Narrative is the art of telling a story – so it ismore than just the story, it is how the story is told.
1. Story & Plot - Bordwell & Thompson 2. Enigma Codes – Roland Barthes
BORDWELL & THOMPSON"The term plot is used to describe everything visible and audibly present in the film before us" (Bordwell and Thompson)"The set of all the events in a narrative, both the ones explicitly presented and those the viewer infers, composes the story" (Bordwell and Thompson)In other words, the story is the combination of the entire sequence of events that is shown as well as everything that we conclude has happened but is not shown.
In summaryPlot:The explicit presentation of the events (which is usually less than the story and may be in a different order, e.g. The Social Network, Go or Pulp Fiction).Story:All the events - both those that are visually represented and those that are inferred.
DefinitionsExplicit: Expressing all details in a clear and obvious way leaving no doubt as to the intended meaning.Infer: To conclude something on the basis of evidence or reasoning.
The key to narrative analysis is to consider the wider story rather than simply describing the plot.There are elements of any narrative that we are expected to presume or infer, simply because it would be impossible to explicitly state everything.Sometimes the plot may deliberately obscure elements of story to keep us intrigued (as in mysteries). Many art house films are less dependant upon plot and require the audience to infer more.
Elements of story are often open to interpretation, for example we as viewers may presume something about a character based upon their appearance or actions.We often do this subconsciously. Sometimes the plot can be left open which leaves us to make up our own mind about what might or might not happen.The more sophisticated your understanding of story and your ability to infer subtle information, the better your work will be. The weakest narrative analysis relies too much upon explicit information. However be careful, inferences must be backed up by reference to the text.
Compression of Time:Most films operate a high degree of Ellipsis or Time manipulation. In order to move the story forward, the audience only ‘sees’ the moments in time which are relevant to the Narrative.TASK: Consider the organisation of time in The Social Network:1. Draw a simplified timeline that shows the order of events as we see them.2. Now consider the story in the order that we infer it took place
Consider the organisation of time in your teaser trailer:Apply Bordwell and Thompson: Create a timeline of plot and then story.Is it:• Chronological order? (linear narrative)• Events shown out of time order? (non-linear narrative)
Use of Narrative to create Suspense and Audience expectations…Restricted or Unrestricted Narratives determine how much information is released to the Audience at a time… What do they need to know and when?Can you think of an example from The Social Network of where the audience know more than a character?
Narratives that are left unresolved can be described asopen narratives. For example, if Eastenders ends on a cliff-hanger at the end of the episode and you don’t know what willbe the outcome, then it is an open narrative.Narratives that come to a conclusion can be said tohave reached narrative closure. Can you think of anyexamples?Would a good teaser trailer have an open orclosed narrative?
• Ellipsis• Restricted narrative / Unrestricted narrative• Open / Closed narrative• Linear / Non-linear narrativePlus another one:• Multi-strand narrative
To entice an audience to go and see thefilm.Don’t forget to acknowledge this in your own analysisas it is a key driver of what plot information is and isnot given to the viewer and what questions this leavesthem with.It is useful to consider Roland Barthes work here…
And The Action/Enigma CodesAction Codes: Images or sequences which work asa form of a Visual Shorthand making complexIdeas immediately apparent and carrying thestory forward.Enigma Codes: Images/sequences which controlhow much we know in the story, engaging andholding audience interest. They present puzzleswhich demand to be solved The Social Network
More on the Enigma CodeAn enigma code works to keep setting up littlepuzzles to be solved (and not only at the beginningof a story), to delay the story’s ending pleasurably:e.g. how will Tom Cruise get out of thispredicament?Enigma codes can be described as minor or major.
Apply Barthes’ ideasTask:Watch the clip and write down all the questionsit raises for you as a viewer.The Social NetworkNow try and sort them into minor and majorenigmas.
Apply his ideas to your own workWhat elements of your trailer act as enigma codes(or clues) that leave the audience with questions orpuzzles to solve?Draw and fill in the table below:What are the codes (or What questions do they leaveclues)? the audience with?Minor:Major:
How would you approach this in the exam?What the examiners say:‘If the concept is narrative, and you’ve done a filmtrailer, you might consider how far a trailer gives a senseof a film’s narrative and how much you choose to revealin yours as part of promoting the film. What you don’twant to do is apply some theory like Todorov’s to try toprove that your film follows a pattern. The task shouldbe seen as an opportunity really to reflect on how yourchosen project actually works as a text.’
How would you approach this in the exam? Examiner’s guide to structuring your answer:Para 1 - Intro: Which of your projects are you going to write about?Briefly describe itPara 2: What are some of the key features of the concept you arebeing asked to apply? Maybe outline two of the theories/ideas ofparticular writers briefly. (Bordwell & Thompson? Barthes?)Para 3: Start to apply the concept, making close reference to yourproduction to show how the concept is evident in it. (See next slide)Para 4: Keep applying!Para 5: Conclusion (How successful is the narrative of your product inserving the purpose of a teaser trailer?)
How would you approach this in the exam?Ideas for working through paragraphs 3 & 4:•What narrative structure does your trailer use? Linear/non-linear? Open/closed?•How does this tie in with the purpose of a teaser trailer?•What plot information is given and what may audiences inferabout the story of the film? (You could also refer to genre here – doesyour trailer show conventional elements of a particular genre and so set upnarrative expectations based on that genre?) Link back to how this willentice viewers – and which viewers it would entice.•What enigma codes are there and what questions or puzzles arethe audience left with? Link back to how this will entice viewers.