Wow, had not heard of that earlier draft, Lois. Cannot imagine inserting yet ANOTHER timeline into the story. Here’s a take on the story’s structure from a previous GITS discussion courtesy of Teddy Pasternak:
Let’s talk structure! What is it? Is it merely how the events unfold? Is it something more? This film is told non-linearly and it lends itself beautifully to this type of storytelling since it deals with memories, the past and the present. But ponder this: If this story was told linearly in chronological order as the events actually occurred, would it have been the same story? Would the author have made the same argument and gotten his point across? I think so. If we tell this story linearly, the meaning of the story remains. We would still experience everything that we experienced reading the script the way it is written. Joel and Clementine would meet and break up, erase their memories of each other, and then meet again. Patrick’s story would be the same and so would Mary’s and Stan’s and Dr. Mierzwiak’s. It is the author’s choice to tell us the story in the fashion he sees appropriate. In this case, he decided that giving us the story in a non-linear fashion would be the most interesting/entertaining/efficient/suspenseful — whatever reason he had. But it doesn’t change the events that occurred, only the order in which they are presented to us. And it doesn’t change the overall story or the point of the story. If we can take this story and rearrange the order in which the events occurred and it remains the same story, then structure must be something more than just the order in which things occur. One of the problems I have with looking at all stories through the eyes of a protagonist that goes on some kind of journey is that everything else in the story seems delegated to a lesser status. Most people would probably say that the Mary/Dr. Mierzwiak story is the subplot or the B-story. When you assign a storyline terms like that you automatically assume that that particular part of the story is less valuable than other parts of the story. In many stories, that is the case. But in a well-crafted story like this one, all the storylines are of equal importance because one wouldn’t work without the other. For example: Had Mary not fallen in love with Dr. Mierzawick, had her memory erased, fallen in love with him again, learned the truth about her having the procedure done, stolen the files and sent them to the clients, then Joel and Clementine wouldn’t have found out that they had a past together. And after they learned that and learned how difficult their relationship was, decide to try again anyway. To get to that point, all of the storylines were necessary. All the strands weaved together to create a bigger whole. All these connections between the various storylines is what creates the structure of the story. If the author decides to present it to us backwards or forwards or jumbled up or tell it through the eyes of Joel or Clementine or a third person — all of that is secondary. The story exists anyway because of the structure. If we see story structure this way, then it doesn’t really matter how many acts there are or where the high or low points are. Those are all story telling devices — tools that the author can use to present the story in the best possible way and to keep the audience entertained along the way.