Loop Structures in Film (and Literature): Experiments with Time Between the Poles of Classical and Complex Narration


  • Matthias Brütsch University of Zurich



Słowa kluczowe:

puzzle films, nonlinear plot, loop structure


Among the many innovations complex or “puzzle” films have brought about in the last three decades, experiments with narrative time feature prominently. And within the category of nonlinear plots, the loop structure – exemplified by films such as Repeaters (Canada 2010), Source Code (USA/France 2011), Looper (USA/China 2012) or the TV-Series Day Break (USA 2006) – has established itself as an interesting variant defying certain norms of storytelling while at the same time conforming in most cases to the needs of genre and mass audience comprehension. In the first part of my paper, I will map out different kinds of repeated action plots, paying special attention to constraints and potentialities pertaining to this particular form. In the second part, I will address the issue of narrative complexity, showing that loop films cover a wide range from “excessively obvious” mainstream (e.g. Groundhog Day, USA 1992; 12:01, USA 1993; Edge of Tomorrow, USA/Canada 2014) to disturbing narrative experiments such as Los Cronocrimenes (Spain 2007) or Triangle (Great Britain/Australia 2009). Finally, a look at two early examples (Repeat Performance, USA 1947 and Twilight Zone: Judgement Day, USA 1959) will raise the question how singular the recent wave of loop films are from a historical perspective.


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Literary Works

‘12.01 p.m.’, Richard A. Lupoff, 1973 (short story)

‘12.02 p.m.’, Richard A. Lupoff, 2011 (short story)

‘By his Bootstraps’, Robert A. Henlein, 1941 (novella)

‘Doubled and Redoubled’, Malcolm Jameson, 1941 (short story)

22.63, Stephen King, 2011 (novel)

Life After Life, Kate Atkinson, 2013 (novel)

Morir (un moment abans de morir), Sergi Belbel, 1994 (play)

One Fine Day, Leon Arden, 1981 (novel)

Repeat Performance, William O’Farell, 1942 (novel)


22.63, USA 2016 (Tv Series)

01, USA 1993

About Time, Great Britain 2013

And Then Came Lola, USA 2009

Back To The Future 1–3, USA 1985/1989/1990

Before I Fall, USA 2017

Being Erica, Canada 2009–2011 (Tv Series)

Blind Chance (Przypadek), Poland 1981

Christmas Do Over, USA 2006

Christmas Every Day, USA 1996

Dark Country, USA 2009

Day Break, USA 2006 (Tv Series) Déja Vu, USA 2006

Edge Of Tomorrow, USA/Canada 2014

Groundhog Day, USA 1992

If Only, USA/Great Britain 2004

It’s A Wonderful Life, USA 1946

Looper, USA/China 2012

Memento, USA 2000

Mine Games, USA 2012

Misfits, Great Britain 2009–2013 (Tv Series)

Mr. Destiny, USA 1990

Mr. Nobody, Belgium/Germany/Canada/France 2009

Notre Univers Impitoyable, France 2008

Peggy Sue Got Married, USA 1986

Pete’s Christmas, Canada 2013

Plus One, USA 2013

Predestination, Australia 2014

Premature, USA 2014

Primer, USA 2004

Project Almanach, USA 2015

Repeat Performance, USA 1947

Repeaters, Canada 2010

Retroactive, USA 1997

Run Lola Run (Lola Rennt), Germany 1998

Sliding Doors, Great Britain/USA 1998

Slipstream, USASouth Africa/Zambia/Germany 2005

Smoking / No Smoking, France/Italy/Switzerland 1993

Source Code, USA/France 2011

Stork Days (E Già Ieri), Italy/Spain/Uk 2004

The Butterfly Effect 2, USA 2006

The Butterfly Effect 3: Revelations, USA 2009

The Butterfly Effect, USA 2004

The Door (Die Tür), Germany 2009

The I Inside, Great Britain/USA 2004

The Last Day Of Summer, USA 2007

The Man With Rain In His Shoes, Spain/France/Gb/Germany/USA 1998

The Terminator 1–3, (USA 1984/1991/2003)

The Twilight Zone: Judgement Night, USA 1959 (Season 1, Episode 10)

The X-Files: Monday, USA 1999 (Season 6, Episode 14)

Timecrimes (Los Cronocrímenes), Spain 2007

To Die Or Not (Morir [O No]), Spain 1999

Too Many Ways To Be Nr. 1, Hong Kong 1997

Triangle, Great Britain/Australia 2009

Turn Back The Clock, USA 1933

Twelve Monkeys, USA 2015–2018 (Tv Series)

Wake Up And Die (Volver A Morir), Columbia 2011


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Jak cytować

Brütsch, M. (2021). Loop Structures in Film (and Literature): Experiments with Time Between the Poles of Classical and Complex Narration. Panoptikum, (26), 83–107. https://doi.org/10.26881/pan.2021.26.04