In Media Studies, it is important to tell the difference between the narrative and story Story = a sequence of events, known correctly as the plot (What actually happens e.g. Scott taught the class about narrative and then they left Narrative = the way those events are put together to be presented to an audience e.g. Scott dismissed the class, then there was a series of flashback s of the lesson. Therefore, when analysing a narrative we analyse the construction of the story ie the way it has been put together, not the story itself. You also need to consider what the story is about in its most basic terms, ie the theme (eg Love, war, winning).
Simply put, narrative is basically the order something is put in and there is always a reason for this. For example, directors often use flashbacks, voiceovers or montages to show previous stories or show a passing of time. Genre ,Character, Form and Time help us make sense of a narrative and also about what to expect. You must consider whether their is one narrative going on. For example, Pulp Fiction has various stories with different characters going on. We call this a METANARRATIVE There are a number of different narrative theories which propose ways in which stories (including films) are commonly put together
Linear narratives are the ‘classic’ and simple beginning, middle and end stories. This will follow the rule of situation- disruption-resolution, in that order. In other words, the story will flow chronologically (in time order) through one story, from beginning to end.
Of Christopher Nolan’s films, few have a truly linear narrative, except perhaps ‘The Dark Knight’ In simple terms, Batman is controlling crime in the city, The Joker turns up which disrupts this, Batman defeats The Joker and returns order to the city.
Non-Linear Narrative is where the narrative does nor follow a regular beginning-middle- end pattern. The storytellers will play with the order of events. For example, some films will choose to show the ending at the beginning (Fight Club, Double Indemnity, Forrest Gump, American Beauty etc.)
Unlike The Dark Knight, Batman Begins tends to follow a non-linear narrative (at least for the first half) The action jumps between time periods, from Bruce was a boy, to when he was an young adult, to a mature adult, to back to a boy, back to a mature adult, to a young adult, etc. etc. as we will see…
There is another of Nolan’s films called ‘Memento’, the main trait of which is it’s unusual non-linear narrative structure The story is told in reverse order, interspersed with extracts from a scene set right at the beginning of the film. The ending is shown in reverse at the beginning:http://www.youtube.com/watch ?v=cifPv4QWTH0
Propp was a Russian critic who published his Morphology of the Folk Tale in 1928 Propp analysed over 100 Folk Tales He established that all of these tales followed a strict Narrative structure, which usually contained 8 characters
•The Hero often seeks something e.g. Aquest, money or to save the life of aPrincess• The Hero, according to Propp, is often theprotagonist, which drives the narrativeforward. There are two types of Hero “TheSeeker”- who aids the victims of the villainand the “The Victim Hero”- who is thecentre of the villains plans•In fairy tales, this role is often adopted bythe Prince This is ironic as Bruce Wayne is often referred to as “The Prince of Gotham” !
• The Villain often serves to cause disruptionto the general social order e.g. The WickedWitch in Snow White• In the film the Joker terrorises GothamCity, killing and damaging the city in acts ofwanton destruction• He does this because he wants to challengethe role of the hero. For instance, he evenkidnaps Batman’s love interest, RachelDawes The Villain is also usually deformed, evil or mythical e.g. The witch in Hansel and Gretel
•The Princess is often the reward for the heroand is often the reason for the hero’s queste.g. when Prince Charming saves SleepingBeauty•Due to this fact, the Princess is often atarget for the villain. In the film, the Jokerkidnaps Rachel and kills her (which goesagainst usual conventions of a fairy taleending)• Often seen as a damsel in distress However...• Although she needs Batman to save her sheis a strong woman and to some degree, in herrole as a lawyer, a heroine herself
• The Donor helps the Hero along their way, often by giving them an item with mystical powers • In this case, Lucius Fox provides Bruce Wayne with such items as a utility belt, gadgets and a Bat mobile•Such gadgets in todays society areseen as somewhat magical in the respectthat they are extremely ahead of theirtime and in many respects, impossible toconceive, like that of magic
•Commissioner Gordon fulfils two character roles inThe Dark Knight, that of :The Helper- Aids the hero, sometimes a sidekick e.g. The fairy godmother in Cinderella The Dispatcher- Often sends the hero on his way/ quest. This character alsofrequently alerts our hero to a problem
• Batman believes that HarveyDent can become the “WhiteKnight” of Gotham City !•Harvey Dent is seen as the realHero of Gotham, due to his crimefighting in the courtroom. Batmanbelieves that he can retire andleave Gotham city safely in hishands However...• When Rachel is killed by the Jokerand Harvey Dent is left horriblydisfigured, his Hero status is lost.He instead becomes the VillainKnown as Two- Face. He is whatPropp refers to as “The False Hero”
•The Father role according to that of Proppis often usually that of the father of theprincess, not of the Hero.•For example, the king may reward theHero for saving his daughter (A Princess)from a dragon. However, in The DarkKnight, the Princess is murdered by theVillain.•The Father is therefore not a literalcharacter, but the completion of the Hero’smission, to rid Gotham of crime. If hesucceeds, Rachel (at the beginning of thefilm) has promised to be with him.•Alfred does however fulfil the role of theHelper.
