Science Fiction, flashbacks and time travel
Flashbacks are a form of time travel, a jump into the past, in a flashback, or a leap into the future in a flashforward. Science fiction genre is the epitome for the use of flashbacks, in films where time travel is the central theme of the narrative the spectator is transported back into time either through the memory of a character in flashback or a telling flashback the past events revealed through a narrator or protagonist of the time and not from the future. In the science fiction film Interstellar (2014),
Cooper a former astronaut is coerced into piloting a space mission to save humans from a dying planet. Earth is experiencing a blight, its crops are failing, the soil blown across the land in an endless cloud of dust. Flashbacks are used to link Cooper back to his past and to his daughter while she was just a child and later as an adult on the family farm. What is interesting is that the flashbacks that Cooper and his daughter experience are triggered by Coopers actions in the future and in travelling back in time to events in his past from his current time and place in interstellar space. This may be a rare example of flashbacks and time travel it could be argued that all flashbacks are forms of time travel as Maria Lopes, visual artist and researcher states … the techniques of flashback to depict a relationship between present and past or between mental associations and psychological meaning or significance of past events…” (Lopes, Ncc and Bastos, 2019: 2). For example a flashback links Cooper back to a past event which simultaneously reminds the spectator of a key element into the film, Cooper, his faceplate cracked in the attempt on his life, struggles to breathe, his faceplate begins to fog, which precedes a jump into a flashback to an event in the past to the scene where Cooper presents his daughter with an identical watch to his own that he is taking with him on his mission into space. The flashback ends as his daughter flings the watch away from her. The shot cutting back to the scene of Cooper back on the planet still struggling to breathe. The reason for this flashback is to remind the spectator of the significance of the watch for when in another flashback sequence, the importance of the watch becomes apparent. In another flashback Cooper enters the Black Holes event horizon. He sees his daughter and himself repeated in infinity. Each iteration a flashback, back to memories of and events between Cooper and his daughter.
These memories are of the messages sent back into the past by a time travelling Cooper that are manifested within her bedroom. The books fallen from the bookshelves attributed to a poltergeist, the altered gravity revealed by the tracks in the floors dust. In the flashback we see Cooper from a relative position in time and space but also seemingly behind the bookcase. strumming the strings of gravity to create the gravity lines in the dust on the bedroom floor. Flashback to the memory of Cooper slamming shut his daughter’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 viewing himself in the flashback closing the window while looking through the back of the bookcase while still in a distant future and interstellar space. A shared past between Cooper and his daughter, as Turim suggests “If flashbacks give us images of memory, the personal archives of the past, they also give us images of history, the shared and recorded past.” (Turim, 2014: 15). Most of the flashbacks are centred around Coopers memories of his daughter and her, as its turned-out well-founded belief that someone was trying to send her a message. But as some of the flashbacks are to a time where Coopers daughter is an adult and from a time after Cooper had left the Earth and therefore Cooper could not have been present at these points in time and therefore these flashbacks would be external or telling and could not be derived from his own memory. Turim argues that “[t]he telling or remembering of the past within a film can be self-conscious, contradictory, or ironic. Some
flashback narratives actually take as their project the questioning of the reconstruction of the historical.” (Turim, 2014: 15). Interstellar (2014) is a confusing film for the spectator in many ways with the use of flashbacks and the concept of time travel manipulating the films timeline transporting the past into the future and the future into the past. This is made apparent in the flashback sequence where Cooper who has time travelled back into the past reaches out and into the spaceships hull as it travels through the wormhole. This scene towards the end of the film links back to the earlier scene where it is revealed in flashback that It is Coopers hand that reached through to the ship to as the Endurance entered the Black hole. Turim states…”the flashback in film is a cinematic device that fully exploits the
properties of successive moving images.” (Turim, 2014: 35). This is an important observation, the timeline of a film progresses in successive moving images, but the flashback allows the filmmaker to break into this linear sequence of images and to insert another successive sequence of images but from another time, from the future or past. In the film Blade Runner 2049 (2017) one of K’s memories from his childhood is of a wooden toy horse. In the scene where K returns to the farm to continue his investigation at the dead tree, he finds a number, 61031 cut into its base, this triggers a flashback to a memory of a toy he once owned, a wooden horse which had the same number cut into one of the hooves. But “K” is a replicant a bio robot and his original memories before activation are all prosthetic, given to him by his creators.
