Narrative Form.docx

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Western University
Film Studies
Film Studies 1020E
Benjamin Wright

Narrative Form - Stories surround us - Narrative is a fundamental way that man makes sense of the world - Films embody ‘Narrative Form’ Principles of Narrative Form - Most commonly seen in fictional films - There are characters, and the actions that they take will involve one another - A series of incidents that will be connected in some way - The problems or conflicts that arrive will be settled - Engages the viewer in a dynamic activity What is a Narrative? - A chain of events linked by cause and effect and occurring in time and space - Begins with one situation; a series of changes occurs according to a pattern of cause and effect; finally a new situation arises that brings about the end of the narrative - Our engagement with the story depends on our understanding of the pattern of change and stability, cause and effect, time and space - Storytelling decisions about viewpoint involve narration Plot and Story - The story is the chain of events in chronological order - The same story can be rendered in different ways, as different plots - Filmmakers built the plot from the story, but viewers build the story from the plot - Story-plot distinction affects causality, time and space Cause and Effect - Characters as causes o Characters create causes and register effects o They make things happen and respond to effects o A character has a body, that which one may take for granted for o A character has traits – attitudes, skills, habits, tastes, psychological drives, and other distinguishing qualities o Characters possess several varying traits, we call the character complex o Even if cause and effect doesn’t originate with characters, human desires and goals help develop the narrative - Hiding causes, Hiding effects o The spectator actively seeks to connect events in terms of cause and effect o We tend to imagine what might have caused it or what it might in turn cause – we look for motivation o Casual motivation involves planting information in advance of a scene o Whenever a film creates a mystery, the plot initially suppresses certain story causes and presents enigmatic effects o The plot may also present causes but without story effects, prompting suspense Time - Cause and effect are basic to narrative, but they take place in time - As a person watches a film, we construct story time on the basis of what the plot presents - Filmmakers must decide how the film’s plot will treat chronological order, temporal duration and frequency - Viewers must pick up the clues about these time-based factors - Filmmakers can decide to present events out of story order - A flashback is a portion of the story that the plot presents out of chronological sequence - Film plot selects only certain stretches of story duration - There is both plot duration as well as screen duration [how much physical time does it take to watch the movie] - Filmmakers can use screen duration to override story time, or to compress story time - Increased frequency of the same event through different perspectives allows viewers to see the same action in different ways - Manipulations of story order, duration, frequency in the plot illustrate participation in making sense of a film - It is up to the viewer to make assumptions and inferences to form expectations Space - Space is an important factor - Events occur in particular locales - Normally the locale of the story action is also the same as where the plot occurs - Cinema employs story space, plot space and screen place - Screen space: The visible space within the frame - Screen space selects portions of plot space Openings - The opening provides a basis of what is to come and initiates into the narrative - The opening raises our expectations; it raises a specific range of possible causes for what we see - The setup: The first quarter of the film - Openings can begin by telling about the characters and their situation before major action occurs - In medias res: when an opening begins in the middle of things, and arouses curiosity - Backstory: some of the actions that took place before the plot started - Exposition: The portion of the plot that lays out the backstory and the initial situation - Exposition usually takes place early in the film but the filmmaker may postpone chunks for suspense and immediate impact Development Sections - The causes and effects create patterns of development - Change is essential to narrative - A common pattern traces a change in knowledge - Goal-oriented plots are a common pattern development - Time may provide plot patterns - The plot may present a specific duration for the action – a deadline - Any pattern of development will encourage the viewer to create specific expectations - Patterns of development encourage the spectator to form long-term expectations
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