Suppose there is a movie set in early 1991, around the time of the Persian Gulf War. The camera pans on a film clip of President Bush declaring war on Iraq, and then a month later (in movie time), there is a another film clip of General Schwartzkopf reporting on the outcome.

What is this technique called and how is it effected?

1 Answer 1


It's usually just called "film-within-a-film," "movie-within-a-movie," "play-within-a-play," "play-within-a-movie," or whatever's most appropriate to the situation. There's a french term which describes it (mise en abyme), but as an english speaker, it's often more practical just to describe the technique however it appears. The Wikipedia entrance on story within a story gives many examples from film, theater, and literature. The first example that comes to my mind is Nation's Pride, the film within Quentin Tarantino's Inglorious Basterds. Personally, I would call Nation's Pride a film-within-a-film, and I think many other writers would too.

  • I like the French term, mise en abyme. Would that be any relation to "mise-en-scene"?
    – Tom Au
    Mar 10, 2015 at 15:11
  • The similarity is that they both start with the French for "placed within". If you're fond of jargon, or you're writing in French, use the fancy French term, but if you like writing that communicates clearly I'd avoid it.
    – stib
    Apr 22, 2020 at 7:36

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