Week 20, 16th March to 20th Coronavirus

NEWS Coronavirus NEWS

It’s been a difficult week with cancellations and closures.

I’d already decided to cancel all my face to face meetings with vulnerable people and groups that form a significant part of my film practice. It means that I will most likely not be able to begin any filming in the current year as hoped.

I had hoped to film some of the flashback sequences but with the closure of buildings and the closure of the kit room that now also seems to be unlikely as is the film society filming for the time being.

The LICA Building is expected to be closed from Monday 23rd until further notice.

On a very minor positive note this will be a good opportunity to continue the literary review and research  as long as access to resources like the library continues to be available. Also I expect with the social restrictions and gatherings I will be able to stay indoors and catch up on some of the many films I wanted to view.

Week 19, 9th March to 13th Coronavirus

NEWS Coronavirus effects classes and face to face meetings NEWS

Continuing working on the chapter notes for flashbacks in films.

Film analysis on the science fiction film Interstellar (2014)  and the drama The Lives of Others (2003). Both have flashbacks but they are used differently. links can be found here:-

The Lives of Others (2006) Movie Poster
Interstellar movie poster








Film Production

Arranged to meet with a professional dancer to work on one of my experimental film projects.

I discussed filming one half day in the Installation Studio and a second half day in an external location to be decided. The studio dance sequence is expected to have no music only a voiceover of the poem Remember and a special final frame to represent nothingness.

Coronavirus or Covid-19

This virus outbreak, the pandemic is starting to effect normal routines and methods of working, with face to face meetings and courses cancelled. Other restrictions are expected to be applied and therefore I will need to cancel all meetings and visits to vunerable people for the time being.

Flashbacks in Film: The Lives of Others (2006)

Flashbacks in films: The Lives of Others (2006)

Contains spoilers

The only permissible manipulation of story order is the flashback.(Bordwell, Staiger and Thompson, 2002)

Flashback …”any shot or scene that breaks into present-time action to show us something that happened in the past”.(Bordwell, 2009)

The Lives of Others (2006) Movie Poster

The Lives of Others (2006) a film by Florian Henckel von Donnersmarck. The opening sequence is a flashback to 1984 and to the interrogation of prisoner 227 who is suspected of being complicit in the escape of his neighbour from East Berlin to the West. As the film opens with this sequence the spectator is not initially aware that they are watching an event from the past, a memory of Heuptmann Gerd Wiesler, (HGW) played by Ulrich Mühe. As Bordwell says “You can begin the film at a climactic moment; once the viewers are hooked, they will wait for you to move back to set things up. You can create mystery about an event that the plot has skipped over, then answer the question through a flashback.” (Bordwell, 2009) In the flashback we see the interrogation of prisoner 227 from the start, meeting HGW for the first time.

Tape Recorder – starts and ends flashbacks

The flashback ends with a jump cut to a close up of a period design, reel to reel tape recorder, as the pause button is depressed the camera tilts up to reveal a classroom and HGW is teaching a class the process and methods of conducting an interview to a classroom of students. As HGW presses the play button on the tape recorder and the timeline jump cuts back into the flashback of the continuing interrogation of prisoner 227, it is much later in the interrogation process , prisoner 227 is tired and struggling to remain awake and the interrogator is actively preventing the prisoner from sleeping. Exiting the flashback to the visual of the tape recorder again with the camera zooming out to reveal the classroom once more.

The Lives of Others classroom

HGW asks the students a question regarding what they have heard on the tape, the prisoner is word perfect according to HGW this means the prisoner is lying having rehearsed his statement and his demeanour is wrong for an innocent man, he is docile also an indication that he has something to hide, a subject that was innocent would have been confused and angry at being interrogated. The camera follows HGW as he restarts the tape.

