Inverse Chronological Narrative is a story structure where the chronology is elaborated in reverse. In a strong reverse temporal narrative the last scene will be placed first while the temporally prior will be realized last. Weaker versions may have temporally erratic narrative structures which are only bound by the limit of the first and last narrative sequences and will oscillate between these two poles.
Virgil‘s Aeneid, from the first century BC, may be the first to use this method in a weaker sense, where some conclusions are elaborated before the causal agents are revealed in the narrative. The enclosed and continually receding narrative of One Thousand and One Nights, may have a number of variations of the inverse temporal story structure but most notably in the extensive novel is a form of flashback occurring in one section of the tale after the discovery of a dead body which then details the actions leading to the murder of the individual. And it is Martin Amis‘s book “Time’s Arrow” (1991) which is often thought to be the most pure of the temporal reversal tales. The novel follows the exploits of a man who can bring the dead to life, it turns out that this tale is a transgressive inversion of the temporal arrow and the narrative reveals in its stead a horrible activity which underlies the action of raising the dead. Catch-22 by Joseph Heller has its major protagonist, Yossarian, carrying through a philosophical position, and its existential consequences, in relation to power and authority based on a ”truth of the world” which is only revealed in the last sections of the novel.
Movies have also found this inversion structure tempting and films which can be included in the temporal reversal narrative structure: Harold Pinter’s play Betrayal (1978), which was made into a film in 1983. In 1927, Jean Epstein‘s La glace à trois faces (The Three Sided Mirror) (note: this link is a pdf) was released. Epstein’s early and exquisite cinematic endeavor is composed of an entire narrative structure which is played out through the mechanisms of erratic temporal flow between past, present and future and includes one strong chronological reversal section.
Jean Epstein: The Three-Sided Mirror // La glace à trois faces (entire length)
Other filmic attempts at this narrative form include, Atom Egoyan ‘s, The Sweet Hereafter (1997) which follows a decade of events in inverse temporal order from the mid-70’s to the 60’s; Peppermint Candy (2000) by Lee Chang-dong; and the Jean-Luc Godard short film Dans le noir temps (2000).
Jean-Luc Godard, Dans le Noir Temps (entire video)
The disturbing 2002 film by Gaspar Noé titled Irréversible (2002) employs a strong temporal inversion structure which even entails having the ending credits play out first; and, 5×2, directed by François Ozon, which details the disintegration of a relationship in reverse order.
Here is a Video Game trailer (not the game, but a video short) which uses the technique of temporal narrative inversion to wondrous, moving, and amazing effect.
(and yes the short is advertising a “First person Zombie RGP”. But worth the watch).