TMP: Movies That Tell a Story Within a Story

The Fall Movie

Thursday Movie Picks (TMP) is a weekly feature hosted by Wandering Through the Shelves

Okay guys, I had to google this one. And it didn’t really help because I’m still not sure what “Story Within a Story” means exactly. Two of my picks quite clearly fit the theme, but the rest I can’t guarantee! I’ve seen examples and it’s hard to distinguish between a long flashback, or a non-linear narrative, and a true story within a story. Regardless of that, the following four movies are great so, here you go:

4 Movies That Tell a Story Within a Story

all synopsis taken from letterboxd

La Venus A La Fourrure Venus in Fur

La Vénus à la Fourrure (2013)

directed by Roman Polanski
starring Emmanuelle Seigner and Mathieu Amalric

An enigmatic actress (Emmanuelle Seigner) may have a hidden agenda when she auditions for a part in a misogynistic writer’s (Mathieu Amalric) play.

This is an odd one. Based the play (David Ives) based on the book (Leopold von Sacher-Masoch), Venus in Fur is a play within a movie. As they reenact scenes, the line between the fictional characters of the play and the ones from the movie blur, which makes a very interesting, albeit confusing watch. So there’s plenty of talking, too. I quite liked it, but I can’t recommend it to everyone!

The Story: An actress auditions for a play.
The Story Within the Story: The play itself, as they rehearse it.

The Fall (2006)

directed by Tarsem Singh
starring Lee Pace, Catinca Utaru and Justine Waddelk

In a hospital on the outskirts of 1920s Los Angeles, an injured stuntman begins to tell a fellow patient, a little girl with a broken arm, a fantastic story about 5 mythical heroes. Thanks to his fractured state of mind and her vivid imagination, the line between fiction and reality starts to blur as the tale advances.

In truth I can’t remember that much about this? But I do recall creative imagery, impressive costumes, and Lee Pace’s beautiful face, so I recommend.

The Story: A man and a girl bond while staying in the same hospital.
The Story Within the Story: The fictional one he tells her.

Nocturnal Animals Movie Story Within A Story Jake Gyllenhaal

Nocturnal Animals (2016)

directed by Tom Ford
starring Amy Adams, Jake Gyllenhaal and Michael Shannon

Susan Morrow receives a book manuscript from her ex-husband – a man she left 20 years earlier – asking for her opinion of his writing. As she reads, she is drawn into the fictional life of Tony Hastings, a mathematics professor whose family vacation turns violent.

Tom Ford directing is everything – a perfectionist with impeccable taste. Nocturnal Animals was divisive for its narrative and execution, but give me an enigmatic plot with stunning visuals and even better acting, and I’m sold. This one begs for more than one watch, but there’s a couple of horrifying scenes I’d rather never see again.

The Story: A woman living in the present, thinking about her failed marriage, reading her ex-husband’s manuscript.
The Story Within the Story: The book her husband wrote.

Finding Neverland Movie

Finding Neverland (2004)

directed by Marc Forster
starring Johnny Depp, Kate Winslet and Freddie Highmore

Finding Neverland is an amusing drama about how the story of Peter Pan and Neverland came to be. During a writing slump play writer J.M. Barrie meets the widowed Sylvia and her three children who soon become an important part of Barrie’s life and the inspiration that lead him to create his masterpiece Peter Pan.

This is a sweet and magical movie with plenty of heart, that I genuinely love. It’s perfect for the whole family, and has one the best original scores ever by Jan A.P. Kaczmarek.

The Story: A playwriter’s relationship with a widow and her children.
The Story Within the Story: The story of Peter Pan, as he imagines it when he plays with the kids.

Do you know any other movies that tell a story within a story?
Share them in the comments!
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14 Comments

  1. February 1, 2018 / 9:56 AM

    Finding Neverland is amazing! Johnny Depp is terrible now but that was a great movie. I want to watch the rest of your picks!

    • February 1, 2018 / 5:52 PM

      I was feeling kind, so I didn’t mention Depp’s current state – but yeah, he was good here. Almost looks like an entirely different person. So restrained, so normal ? Glad you like Finding Neverland, too! It’s such a sweet film.