The Lives of Others, Prisoner 227 breaks down

The flashback continues in the interrogation room as prisoner 227 breaks down and confesses, giving up the name of the person who facilitated his neighbours escape. Exiting the flashback with a jump without the visual of the tape recorder but straight to the classroom, HGW asks the students what else did they hear? jump cut back to the interrogation room where HGW is observed to be dismantling the seat of the prisoner’s chair, removing the seat cover and placing it into a sealed jar. Jump cut back to the classroom the visual of the tape recorder appears to have been abandoned. HGW tells the class that it is the sound of the scent sample being removed and stored for the tracker dogs to be able to follow the scent should the prisoner escape. The scene closes with the sound of applause coming from HGW’s boss standing in the doorway, which is soon joined by the clapping from the students as the lesson ends.

The Lives of Others, HGW is listening

The convention established in the early scenes of the flashbacks being initiated and ended with the visual of the tape machine being played and paused was abandoned in the later scenes. This can be explained on the basis that as the spectator becomes aware of the convention for the flashbacks the jumps between the classroom and the interrogation room have become established by the change in the location and subject and the visual clues of the tape machine, the pressing of play to go into the memory of the interrogation and the operation of the pause button to stop playback and to re-enter the current timeline in the classroom becomes unnecessary. Bordwell says “Once flashbacks had become solid conventions, Sturges could risk pushing them in fresh directions.” (Bordwell, 2009) in reference to Preston Sturges script for the film The Power and the Glory (1933) an early example of a film that utilises flashbacks.


  • Bordwell, D. (2009) Observations on film art : Grandmaster flashback. Available at: http://www.davidbordwell.net/blog/2009/01/27/grandmaster-flashback/ (Accessed: 12 March 2020).
  • Bordwell, D., Staiger, J. and Thompson, K. (2002) The classical Hollywood Cinema Film Style & Mode of Production to 1960.

Technical Specs (IMDB)

Runtime 2 hr 17 min (137 min)
Sound Mix Dolby Digital
Color Color
Aspect Ratio 2.35 : 1
Camera Arriflex 535B, Hawk C- and V-Series Lenses
Laboratory CinePostproduction Geyer Berlin, Germany
Film Length 3,759 m (Sweden)
3,800 m (Portugal, 35 mm)
Negative Format 35 mm (Kodak Vision2 250D 5205, Vision2 500T 5218)
Cinematographic Process Hawk Scope (anamorphic)
Printed Film Format 35 mm

Journal Links

Case study (Part 3) Interstellar (2014)

Interstellar Mann's Planet

Interstellar (2014)

Contains Spoilers

The flashback concerns a representation of the past that intervenes within the present flow of film narrative. (Turim, 2013)

Interstellar movie poster

Interstellar (2014) a film by Christopher Nolan. Cooper played by Matthew McConaughey is coerced into piloting a space mission to save the human race from a dying Earth. Earth is experiencing a blight, its crops are failing, the soil blown across the land in an endless cloud of dust, much like the 1930’s American Dust Bowl. The mission is a lie there is no workable plan to save the Earth, the true mission is to locate a habitable planet and populate it with the human embryos carried aboard the spacecraft, the Earth and its people to be abandoned to their fate.


Interstellar Exploring Mann’s planet of ice

Flashbacks are used to link Cooper back to his past and to his daughter when she was a child on the family farm. On Mann’s ice planet Cooper, his faceplate cracked in the attempt on his life by Dr. Mann, Cooper struggles to breathe on the ice planet, flashback with a jump cut to the scene where Cooper presents his daughter with a watch. The watch a duplicate of his own, his intention that they can compare times when he arrives home from his mission in space. The flashback ends as Murphy flings the watch away from her and we cut back to the scene of Cooper on the planet still struggling to breathe. The reason for the flashback is not clear at this time, but later in the course of the film we will understand the importance of the watch, there’s usually always a reason for introducing something new into a film.

