Atypical Narrativity in Film

The Usual Suspects and Run Lola Run both feature narratives that are not linear in the strict sense. Run Lola Run features multiple narratives which occur in the same temporal space, but present different outcomes the scenario

By contrast, The Usual Suspects contains a single narrative thread, but one that is filtered through the narration of Verbal: the protagonist and the narrator of a series of flashbacks.

These two examples of layered narratives, are characterized by Marie-Laure Ryan in Avatars of Story: “a narrative generates another narrative it adds another level to the narrative stack” (Ryan 204) Both these films have complex narrative stacks.

In Run Lola Run‘s case, I would count each successive iteration as a separate node on the stack. As for The Usual Suspects, I believe there are two parallel nodes at work, one being the narrative in the police station, while the other is the story Verbal is telling to Kujan.

The two narratives also feature a degree of uncertainty: Lola’s story because it is unclear which of the three narratives transpires in the diegesis of the film, and Verbal’s because he is increasingly called into question as a reliable narrator. This common thread of narrative ambiguity is one of the shared elements that makes these films so compelling.


One thought on “Atypical Narrativity in Film

  1. Certainly well-put. I’m now realizing some of my favorite movies also create this narrative ambiguity, as you put it. Notably The Prestige and Inception, which are also both Christopher Nolan films.

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