  2. February 1, 2018 / 12:40 PM

    We matched on Nocturnal Animals. Finding Neverland is a great pick and I can’t believe I didn’t think of it. I had a hard time this week.

    • February 1, 2018 / 5:50 PM

      This week was hard ? I checkout lists but didn’t like or couldn’t remember or hadn’t seen the movies in them, so I went through my ENTIRE letterboxd watched list to find these!

  3. February 1, 2018 / 6:10 PM

    Oh I haven’t seen The Fall in aaaages but I remember loving it, long overdue a rewatch!

    • February 2, 2018 / 3:47 PM

      Same here, must rewatch! 🙂

  4. Sonia (A Film A Day)
    February 1, 2018 / 8:57 PM

    Nocturnal Animals is the only I’ve seen and I too picked it. It’s such a brilliant film. I really liked Mathieu Amalric in Le scaphandre et le papillon so I think I’ll check out La Vénus à la fourrure.

    • February 2, 2018 / 3:53 PM

      Happy to see some love for Nocturnal Animals! Oooh I’ve always wanted to watch that movie.

  5. February 2, 2018 / 9:59 PM

    I LOVE Finding Neverland and can’t believe it didn’t occur to me as I struggled for picks! It came right near the end of when Depp was still doing interesting work and not phoning in his performances and he is strongly supported by Kate Winslet, Julie Christie and the wonderful Freddie Highmore. I haven’t seen your other two but we match on The Fall which is a beautifully constructed and shot film.

    As I said I struggled to come up with picks this week but with a little poking and prodding I did finally come up with these three.

    Hellzapoppin’ (1941)- Projectionist Shemp Howard (ya one of the Three Stooges) is running a filmed dance number that turns into a funhouse ride collapsing into Hell where the dancers are tortured by demons until comics Olsen & Johnson arrive in a taxi and disrupt the scene. They call the scriptwriter in and we discover we’re in Miracle Pictures Studios (their slogan “If it’s a good picture, it’s a Miracle!”) where the boys are attempting to translate their Broadway hit show into a movie. Crazy patchwork quilt of a film throws everything, including a kitchen sink! into the mix and comes up with unrestrained lunacy that might make little linear sense since it bounces back and forth between stories but adds up to a very enjoyable viewing experience. Good cast with a standout Martha Raye. The source play was the longest running musical in history up to that point.

    The Locket (1946) – Because of a false accusation of theft as a young girl a woman (Laraine Day) sets out for revenge on the world becoming a kleptomaniac, chronic liar, and eventually a murderess. The story is told in layered flashbacks (flashbacks within flashbacks) from different points of view. Complex thriller has many noirish touches and a good cast including a young Robert Mitchum.

    The Fall (2006)-In a hospital ward in 20’s Los Angeles a young girl with a broken arm meets a seriously injured stunt man (Lee Pace) who as their friendship grows weaves elaborate stories in extravagant settings of different men who share a mission. As each story ends he asks her to forage in the hospital infirmary for morphine to help him endure his pain. Cryptic and challenging.

    • February 5, 2018 / 11:41 PM

      I struggled this week, too. I came up with Finding Neverland simply going through my watched movies on Letterboxd! Times like these that site comes in handy. I completely agree: Depp did a good job here, as did the rest of the cast.

      I’ve never seen the other too but yes, The Fall is a gorgeous movie.

  6. February 3, 2018 / 5:20 AM

    I’ve only seen Finding Neverland. It’s been a while since I watched it, but it didn’t really work for me. I might need to revisit.

    • February 5, 2018 / 11:42 PM

      Hopefully you will enjoy it more if you rewatch it! 🙂

  7. February 8, 2018 / 8:04 PM

    I love the The Fall.

    Nocturnal Animals is popular this week and is something I want to see.

    Finding Neverland didn’t work for me as well.

    • February 10, 2018 / 8:00 PM

      Hope you get too see it, soon. It’s divisive though, so you might hate it ? Sorry Finding Neverland didn’t work for you!

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