Interstellar Sending Binary code using the second hand of the watch

This watch is how Cooper communicates the essential data back to an older Murphy using binary code through the second hand of this watch. Murphy then uses this data so that she can complete the work on the gravity calculations and save the people of the Earth from the blight. In this case it could be argued to appear to be exactly as Bordwell says “The flashback is not presented as an overt explanation on the narration’s part; the narration simply presents what the character is recalling.” There does not seem to be a reason for Cooper to remember this memory from his past in this the moment of his imminent death from asphyxiation. However the flashback sequence does appear to fill a gap in the narration and presents a reminder to the spectator of the importance of the two watches as the film progresses.

Interstellar Inside the Tesseract BTS

In another flashback near to the end of the film, Cooper enters the Black Holes event horizon. He sees Murph and himself repeated ad infinitum, throughout the three-dimensional space created by the fifth-dimensional beings (we later suspect from Tars to be humans from the future). Each version a flashback in itself, back to memories of Coopers and Murphy’s past, these memories of receiving what we now know are messages that appear within her bedroom. The books fallen from the bookshelves attributed by Murphy’s to the poltergeist, also the altered gravity revealed by the tracks in the dust. The answer to Murphy’s poltergeist and the manipulation of objects and gravity is her own father in a future three-dimensional space where while in the Tesseract he pushes against the books from a relative position in space but seemingly behind the bookcase. Strumming the strings of gravity to create the gravity lines in the dust on Murphy’s bedroom floor.
Jump cut to the memory of Cooper slamming shut Murphy’s bedroom window as the dust storm rages around the house revealing the gravity tracks in the dusty floor, we see Cooper of the future as he sees himself close the window while looking through the back of the bookcase.
In a final flashback after Cooper has delivered his message the data from Tars that is needed to complete the gravity calculations using the second hand of the watch to count out binary data to an older version of Murphy.

Interstellar Cooper reaches out to Brand from within the Tesseract

Cooper reaches out to Brand in the past as the Endurance space-ship travels through the wormhole. It is Cooper hand that reached through the ship to Brand as the Endurance entered the Black Hole the first time.
Interstellar can be a confusing film as it involves time and space, theoretical physics and astronomy. The majority of the flashbacks are centred around Coopers memories of his daughter Murphy and her, as its turned-out well-founded belief that someone was trying to send her a message. But some of the older versions of Murphy that Cooper viewed from within the Tesseract were from a time after Cooper had left the Earth and therefore Cooper could not have been present at these points in time and therefore this flashback could not be derived from his own personal memory, so it could be argued that this is an example of a prosthetic memory. As Landsberg says “ …prosthetic memories are those not strictly de-rived from a person’s lived experience… (Landsberg, 2004) p2. This flashback, takes the spectator back to the moment when in the spaceship Endurance and when Brand is explaining to Cooper that time can only go forward not backward. The only proviso to this statement being that a race, so far in the future, that had found a way to manipulate time itself, which of course they interact with through the time manipulation evident in the Tesseract scenes. The Tesseract created by five-dimensional beings and constructed for them inside the Black Hole presumably so that Cooper could look back in time and communicate with Murphy, a Murphy from his past. Cooper could see into the past but Cooper himself could not return to the past physically and as the Tesseract closes, he is left to drift somewhere in the region of space near Saturn.

Interstellar Cooper walks towards the recreation of his farmhouse on Cooper’s Space station

Cooper wakes in a Hospital bed but not a hospital on Earth revealed by Cooper leaving his hospital bed and seeing a totally enclosed World, a cylinder of a World where gravity has been mastered, where there is no true up or down. Cooper is finally reunited with the centenarian Murphy in the same space station orbiting Saturn, where Murphy encourages Cooper to seek out Brand who intends to colonise Edmunds World and follow plan B.

More case studies of flashbacks


  • Landsberg, A. (2004) Prosthetic Memory : The Transformation of American Remembrance in the Age of Mass Culture. New York: Columbia University Press. Available at: http://search.ebscohost.com/login.aspx?direct=true&db=nlebk&AN=107227&site=ehost-live&authtype=ip,shib&user=s1523151.
  • Turim, M. (2013) Flashbacks in film: Memory & history, Flashbacks in Film: Memory & History. Taylor and Francis. doi: 10.4324/9781315851761.

