier time. The film is designed, according to Soderbergh, to reflect on how human memory functions, we remember past events in fragments triggered by events, objects or any of the sensory inputs. “It’s a graphic depiction of the fragmentary nature of memory, editor Sarah Flack turning the shards of story into fleeting reflections that capture Jenny between shifting planes of recollection”. (Gurd, 2019) The same can be said of Wilson, his memories are fragmented, recollections of Jenny on the beach, her threatening to call the Police on him if he does anything bad, which later becomes important in the final scenes of the film and may have influenced Wilsons decision not to go through with the killing of Valentine. “Soderbergh creates an historical symmetry between past/present and Valentine/Wilson with identical scenes of Jenny as a young girl threatening to expose her father’s criminal activity and the older Jenny in a similar situation with Valentine (holding a telephone in both cases). The closer Wilson gets to the truth the more he comes to realize his own complicity as an absent father in her daughter’s death.” (Totaro, 2002)

Soderbergh says “Given its premise, it seemed there was some possibility to recraft it into a memory piece”. (Fear, 2019) Eduardo shares his experiences of being with Jenny through flashbacks, those of her confrontation with the men at the warehouse for example, the same men that Wilson later shoots dead after his beating at the warehouse.

Flashbacks triggered by a sound, a smell or indeed anything can trigger these memories and while in the film these triggers are not always visible on screen, we can imagine that they are there, experienced by Wilson, triggering these memories of his fragmented past life with his daughter, Jenny, while in and out of prison.


The Limey shooting ValentineWilson also experiences a flashforward, a prolepsis, initiated I suspect by Wilson finding a solitary photograph of his daughter, Jenny, at the top of the stairs, during his wandering around Valentines home, these flashforwards appear as alternative futures and all violent, in the scene when Wilson visualises the alternative options/outcomes of killing Valentine, by shooting him, only to be stopped at the moment of execution by Eduardo.

Soderbergh says “We created or tried to create, meaning and emotion through repetition and juxtaposition, which again, is something that’s unique to movies. The ability to mold something and then change the meaning or alter the meaning just by reordering and repeating things, that’s unique in film.” (Boucher, 2019)

What is the purpose of the Flashback?

The Notebook Duke reading to AllieIn The Notebook (2004) the flashbacks are like many examples of the flashback usage in film, it is used to link to a past, a past in this case forgotten in its entirety by Allie. Duke uses the notebook as a form of misdirection, so as not to be seen as recalling from his own memories, in the retelling of what is their story. Duke appears to read from his book in the hope that Allie will regain her memory of their past life together through his readings. In many respects this misdirection works, as Allie believes the story is of a couple unknown to her, just an interesting story of young love until she has a lucid moment and she remembers that Duke is her husband and the story he has been telling her, is their own. One of the possible reasons for this filmmaking approach is to also keep the audience guessing until the point in the film that it becomes clear that they and the young couple visited in the flashbacks are one and the same and then from this point to keep the audience interest and the suspense, in the hope that at some point Allie will remember their past life together.

The Grand Budapest Hotel Authors StatueThe Grand Budapest Hotel (2014) from the opening scene, of the girl at the statue of the Author, she is carrying a copy of his book and we assume that from this book the whole film is told in a flashback through each of its different times of the past life of the author and the past life through the memories of Mustafa retold from his initial meeting with Mustafa in the spa and then continued at a shared evening meal in the hotels restaurant. In many respects a similar approach to that used in The Notebook (2004). Anderson himself relates that the idea for the film came from a series of books that he was reading by Austrian author Stefan Zweig. “The Grand Budapest Hotel has elements that were sort of stolen from both these books. Two characters in our story are vaguely meant to represent Zweig himself — our “Author” character, played by Tom Wilkinson” (Prochnik, 2014)

Note: It would be interesting to consider films that also use this approach, that is, the concept of reading from a book to tell a story in flashback, for example The Never Ending Story (1984) and The Princess Bride (1987)

The Limey (1999) This film was effectively created in the post-production stage, in the editing processes. We learn from interviews with the director Steven Soderbergh that the first edit of the film was in a typical linear progression and then following a screening he decided with his editor to fragment the footage by creating a non-linear timeline using flashbacks for the film, to better represent the seemingly fragmented memory and to explain the actions of Wilson. We return to the same shot of Wilson seated on the plane several times, these seemingly breaking up the linear sequence or returning the audience through flashbacks to the current timeline and with this also to Wilsons thought processes. So, I feel it is this single shot of Wilson seated on the plane returning to London, which initiates the flashbacks and what can be the confusion of a film that is always looking backwards.