In pairs, pick a film of your choice and analyse it againstsome of the 8 character types. Consider:•What character types do the main characters fit into?• Do the characters live up to their character roles or dothey subvert/ go against, such connotations?•Are there any character types which are not included?Remember – to fulfil a character type, you do not necessarilyneed a person! An object or concept could fulfil this role.
Now this is a theory that can be applied to many texts but can also serve you well if you want to disprove it. Adverts employ this technique e.g. Nice clean carpet, spill wine, vanish saves the day and gets rid of the stain. Todorov believed that texts are made up of fives stage of narrative. This structure could be applied to both fictional and non-fictional texts.
Equilibrium A disruption of this equilibrium by an event A realisation that a disruption has occurred An attempt to repair the damage of the disruption A restoration of equilibrium or- A NEW EQUILIBRIUM (everything goes back to normal but maybe with some changes) http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=FDkltIaiQf w&list=PL606555723F99DD88
Equilibrium – Bruce Wayne has retired, with Batman wanted for the murder of Harvey Dent Disruption of Equilibrium – Selina Kyle (Catwoman) breaks into Bruce’s safe for his fingerprints, Bane arrives in Gotham# Realisation of Disruption – Comissioner Gordon shot by Bane’s men, asks Batman for help Attempt to repair Disruption – Most of the film – Batman attempts to restore the equilibrium in Gotham by getting rid of Bane New Equilibrium – Peace and justice restored in Gotham, although it will never be the same, and neither will Bruce Wayne or Batman (no spoilers)
In pairs, take a film of your choice and break it down in terms of Todorov’s narrative structure Equilibrium – The situation in which the film begins (the ‘norm’) Disruption – Something happens to upset the equilibrium Realisation – The Hero is notified that a disruption has occurred and must act to restore the equilibrium Action – The Hero attempts to restore equilibrium New Equilibrium – Equilibrium is restored, although something will have changed as a result of action.
Levi-Strauss saw the world as full of binary oppositions e.g. Fat Vs skinny, rich Vs poor. This has transferred into media texts also. In a narrative we often see these binary oppositions played off against each other. In film, perhaps the most fundamental binary opposition is good vs. evil. This is explored by Nolan.
The Dark Knight works on the principle of The Joker and Batman being binary opposites The Joker is an advocate of chaos and destruction, Batman of order and justice Each dresses and behaves in opposite ways “This is what happens when an unstoppable force meets an immoveable object”http://www.youtube.com/watch? v=SDbINMm-d60
Can you think of any films which contain binary oppositions? Think about how two concepts or characters are juxtaposed against each other.
Barthes was interested in concepts such as negotiated reading. This basically meant the relationship between the institution and the audience. He established that even though texts may imprint meaning into a text we produce new meaning for ourselves, that the media has no control over. This is called cultural consumption. The way we view a text is influenced by our cultural, social and political views as well as our viewing of other texts.
The most well known of Barthes theories was the idea of the ‘Enigma code’ In its simplest form it is the hook or mystery to be resolved for an audience. This keeps the viewers engaged and makes them more likely to watch the film after seeing a trailer or tune in for the next episode. It is classically used in trailers in order to hook an audience:http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LPKhWXhiMSw
Batman Begins uses the enigma code as a plot device, as Batman searches to establish what the plot of the evil Scarecrow is. He gathers clues piece-by- piece, much like a detective, before uncovering the plot, and finally revealing the true villain in Ra’s al Ghul, who is simply referred to as ‘he’ by the other villains leading up to this. This device keeps the audience interested in the narrative