Technical specs

Runtime 2 hr 49 min (169 min)
Sound Mix Datasat | Dolby Digital | IMAX 6-Track | Dolby Surround 7.1 | Sonics-DDP (IMAX version)
Color Color (FotoKem)
Aspect Ratio 1.43 : 1 (70mm IMAX – some scenes)
1.78 : 1 (IMAX Blu-ray & 4K UHD – some scenes)
1.90 : 1 (Digital IMAX – some scenes)
2.20 : 1 (70mm)
2.39 : 1
2.39 : 1 (35mm & Digital)
Camera Beaumont VistaVision Camera, Leica Lenses
IMAX MSM 9802, Hasselblad and Mamiya Lenses
Panavision Panaflex Millennium XL2, Panavision C-, D-, E-Series and Ultra Speed Golden Lenses
Laboratory FotoKem Laboratory, Burbank (CA), USA (also prints)
Film Length 17,114.9 m (49 reels) (IMAX 70 mm)
4,582 m (Spain)
4,630.65 m (8 reels) (35 mm)
Negative Format 35 mm (also horizontal) (Kodak Vision3 50D 5203, Vision3 250D 5207, Vision3 500T 5219)
65 mm (horizontal) (Kodak Vision3 50D 5203, Vision3 250D 5207, Vision3 500T 5219)
Cinematographic Process IMAX
Panavision (anamorphic)
VistaVision (some scenes)
Printed Film Format 35 mm (Kodak Vision 2383)
70 mm (also horizontal) (also IMAX DMR blow-up) (Kodak Vision 2383)

Week 18. 2nd March to 6th


Supervisor meeting 03/03/2020

Key points about my last submission and todo.

• Discussed having a role model for my writing style.

• My sentences are possibly too long, make them shorter, think of two lines as a good guide to work to, for example one of my sentences was over 80 words long.

• Direct quotes should ideally be linked into the discussion, have a conversation with your quotes, but at this stage they are just notes and they may not even be in your final work. So, carry on with this for now but you may well not use them later.

• For example, you say flashbacks represent history and memory and so you would back this up by referencing say 12 scholars who basically say the same thing. Common practice to list a large number of references but later when you make your own arguments you may only reference a few scholars.

• Don’t worry about giving the plot away when analysing a film, you should describe what the film is trying to do, in film analysis by starting basically from the end of the film and approach the analysis backwards. Your role isn’t to just give a film synopsis, try to find a balance between the review and the analysis. Give spoilers, in my Oldboy analysis it would have been OK to explain the 15 years in the cell and the connection to the opening scene.

• The final section in my analysis of Oldboy was a good example of what a film analysis should look like, so there aren’t many corrections in that section. Best part of the film’s analysis.

• Generalising I should try to do this more often rather than making definitive statements without backing them up, for example I stated that flashforwards are rarely used in comparison to flashbacks.

• Look at how to select films for analysis, at the moment they are films containing flashbacks and usually by Independents (Auteur Directors) rather than Hollywood productions. Have a plan to confine the selection of films, the case studies in the final versions of the chapter. Best case studies?

• Check out Little Women (New version) which has flashbacks and flashforwards that do not use the conventions in entering or leaving a flashback other than by a colour grading change.

• Use my personal experience of cinematography to explain the shot, through choice of lens etc. in the match cuts in Oldboy are they all done in camera or are they digital? Prime Lens or Zoom Lens?

• To say, I think, is OK but do not use it too often, need to back up my personal statements with references, to be more scholarly.

• Word count think about the next stage, for example if you are aiming for an academic route you should think about a 50:50 balance.