The Limey Wilson on plane screenshot

Confusingly one of these images of Wilson on the plane can also be seen as a flashforward, the first time we see Wilson seated on the plane at the beginning of the film, which seems to be of him travelling from London to the America but is actually the direct opposite. The opening sequence of Wilson shot at the Los Angeles airport, is of his departure back to London, we never see his London departure or his arrival in Los Angeles. The subsequent on plane images seemingly preceding flashbacks to his pursuit of revenge for his daughters killing. Totaro thinks that “To read that first airplane image as a flashforward and the film a flashback makes sense of most of the film, but not all because there are several scenes in which Wilson could not have been present.” (Totaro, 2002) I’m not sure if I am in total agreement with this statement because like all memories they can be derived from actual experience or based on inference and imagination of a situation or event, indeed a collective memory.

The flashback is a privileged moment in unfolding that juxtaposes different moments of temporal reference. A juncture is wrought between present and past and two concepts are implied in this juncture: memory and history. (Turim, 2013)

Memory loss, erasure and representation in flashback


Anderson, W. (2014) The Grand Budapest Hotel · BoB. Available at: (Accessed: 31 January 2020).

Boucher, G. (2019) ‘The Limey’ At 20: Steven Soderbergh Revisits His “Vortex Of Terror” – Deadline. Available at: (Accessed: 10 February 2020).

Cassavetes, N. (2004) The Notebook. Amazon Prime. Available at: ONLINE Accessed 30/01/2020.

Fear, D. (2019) Steven Soderbergh on the 20th Anniversary of ‘The Limey’ – Rolling Stone. Available at: (Accessed: 5 February 2020).

Gurd, J. (2019) Reflections Of Jenny: THE LIMEY At 20 | Birth.Movies.Death. Available at: (Accessed: 4 February 2020).

Prochnik, G. (2014) ‘I stole from Stefan Zweig’: Wes Anderson on the author who inspired his latest movie – Telegraph. Available at: (Accessed: 10 February 2020).

Totaro, D. (2002) The Limey – Offscreen. Available at: (Accessed: 10 February 2020).

Turim, M. (2013) Flashbacks in film: Memory & history, Flashbacks in Film: Memory & History. Taylor and Francis. doi: 10.4324/9781315851761.

Wes Anderson on the Colors and Ratios of ’The Grand Budapest Hotell – YouTube (2015). Available at: (Accessed: 3 February 2020).

Week 14, Feb 3rd to 7th Feb

The Limey

Film meetings

Lyrics and Lunch

Arranged to meet with the person running Lyrics and Lunch events at St Thomas’s Church this Friday. They run meeting for people and their carers living with dementia. Group singing and a meal. I’m hoping that there are interesting people with a story to tell and maybe some music for the film.

The Bay Information Hub

Met with Penny Foulds to discuss the next steps in making the film. Added a couple of new contacts who might be interested in a collaboration and participation in the film.Supervisor meeting on the Monday:

Supervisor Meeting

  • Supervisory meeting 03/02/2020
  • Attended by Dr Bruce Bennett and Dr Maryam Ghorbankarimi
  • Key points

1. Continue with my research into the use of flashbacks in films.
2. Research the history of flashbacks.
3. Research the function of the flashback.
4. Have another look at the film The Limey as an example of a film told entirely in flashback. I’ve seen it many years ago on TV but not looking for meaning in the flashbacks.
5. Revisit the experimental filmmaker Jonas Mekas films.

Look again at my writing style which can be interpreted as film review, rather than a scholarly analysis of a film.

Mulholland Drive






Are some filmmakers trying to confuse the audience in their use of flashbacks or just confusing generally? Dark City for example, a guy wakes up in a hotel room with no memory in a world with no sun and controlled by strange beings. Mulholland Drive, has been said to be like a series of short films with no connection to each other, a collage that in the end delivers no answers. Twelve Monkeys where to start? Bruce Willis is sent back in time to find out who created the virus which has devastated the future, which seems reasonable, but the film is wonderfully chaotic and confusing as hell to watch.

Continued writing an essay on films told seemingly in flashback, my film examples include:- The Notebook (2004), The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014) and The Limey (1999). On the face of it there seems to be little to connect these films other than they are a representation of memory but they are linked through there use of flashbacks to narrate the extensive parts of the film and 2 of these films use a book as a device for the flashbacks, while The Limey uses a letter and a collection of photographs.