Todorov’s TheoryTodorov proposed a basic structure for all narratives for all films and programmes. Todorov suggested that conventional narratives are structured in five stages:
A state of calm at the start A disturbance of the calm by some action An acknowledgment that there has been a disturbance An attempt to repair the disturbance A return to a state of calm
Todorova stated that films and programmes begin with a calm period. Usually an innocent character in a lovely setting in horror films for example in ‘Scream’ the girl is home cooking popcorn in a beautifully decorated large suburban house.
Then there will be a disturbance of the calm, which is the period of unsettlement. Usually by something evil in horror films for example in ‘Scream’ the scary telephone calls and murders.
This is followed by a renewed state of peace and harmony for the main innocent character and usually involves a hero character to battle the evil and restore the calm state, for example in ‘Scream’ Sydney is the hero who battles against the slasher.
With a new calmness brings the chaos to an end and in ‘Scream’ this means the end of the movie when the survivors are reunited.
This is the simplest form of narrative andsometimes referred to as ‘Classic’ or‘Hollywood’ narrative.This type of narrative structure is veryfamiliar to everyone as this can be appliedto many mainstream film narratives inparticular in the horror genre.
Propp’s Theory Vladimir Propp was another theorist who came up with a theory about stories and fairy tales in the early twentieth Century. His theory suggested there were 31 functions of stories.
Propp thought all stories were either linear or non-linear stories. Linear is when the story is in order of beginning, middle and ending. The story is easy to follow in terms of sequence and not too demanding for the audience. Non- linear is when the story isn’t in order of beginning, middle and ending. The story may be harder to follow as it is not in sequence and make be more difficult for the audience .
Here is how Propp’s theory can be applied to the film Shrek based on classic fairy tales.Characters The hero who’s role is seeking something – Shrek seeks princess The villain who’s role is to opposes the hero- Dragon The dispatcher who’s role is to sends the hero on his way – The King The helper who’s role is to give support to the hero - donkey The princess who’s role is to the reward for the hero but also needs to be protected from the villain- Princess FionaThe way the audience can identify the character type as it is easy to guess what they will do because each character will have a scope of the action. For example the hero will save the maiden, defeat the villain, marry the maiden.
Narrative Functions A member of the family leaves home – Princess Fiona locked away The prohibition or rule is brokenComplication The villain harms a member of the family – princess Fiona cursed to be an orge
Transference The hero leaves home – Shrek leaves home The hero is transferred to the general location of the object of his mission or quest – Shrek leaves the swamp goes to castleStruggle The initial misfortune or lack is put right – Fiona chooses to stay an Orge
Return The hero returnsRecognition The hero is recognised
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