• Film Festivals and Conferences, no funding for going to Film Festivals or Exhibitions but attending conferences for example, Film Philosophy, Screen Studies Conference in Glasgow and BAFTSS at St Andrews. So, I usually attend BCS (British Cinematographers Society) and BVE shows, these maybe still relevant for my research.

• Look at and sign up for some relevant mailing lists? Setup specific folders before adding them otherwise my inbox will fill up.


Six monthly review is due soon. Provisionally with both Supervisors in April.

1. Look again at my original proposal and see what has changed and update this.
2. Create a provisional chapter list.
3. Speculative timeline for each stage, work backwards from year 3, leaving plenty of time for the practice element.
4. Agree a word count, a balance between the practice and the written element based on what you are planning to do next with the PhD. Based on my MA I submitted a 50:50 written Vs practical. That’s about 40,000 words, I was thinking about writing c50,000 words?
5. Look at some example PhD thesis online.
6. Write about the reasons, choices and how you planned your current filming as this will feed into your thesis.
7. Possibly set, agree a word count limit with a +/- 10% for future submissions? I was thinking 2,000 words is a good size, 4K to 5K per month?

Writing for submission

Completed writing up the films Anna (2019) and Casablanca (1942) film analysis for the chapter on flashbacks and then uploading as new Journal Entries on my phsjournal.co.uk blog.


Panasonic GH4

Started filming the Horror short film REM (2020) with a group from the Lancaster University Film Production Society. First time using the Panasonic Lumix GH4. Took an age to setup the camera as to how I like to film. Hidden menus and a few camera faults had to be overcome but the footage looks great.

Casablanca (1942) Flashback classical Hollywood style

casablanca airport

Flashbacks are rarer in the classical Hollywood film than we normally think. Throughout the period 1917– 60, screenwriters’ manuals usually recommended not using them; as one manual put it, ‘Protracted or frequent flashbacks tend to slow the dramatic progression’ (Bordwell, Staiger and Thompson, 2002) p42

Casablanca (1942) Movie Poster
Casablanca (1942) Movie Poster

For an example of an early use of the flashback in classic Hollywood Cinema, the film Casablanca (1942) has a single use of the flashback, the purpose is to show how Rick and Ilsa first meet in Paris.

Casablanca (1942) To many cinephiles Casablanca is an example of Hollywood filmmaking at its best and as Dana Polan says in his Casablanca essay, “ One of the great films of cult veneration, Casablanca is the perfect example of Hollywood perfection.” (Geiger and Rutsky, 2005) p363

Rick is drinking alone, drinking heavily as he waits in expectation for Ilsa to come and (as she must) to plead with Rick to give them the travel documents for her and her husband Victor, to enable them to escape the Germans and Casablanca and fly to Lisbon and then onto America. Rick is centred in the frame as the camera zooms in and the image of Rick begins to blur and cross dissolve to a scene set in Paris.

We know this because the Arc De Triomphe is framed and back projected behind Rick and Ilsa seated in a car, with the music La Marseillaise, the French National anthem playing in the background. “Here’s looking at you kid” says Rick. The lengthy flashback sequence explores the missing background to Rick and Ilsa relationship, when they meet again in Casablanca, we know that they know each other from the past and that they must have had a loving relationship but where and when is not known until the flashback sequence is introduced. In the flashback we relive Rick and Ilsa’s year of living in Paris as war approaches and the eventual occupation of France and goes some way to explaining the circumstances as to how they meet again in Casablanca a French Protectorate under French/Vichy control rather than under German occupation.

