Example of applying narrative

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  • 1. “Media texts rely on cultural experiences in order for audiences to easily makesense of narratives”. Explain how you used conventional and / or experimentalnarrative approaches in one of your production pieces.Branigan has said that, “narrative is a way of organising...data into a cause andeffect chain of events with a beginning, middle and end.” Indeed, narrative hasprobably existed for as long as human beings and it is likely even cavemen expectednarratives to be woven around the images they painted in their caves.In planning our short film for our Advanced Portfolio coursework, we knew we hadapproximately five minutes to weave a coherent narrative for the audience. This wasvery different to the Foundation Portfolio, which required just the opening twominutes of a film, meaning the narrative needed to arouse the audience‟s interestwithout being rounded or complete.We decided to use elements of both conventional and experimental narrative in ourfilm Torn. We were aware of Todorov’s narrative theory that suggests everynarrative begins with equilibrium, before there is disequilibrium and then a returnto a new equilibrium at the end. The equilibrium at the start of our film is fairlydisharmonious: our protagonist Sian is abused and neglected and has lost hermother; she is embarking on a journey to the coast and plans to commit suicide butat the beginning of the film this is unclear to the audience. The disequilibrium occurswhen her journey is interrupted by a number of characters, some of whom seek tohelp her and others who antagonise her. This relates to Propp’s narrative theory.Propp studied traditional fairy tales and suggested that there are a number of setcharacters who function in every narrative. In our film, Sian is the hero but heractions are influenced by villains (Jake and Anna) and helpers (Carys and Mike),who all try to manipulate her along the way.We decided to use some other conventional narrative techniques to engage ouraudience. The film uses retardation throughout – at the beginning, Sian says “I‟vedone it” but it is unclear to the audience what she has done and where she is going.Slowly, her motivations are revealed to the audience through a serious of flash-backs, beginning with a scene in which her drunken father physically abuses her. Itis not until the final scene that the audience finds out Sian‟s mother was killed in aroad accident due to Sian‟s father‟s drunk driving. This slow unravelling of thenarrative helps keep the audience alert and interested in the story.We used a fairly unusual narrative technique in that the characters Sian encounterson her journey are actually manifestations of her own mind. We do not make thisclear to the audience until the characters disappear at the end and Sian says: “theywere me and I was them.” This is a good example of a narrative twist and isdesigned to get the audience to think about what has happened in the rest of the filmand hopefully watch again for a different perspective on the story. Unlike manyHollywood narratives, we respect the intelligence of our audience and leave them to
  • 2. interpret events in their own way – we do not signpost the story really obviously orencourage the audience to interpret the narrative in a rigid way. The end of the storysees Sian say “where do I go now?” This ending is enigmatic but the audience isencouraged to see it as positive – Sian has beaten her demons and wherever shegoes next will see her in a better place and able to get on with her life. We are awarethat some audiences dislike films in which the narrative is not all tied up neatly at theend, preferring classical Hollywood narrative, but as we see our audience asintelligent critical thinkers, we think our ending will appeal to their sense ofimagination.Overall, we believe our narrative is successful in engaging the audience. We madesure our story contained causality – Sian‟s treatment at the hands of her fathercombined with her mother‟s death leads her to consider taking her own life. We alsopresented a variety of „bad‟ and „good‟ characters to move the narrative forward andensure the audience remained interested.