Cinematic Convulutions: Instructions on Chiasmus and Parallel Episodes

Just over a week ago, I watched a a Spanish Comedy film named “Instrucciones no Inclduidas” or “No Instructions Included” as a way to get points for class.

I wasn’t really expecting much, all my Spanish Teacher had told us was that it was a “short, sweet little movie”, and so I thought, “what was the harm?” and went to see it after school as part of an event held by our Spanish Club.

But what was advertised to me as a short sweet comedy became a filmed chronicle of the struggles of making a film in regards to the running time of a movie, and the artistic choices and sacrifices that have to be made because of it.

( From this point on I’m going to assume you’ve seen the movie, and so massive spoiler warning alert ahead!)

The most interesting and in reality, fatal thing that caught my eye with this movie was it’s chiasmic choice of organization.

But first let me explain chiasmus:

Chiasmus is a literary trope in which the repeat of clauses at the beginning and at the end a statement bring attention to the center of the statement. So it would look like this:

ABCBA

“Instructions not Included” shows this trope as it sacrifices a proper intro and ending in order to focus on the middle section of the movie, which was great. However, the intro and ending are incredibly rushed and are the worst parts of the film, especially the end which attempted to be a twist ending, but was ineffective because of how rushed it was.

But really, if you saw the movie, you’d understand why they’d have to make that choice, the movie runs at almost 2 hours even with the rushed intro and end. And I really do mean it when I say that the middle section of the film is great: it features growing characters that change and develop with the plot, that really let’s the audience like the main characters of Valentin and Maggie. It also features a twist of betrayal that has actual tension to its results because of how well the film developed it’s characters.

I say that the end and intro are terrible, but to fix it would mean to either cut into the amazing middle portion of the film, which is out of the question, or increase the film length by at least 30-45 minutes, making the movie nearly 3 hours in running time, a time saved for blockbusters. It’s an impossible decision in which both sides have some consequences. Looking at this decision, I personally feel that the director and writers made the best choice with the situation they had.

But enough chiasmic criticism, there’s another literary trope that’s prevalent in the film that I want to touch on: parallel episodes.

Despite its errors, this movie was a textbook example of how to correctly and effectively use parallel episodes.

But again, starring with the definition:

A parallel episode is a trope in which a situation happens, and that same situation happens again, but this time has small differences that create a parallel.

For example, imagine a scene where a child gets ice cream at a stand, then later we see in another scene, a child again getting ice cream from the same stand, except now that child is the son of the original child, now all grown up and they’re holding hands. That’s an example of a parallel episode.

“Instructions Not Included” has great instances of parallel episodes that help add comedic effect.

The best example of this is the parallel episode of Valentin taking Maggie across the border to America in the beginning of the film, and then back across to Mexico at the end of the film. In the beginning, Valentin is taking an infant Maggie across the border to America by foot, and the entire time he’s talking to her about why it would be better for her to live in America with several funny quips at Mexican culture. Then at the end of the film, in order to prevent the authorities from taking Maggie, Valentin takes her, now all grown up, back down across to Mexico, and tells her all the reasons it would be better for her to live in Mexico, now making jokes about American culture. Its a great ending point near the climax of the film, and there’s many more like it in the film.

I enjoyed the film despite its struggles, and I was generally enlightened by watching it. It really is a chronicle of the struggle of movie making and is a living example that artistic creation is possible even in the face of adversity.

-Corey

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