Rick and Ilsa fall in love and as the German occupation of France becomes imminent, they agree to leave together on the last train out of Paris. Rick waits in vain for Ilsa to appear at the station, a letter arrives and Ilsa isn’t coming. As the train begins to depart and with Sam’s urging, they board the train as steam fills the screen and cross dissolves back to Rick still seated in the bar as he lets go of his glass. This is an example of the traditional method and of the use of a flashback in cinema, the position of the protagonist in the frame and the use of blurring as Bordwell notes “ …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…” (Bordwell, Staiger and Thompson, 2002)

The flashback limited itself to their meeting in Paris and apart from a rain drenched letter there was no explanation for Ilsa’s no show at the train station. Only later in the film in the current timeline do we learn why Ilsa did not meet Rick at the train station, that she was married to Victor before she met up with Rick in Paris and her reason for doing so, thinking that her husband was dead, she a widow, her husband killed in a Nazi concentration camp then only for him to turn up alive and well just before her planned new life with Rick in Casablanca.

Technical specifications Casablanca (1942) IMDB

Runtime 1 hr 42 min (102 min)
1 hr 22 min (82 min) (cut) (West Germany)
Sound Mix Mono (RCA Sound System)
Color Black and White
Aspect Ratio 1.37 : 1
Camera Mitchell BNC
Film Length 2,811 m
2,815 m (Sweden)
Negative Format 35 mm (Eastman Plus-X 1231)
Cinematographic Process Spherical
Printed Film Format D-Cinema (2012 2K Digital re-release)
35 mm (Eastman 1302)


  1. Bordwell, D., Staiger, J. and Thompson, K. (2002) The classical Hollywood Cinema Film Style & Mode of Production to 1960.
  2. Casablanca (1942) – Technical Specifications – IMDb (no date). Available at: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt0034583/technical?ref_=tt_ql_dt_6 (Accessed: 9 March 2020).
  3. Geiger, J. and Rutsky, R. . (2005) Film Analysis. A Norton Reader. First. Edited by J. Geiger and R. . Rutsky. W. W. Norton & Company: Inc.

Week 17, February 24th to 28th

More Flashback Research (Classical Hollywood)

Classical Hollywood. Watched several films that have Flashbacks in them and selected 2 to include in the example chapter on memory and flashbacks in Cinema.

Classical Hollywood CinemaAt my last supervisor meeting the book ‘The Classical Hollywood Cinema Film Style & Mode Production to 1960’ by David Bordwell, Janet Staiger, and Kristin Thompson. was suggested, which I promptly searched through for examples of flashbacks, finding 5 relevant passages to include in my next writings.

My Supervisor also mentioned that of course, Casablanca had a good example of early use of a flashback in a Hollywood-produced movie. I’ve added this to my list of movies to analyse for flashbacks.

I’ve updated my blog with the journal and diary entries.

Film Production

I’ve contacted a professional classical dancer who is interested in appearing in my film in one of the flashbacks or what might become a more experimental film – we shall see.

Remember Project Titles

Update “Remember” (2020) is experimental through both its lighting and visuals, the nonlinear editing to represent the memory concepts of flashbacks as explored in chapter one.

Remember Project

Using the poem “Remember” as a creative influence I decided to film a short dance sequence for the visuals with a voice-over. The concept is to represent the loss of memory and integrate this into the much larger practice on the conceptualisation of memory in cinema.

Remember (1849)

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.

By Christina Rossetti

Studio session (Monday 17th August 2020)

Two camera setup Canon C300 and Canon 5D MK3.

Concept One. The studio is dark, very dimly lit. Using the 2 light panels. The aim is for the dancer to move in and out of the light and the lens. Visually a silhouette backlighted dancing in front of a static camera. Rim Lighting setup.

Concept Two. The studio is brightly lighted using the house lights. The dancer interacts with the moving camera. No lighting rig was not available so used 4 led lightpanels, setup to cover the performance area. Canon C300 used handheld.

Additional Visuals: Capture close and extreme close movements for both concepts. Hand and foot movements. Face and head movement.


For the performance (performer to supply) Post-production: anything with a regular beat to use as a background to cut to.

