lie on the conventional flow of time


Senior Member
When talking about a film, if you want to point out the film's peculiarity of not progressing on the conventional flow of time,

do you think it's OK to use "lie" or "lay", to capture and convey the idea of the film not having being "thrown into" or "placed on" such a state, that is, the flow of time?

As in: "The film doesn't lie on the conventional flow of time"

(or making it passive), "The film is not laid on the conventional flow of time"

Are both sentences understandable and grammatical?
  • Parla

    Member Emeritus
    English - US
    That would not be understood, I think, by most native speakers; I, for one, don't understand it.
    But I'm going to make a wild guess: Do you mean that the film skips around in time? That you may see something that takes place in the present, and then something that took place in the past, and then perhaps something else that takes place in the present, and so on?

    If that's what you mean: I think we'd say that the story isn't presented chronologically, or that it doesn't follow standard chronology.


    American English
    I agree with Parla. Both sound off, i.e., "lie" and "lay". I like Parla's suggestions.

    I might say: The film doesn't adhere to the conventional flow of time.


    Senior Member
    Thank you both for the suggestions.

    Do you mean that the film skips around in time?
    Yes, That's right. The film unfolds in a very unusual way that it's really hard to find any chronological relevance or connectivity between one scene and the scenes on either side of it.

    As alternatives, how about "The film doesn't (follow or stay) on the conventional flow of time."?


    Senior Member
    English - British
    The trouble with 'the conventional flow of time' is that it implies there is more than one flow of time.
    However, time is such that it only goes one way at one speed.

    I would say: 'The action is not shown in sequence of time'.


    American English
    JB, The flow of the thread is either ebbing or flowing.

    Another alternative: The film doesn't stay the course on/of the conventional flow of time.

    I'm a little clueless as to what you are looking for at this point, but I cannot deny being intruigued by your query.


    Senior Member
    English - American
    Consider the word flashback and see if a sentence constructed around it (especially multiple flashbacks) would express what you intend.

    There are also some WR threads about this word.

    Non-linear could express this, but it has such strong other meanings that it would require a paragraph of context (like this thread) to be sure the reader understood what was meant.

    For the most deliberately non-linear movie that I can recall, consider Memento (2000) although Last Year at Marienbad (L'année dernière à Marienbad) (1961) comes close.

    EDIT-3: see ALSO the Wiki article. (contains major "spoilers" - don't read this if you plan to watch the movie)

    EDIT: For a freshly-coined phrase - time-scrambled (EDIT-2: not so new; I see a few other people have used this)
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    Senior Member
    I guess there are gazillion ways to express such an idea but

    I was initially trying to describe the film's aforementioned peculiarity in a specific way that it arouses a certain nuance or ambiance, which is that the film is sort of "running" or "riding" on (or thrown into, from the movie's perspective) this incomprehensible and non-chronological style of machination the director has devised.

    That's why the words like "lie" or "lay" first came to my mind, to give that "laying/riding-on-top-of-something" feeling.
    But of course, if that doesn't sit well with native speakers as seems to be the case, then I stand corrected.

    I think that's the best I can explain as to what I am looking for. Now that you asked, P, I am kind of lost, too.:D

    But, for what it's worth, the alternatives that have been suggested so far all look fine as they seem to be working at the similar terrain as mine.

    EDIT: Thanks, Pete. They both seem to be suitable words for the instance. I will try to flesh out some sentences around those.
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    Senior Member
    English - Californian
    The only film that would not "lie/follow/adhere to the conventional flow of time" is the one that you put in the VCR at 4:30 PM and finish watching two hours earlier at 2:30 PM.

    That is, even if the events depicted in the film are not in chronological order, the film itself is: minute 2 of the film follows minute 1, etc.

    Both Parla and Wandle pointed out this really important distinction - you need to differentiate between the film itself and the events depicted in the film. That's why the suggestions:
    the story isn't presented chronologically
    The action is not shown in sequence of time
    ... both very clearly insist on the narrative structure of the film, its "presentation" of events or the way it "shows" events. We call this, quite simply, non-linear narrative. But whatever the case, you cannot say that the film is non-chronological; only its plot can be non-chronological in its presentation. If you make this distinction clearly, then I think you could get away with some of the more metaphorical descriptions you bring up in your last post.
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