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Starts with Their Funeral
A specific and relatively common variant of How We Got Here
. Often related to Posthumous Character
. The first thing we see is the protagonist's funeral (or possibly their death or formal or informal wake
), and we will hear people talking about the kind of life they lived. They were famous! They were glorious! They came from such a different, humble beginning! Was he really like they say he was? How will anyone ever get on without them? And then we cut to the protagonist before they became famous, and the story begins. The ending, of course, will bring us back to the funeral where we started.
Because this would normally be a spoiler, this may be reserved for stories where the viewer/reader should already know this part of the story - biopics, historical pieces, and the like. Alternatively (or additionally), this may be a situation where the reason for the death is unimportant to the story but the death gives a narrator a reason to look into the protagonist's (inevitably interesting) life. And, of course, there still is the possibility for a Twist Ending
where they Never Found the Body
A subtrope of Foregone Conclusion
. Compare Starts with a Suicide
This IS a Death Trope. Spoilerific? Most likely not, as it starts the entire work.
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Anime & Manga
- Grave of the Fireflies doesn't start with a funeral. Rather, it starts with the main character dying of starvation in a WWII Japanese train station. His and his sister's ghosts then board a train and flash back to their home village being bombed. The movie returns to the train after the sister dies.
- YuYu Hakusho starts right off with the main character hovering over the scene of his death. It then follows up with the events preceding his death.
- Like the concept album and play that the Madonna film is based on, Evita starts with Eva Peron's state funeral and then flashes back.
- Lawrence of Arabia starts with his fatal motorcycle accident, then shows his funeral, and then flashes back to before he became famous.
- Citizen Kane offers a variation on this by starting with his death, and then moving onto a newsreel about his life, before diving right into the flashbacks.
- Remember the Titans starts with Gerry's funeral before flashing back. Spoilered because we don't find out whose funeral it is until the plot comes back round at the end.
- Sunset Boulevard starts with a corpse floating in a swimming pool, then flashes back - turns out it's the narrator.
- The Dick Van Dyke movie The Comic begins with his funeral (he narrates), where Mickey Rooney's character honors his last wish by hitting the preacher in the face with a pie! The film is a flashback over the titular comic's career.
- State of Siege may or may not have exactly started with this, but it shows the burial of Yves Montand's character well before it shows what led to it.
- Les Choristes begins not with the main character's funeral, but with another character getting the news of his death. It then flashes back forty years or so to show how they all knew each other (he taught them to sing).
- Awake: The film opens with Dr. Harper lamenting the fact that while he has lost patients before, Clayton is the only friend he's ever lost on the surgical table. He then ponders whether Clayton was thinking of "her" that day, before the scene switches to Clayton and his fiance Sam together in his apartment several days before the surgery.
- Chariots of Fire opens with the funeral of Harold Abrahams, before backing up to tell the story of his athletic career and triumph at the 1924 Olympics.
- Big Money Hustlas begins with the film's protagonist, Sugar Bear, attending the funeral of Officer Harry Cox. It then flashes back to show Sugar Bear's battles against crime lord Big Baby Sweets and the events resulting in Cox's death.
- Gandhi opens with footage of the real Gandhi's funeral before telling the story of his life.
- Michael Collins opens with Collins' friends mourning him, before telling the story of his life.
- The 1954 Ava Gardner film The Barefoot Contessa begins with the title character's funeral before flashing back to her rise to stardom.
- The Doctor Who New Adventures novel So Vile a Sin starts with the death of companion Roz, then tells the events leading up to it. It wasn't planned to but when the almost-completed draft was lost in a computer crash it had to be rewritten from scratch so not only was the secret out, but it had a schedule slip too. Since books that took place chronologically after her death were being published before the one it actually occurred in, it made no dramatic sense to keep her death as a shocking climax.
- The prologue of Bluestar's Prophecy by Erin Hunter is Bluestar's death. The book then goes back to recount the story of her life.
- Nonfiction example: The prologue of Street Gang: The Complete History of Sesame Street is a retold account of Jim Henson's memorial service.
Live Action TV
- Star Trek: Enterprise. The episode "Similtude" starts with the funeral of the Chief Engineer, 'Trip' Tucker. We then proceed to a Walking Transplant plot, and the funeral turns out to be for Trip's clone, with the real Trip standing at the back of the crowd.
- Star Trek: The Next Generation episode "Cause and Effect" starts with the Enterprise getting blown up, then seemingly cuts back to show the events leading up to the explosion. It's a subversion: the Enterprise is caught in a time loop, and the crew is actually reliving the events, with slight variations each time, until they find a way out.
- Wicked begins with everyone celebrating Elphaba's death. She didn't get a funeral. It's also a weird example in that she's not really dead.
- Evita starts with Eva Peron's state funeral and then flashes back.
- Tomb Raider Chronicles uses Lara Croft's funeral as a framing device, with each playable segment being a story told by one of the guests about her past exploits. Since her (apparent) death occurred at the end of the previous game, the flashbacks don't actually catch up to the 'present', however.
- Adam Cadre's Photopia does this. We don't see Alley's funeral, but the game opens with her death, and then the rest of the story leads up to it in a roundabout way. It's played with, though, because none of the events are in order, and you don't figure out what most of them mean until you finish the game.
- She is not exactly dead, but Zoe is first seen in Dreamfall: The Longest Journey lying in coma she cannot awaken from, with her grieving father at her side. The rest of the story is Zoe recounting who left her in that condition.
- The episode "The Late Mr. Kent" of Superman: The Animated Series starts with (guess who?) Clark Kent's funeral, with Superman watching from afar. Superman then has a flashback showing how this came about.