Narrative – it ain’t what you tell, it’s the way that you tell it! LO: To understand the concept/theory of Narrative in films in general and in ‘Pretty in Pink’ & ‘Mean Girls’ in particular.
As human beings telling stories has always been an integral part of all our cultures. Cave man drawings Egyptian hieroglyphics Singing folktales (ballads) Fairytales. The use of narratives is one of the fundamental ways in which we make sense of the world; stories could be said to bring order & structure to our otherwise chaotic experiences. Narratives represent the world to us. It ain’t exactly a story...
We constantly use stories to make sense & to create meaning out of our otherwise chaotic experiences. In telling stories we give order and shape to a series of events. Narratives can be seen as particular arrangements of events within a structure Simplest = chronological order. More complex = use of parallel episodes that form a deliberate contrast, or repetition of events seen from different view points. Narrative Structure – it’s all in the shape baby!! View slide
Concentrate – here comes the intellectual bit! Narrative theory no.1 Chris Vogler(From the Proppian school of thought). Any story about a ‘hero’ undertaking a journey involves several stages; The hero’s ordinary world established & he is given a challenge or quest. The hero meets someone who gives him advice or he obtains something that will help him in his quest. Moving to a special world the hero faces tests/make enemies and learns the rules of that world. The hero faces his greatest ordeal and almost fails, then passes has to face the journey home. The hero returns to the ordinary world a changed person. Task - in pairs apply Vogel’s theory to either “Mean Girls” or “Pretty in Pink”. View slide
2. Todorov Narratives follow a common pattern of movement. Stable Equilibrium Disruption of Equilibrium Reordered Equilibrium ( achieved by action against the force which caused the disruption) Narrative Theory no.2
Todorov linked with Syd Field Field = good scripts have three acts. 1st Act – gives the set-up, showing where the action taking place, introduces the characters and suggests broadly what’s going to happen. At end of the 1st Act there’s a crucial point at which the direction of the rest of the film set up. 2nd Act – has a key note of confrontation, as the protagonist is faced with a series of obstacles to completing the central dramatic need of the film. 2nd Act ends with the protagonist facing one final problem that needs to be overcome. 3rd Act – All plots and subplots resolved.
To be successful at the Box Office films must pleasure the audience in very particular and predictable ways. The narrative is taking the spectator on a journey ~ the plot develops in a way to engage the viewer in the creation of expectations, which are either fulfilled straight away, fulfilled later or not at all! The filmmaker engages in gratification, suspense and surprise. Narrative Pleasure – it’s not as dirty as it sounds!!
Barthes = narratives worked through enigmas or the setting up of mysteries for the reader to solve. Alfred Hitchcock & the positioning of the audience. The view offered to us in a film may be unrestricted – we may be permitted a god-like view of everything so we know more than any one character or all the characters. Or this view may be restricted – from one characters view point, the audience only knows what the character knows.
If we know more than the characters = suspense ~ we antiscipate events happening that the character cannot know about & wonder when these will happen, when the character will find out. If we know less that the characters = surprise. Hitchcock = two people sitting at a table having a conversation, with a bomb in a bag under the table. If we as the audience know more that the characters & are aware of the bomb’s presence suspense at work because we would wonder when it’ll explode. However. If we as the audience didn’t know about the bomb and it went off, we’d be surprised.
Narratives are all structured in similar ways and we as audiences have expectations of those structures when we go and see a film. Vogel and Todorov are important narrative (structure) theorists; most mainstream films follow their ideas about how a narrative should be structured. Narrative pleasure is what we go and see films for (or read books or watch TV shows) – it comes in three forms, gratification, suspense and surprise. And any narrative positions it’s reader in a deliberate way for effect. Syd Field is a modern narrative theorist who’s made a lot of money spouting out other people’s ideas in whole books, stating the obvious! To sum up... What have we learned – not “learnt”!!