A Level Media: Narrative Theory“In Media studies, looking at narrative structure implies that we explore the way in whichthe information contained within a text is revealed to us.” Media Studies: The Essential Resource, Rayner, Wall & Kruger, p28Key issues: Narrative structure Conventional or unconventional? Technical codes camera use shots, angles and movement lighting sound sfx editing Verbal/Language Codes Analysis of language, written and spoken. Also we can look at signs contained in graphics. What do we learn from the language? What do particular graphics tell us? Symbolic Codes/ mise en scene Here we are looking at signs contained in the narrative that have specific meaning. What are the connotations of certain settings or costumes? What does a single prop seem to symbolise? Mode of address/Audience positioning within a narrative You will need to discuss how the audience is positioned through technical, language and symbolic codes.
Key theoretical issues relating to TV and Film 1. Conventional narrative: classic Hollywood narrative linear chronological structure continuity editing cause and effect narrative beginning>middle>end equilibrium>disequilibrium>restored equilibrium character role and function: protagonist/hero; antagonist/villain; heroine; etc. conflict and resolutionYou may need to make some reference to:Todorov ‘s 5 part structure: Stage 1: The state of equilibrium is defined Stage 2: Disruption to the equilibrium by some action or crisis Stage 3: The character(s) recognition that there has been a disruption, setting goals to resolve the problem Stage 4: The character(s) attempt to repair the disruption, obstacles need to be overcome to restore order Stage 5: Reinstatement to the equilibrium. Situation is resolved, a conclusion is announced (Remember: These stages may be presented in a linear order but the film maker can always choose to muddle up the chronological order of the narrative and have the end at the beginning.)Or Propp’s theory that there are only a certain numbers of characters, who appear in mostnarratives. Character Role within narrative Type Hero Leads the narrative, is usually looking for something (a quest) or trying to solve something (a mystery). Does not have to be male Villain Conflicts with the hero Heroine Is usually some sort of prize or reward for the hero. NB if your hero is female, your heroine can be male Father An authority figure who offers a reward to the hero for completing their quest. That reward might be a prince or a princess or a cool new job
Helper Helps the hero - often acts as a sidekick Donor Gives the hero something - a clue, a talisman, a special power - which helps them complete their quest Mentor Teaches and guides the hero (Remember: These character types do not have to be definitive of every narrative and you may find films that include barely any. We do often, though, see them over a wide range of narratives.)Or Levi-Strauss’ Theory of Opposition’: Theidea that all narratives need to be drivenforward by conflict that is always caused by a series of conflicting forces. He called thistheory the ‘and it is used to describe how each main force in a narrative has its equal andopposite. If we apply a Levi-Strauss theory analysis it means identifying these opposingforces. E.g.light/dark good/evil noise/silence youth/ageright/wrong poverty/wealth strength/weakness inside/outsideWhen applying this theory the understanding of the conflict between the opposing forceswill drive the narrative on until finally some sort of balance is restored or a resolutionachieved. 2. Unconventional narrative structuresLook for the following structures: elliptical: a structure in which certain key pieces of information or events are omitted. It is up to the audience to fill the gaps. enigmatic: a narrative that includes events that can be interpreted in more than one way. Sometimes the full meaning is made clear by the moment of resolution but at others it is up to the audience to explain actions and events for themselves. (See section on Barthes below) stream of consciousness: a technique that presents the thoughts and feelings of a character as they occur as a continuous, flowing series of images and ideas running through the mind. surreal: with the structure of a dream or nightmare, often using grotesque, fantastic or just surprising and unexpected images with no obvious logic or reason behind the images. They are often represented in a very realistic style but seem to put a twist on reality fragmented: a structure which gives fragments of a story, often out of linear sequence time disordered: a non linear structure which moves back and forward in time without necessarily signposting this to the audience.
1. Studying Narrative does not mean studying the story..........http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4meeZifCVro As the short film Lovefield (Ratthe 2008) demonstrates:What is the story behind Lovefield?The audience is led to believe that a crazed murderer is stabbing a helpless woman to death in anisolated corn field somewhere in America named Hedren Hill county when in fact he is helping herdeliver a baby. Ratthe has done this to keep his audience begging for moreand take them on arollercoaster ride of different emotions to leave them in suspense and shock.How is Lovefield narrated?It is narrated enigmatically as the whole film can be interpreted in different ways and can be seen asdifferent genre types but can also be interpreted elliptically as the audience are left to make theirminds up with key pieces of information that are given without highlighting the whole scenario andtrue meaning of the story. The audience immediately believe that the woman is being killed due tosound and camera positioning etc.What techniques are used to reveal the information to us? Give details/evidenceTechnical codes The first shot establishes the setting and is a crane shot telling camera use shots, angles and the audience where the story is to be set. Slow scary violin movement screeches can be heard preparing the audience for something lighting bad that is going to happen. The creaking sign can also be sound heard showing the complete silence and isolation. sfx editingSymbolic Codes/ mise en The sky is grey and dull linking in with the horror aspect of the
scene film using pathetic fallacy but the cornfield is goldenLook at signs contained in the dominantly contrasting and maybe connoting innocence andnarrative that have specific meaning. purity in form of the baby that is being delivered. The killerWhat are the connotations of certain wears denim dungarees which ties in with the conventions of asettings or costumes? What does a Nevada desert serial killer.single prop seem to symbolise?Audience positioning within anarrative:to share the pov with theprotagonist through camerause, editing or direct mode ofaddress,orto be given an omniscientviewpoint by which they cansee the threats and dangers tobe faced by the protagonist.Anything else?eg language/verbal codes, genrefeatures, etc The role of the active audience In a conventional fictional narrative the audience is likely to be positioned as passive and to take a particular viewpoint, but the situation can be more complex with more unconventional narratives or narrative in non-fiction media. The key question you need to ask is this: How does an audience engage with these texts? A quotation from Roland Barthes can help you answer this. In a crucial section from his work S/Z He describes texts as:
"a galaxy of signifiers, not a structure of signifieds; it has no beginning; it isreversible; we gain access to it by several entrances, none of which can beauthoritatively declared to be the main one.”http://www.cla.purdue.edu/academic/engl/theory/narratology/modules/barthesplot.html