Film Flashbacks example Chapter continued

Anna Fashion Shoot

Film Flashbacks (Part 2)

The flashback could be motivated compositionally (giving us essential story information), realistically (proceeding from a character’s memory), and intertextually…(Bordwell, Staiger and Thompson, 2002) p19

Anna Movie Poster Small
Anna (2019) by Luc Besson Movie Poster

Anna (2019) a film by Luc Besson. Anna Poliatova played by Sasha Luss is a highly trained Russian government assassin. Throughout the film the timeline is proliferated with flashbacks and flashbacks within flashbacks, each of which is essential to the scene and for the audiences understanding of the film’s progression. Each of the flashbacks revisiting memories from Anna’s past and expanding upon her characters background and with details essential to understanding through past events what is happening in the current timeline. Anna shares many similarities with recent films and television for example the narrative and style of Atomic Blonde (2017 ) and the TV series Killing Eve ( 2018 – ), the female protagonist with a Russian background recruited for espionage and assassination. Set in the near past before the fall of the Berlin Wall and the deconstruction of the Soviet Union and where the KGB is still the agency for espionage in Russia.

Anna Olga played by Helen Mirren
Anna’s handler Olga played by Helen Mirren modelled on Rosa Klebb

Anna is recruited into the KGB to retrieve information by the means of assassination at the direction of her handlers, that is Olga played by Helen Mirren who models this role on Rosa Klebb a character in From Russia with Love (1963) and Alex, who is also Anna’s Russian love interest and her recruiter to the KGB.

Film Flashbacks used to great effect

Luc Besson uses the flashbacks to great effect in the first flashback sequence Anna shoots her target then the scene fades to blackout followed by an inter-title saying 3 years earlier, informing the audience that what follows is a memory from 3 years ago. While in Anna’s memory 3 years earlier we cut to another flashback of a childhood memory where Anna is present at the instant of her parents’ deaths, killed in a head on collision with a lorry with Anna seated in the back of her parent’s car. This flashback sequence ends with a flash to white and the sound of a cameras flash, but we return not to the current timeline but remain within the flashback from 3 years earlier. Alex looks at his notebook and says “it says here that you like to play chess” we enter another flashback with a flash to white and the sound of the camera flash as we enter Anna’s memory of playing chess with her father in the park. Flash to white with the sound of camera flash to another inter-title saying 3 years later, out of the flashback sequences and returning to the current timeline.

Anna the market stall seller
Anna’s assumes the role of a market seller to attract the attention of the fashion agency scout.

This lengthy flashback with flashbacks contained within it provides the origins of the main character and the audience now understands how a market stall seller in Russia finds her way to Paris to a modelling job in the Paris fashion industry and then through that role is then able to assume the role of International assassin and assassinate her target. The use of inter-titles at the beginning and the end of the sequence clearly indicates where in the past the memory and the flashback occur.

Flashbacks: 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. (Bordwell, Staiger and Thompson, 2002)

The flashbacks contained within the main flashback sequence are preceded and terminated by a flash to white with the accompanying sound, similar to that of a cameras flash. I am uncertain as to the value of the childhood memories being inserted into the flashback sequences other than to show that Anna is an orphan and that as a very young child, she showed high levels of intelligence beyond her natural years by playing chess, but then maybe that was the point? Flashbacks seem to provide the details that are missing in the current timelines to keep the flow of the film but are in fact key to explaining/understanding the narrative underlying the current sequence.

Technical Specs Anna (2019) IMDB

Runtime 1 hr 59 min (119 min)
Sound Mix Dolby Digital
Color Color
Aspect Ratio 2.35 : 1
Camera Leitz M 0.8 lenses
Leitz SUMMICRON-C lenses
Printed Film Format Digital (Digital Cinema Package DCP)


  • Bordwell, D., Staiger, J. and Thompson, K. (2002) The classical Hollywood Cinema Film Style & Mode of Production to 1960.
  • Anna (2019) – Technical Specifications – IMDb (2019). Available at: https://www.imdb.com/title/tt7456310/technical?ref_=tt_ql_dt_6 (Accessed: 9 March 2020).

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