Prosthetic memories are adopted as the result of a person’s experience with a mass cultural technology of memory that dramatizes or recreates a history he or she did not live. (Landsberg, 2004: 28)
Memory is central to the narrative of Blade Runner 2049 (2017), this will be further explored in chapter 2 on prosthetic memory.
- Flashbacks Chapter One Draft continued part 5
- Flashbacks Chapter One Draft part 4
- Flashbacks Chapter One Draft continued part 3
- Flashbacks Chapter One Draft continued…
- Flashbacks Draft Chapter 1 (Part 2)
- Flashbacks Chapter One Draft continued…
Alexander Pope – The British Library (no date). Available at: https://www.bl.uk/people/alexander-pope (Accessed: 21 June 2020).
Ansell-Pearson, K. (1994) An Introduction to Nietzsche as Political Thinker, An Introduction to Nietzsche as Political Thinker. Cambridge University Press. doi: 10.1017/cbo9780511606144.
Bordwell, D. (1979) ‘The Art Cinema as a Mode of Film Practice.’, Film Criticism, 4(1), pp. 56–64. Available at: https://www.jstor.org/stable/44018650?seq=1#metadata_info_tab_contents (Accessed: 8 May 2020).
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. (2017) Reinventing Hollywood: How 1940s Filmmakers Changed Movie Storytelling.
Bordwell, D., Staiger, J. and Thompson, K. (2002) The classical Hollywood Cinema Film Style & Mode of Production to 1960.
Bordwell, D., Thompson, K. and Smith, J. (2016) Film Art: Creativity, Technology, and Business, Film Art: An Introduction.
Boucher, G. (2019) ‘The Limey’ At 20: Steven Soderbergh Revisits His “Vortex Of Terror” – Deadline. Available at: https://deadline.com/2019/12/steven-soderbergh-looks-back-the-limey-his-personal-vortex-of-terror-1202792732/ (Accessed: 10 February 2020).
Colman, F. (2012) Film, theory and philosophy: The key thinkers, Film, Theory and Philosophy: The Key Thinkers. doi: 10.5860/choice.48-0157.
Fear, D. (2019) Steven Soderbergh on the 20th Anniversary of ‘The Limey’ – Rolling Stone. Available at: https://www.rollingstone.com/movies/movie-features/steven-soderbergh-interview-20th-anniversary-limey-921006/ (Accessed: 5 February 2020).
Geiger, J. and Rutsky, R. . (2005) Film Analysis. A Norton Reader. First. Edited by J. Geiger and R. . Rutsky. W. W. Norton & Company: Inc.
King, G. (2013) What Else Is Lost with Memory Loss? Memory and Identity in Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind – Bright Lights Film Journal. Available at: https://brightlightsfilm.com/what-else-is-lost-with-memory-loss-memory-and-identity-in-eternal-sunshine-of-the-spotless-mind/#.XiA2t-LANp9 (Accessed: 16 January 2020).
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.
Lopes, M. M., Ncc, I. and Bastos, P. B. (2019) ‘Memory ( Enhancement ) and Cinema : an exploratory creative overview’.
Musgrove, M. (2013) ‘Nestor ’ s Centauromachy and the Deceptive Voice of Poetic Memory ( Ovid Met . 12 . 182-535 ) Author ( s ): Margaret W . Musgrove Reviewed work ( s ): Published by : The University of Chicago Press Stable URL : http://www.jstor.org/stable/270542 . War and’, 93(3), pp. 223–231.
Pramaggiore, M. (2008) Film : a critical introduction. 2nd ed. Edited by T. Wallis. London: Laurence King.
Radstone, S. (2007) ‘Trauma theory: Contexts, politics, ethics’, Paragraph. Edinburgh University Press, 30(1), pp. 9–29. doi: 10.3366/prg.2007.0015.
Radstone, S. (2010) ‘Cinema and memory’, in Memory: Histories, Theories, Debates. Fordham University Press, pp. 325–342.
Rodriguez, E. (2016) Flashback | cinematography and literature | Britannica, Encyclopaedia Britannica. Available at: https://www.britannica.com/art/flashback (Accessed: 3 June 2020).
Salt, B. (1992) Film style and technology : history and analysis. 2nd ed. London: Starword.
Turim, M. (2013) Flashbacks in film: Memory & history, Flashbacks in Film: Memory & History. Taylor and Francis. doi: 10.4324/9781315851761.
Turim, M. C. (2014) Flashbacks in film : Memory & history. Routledge.