Discuss the narrative of the opening of
Narrative, at its most simplistic, can be
defined as ‘the way in which a story is
There are differing narrative structures...
There are certain guidelines for film-
makers and expectations for audiences
regarding the narrative of a film,
predominantly that the story
progresses logically (chronologically)
through events as they happen.
Most Hollywood films follow this linear
narrative format, as it is the easiest to
However, some films will break these
rules and play around with narrative
aspects (often culminating in a non-
Levi-Strauss and Binary Oppositions
Claude Levi-Strauss focused on how
meaning is created within a film’s narrative.
He argued that Binary Oppositions create
meaning and further the narrative by these
oppositions clashing with one another.
These oppositions take many different
forms and are very genre dependent.
Levi-Strauss and Binary
Man vs. Woman
Human vs. Alien
Young vs. Old
Hero vs. Villain
West vs. East
Science vs. Nature
Vladimir Propp: seven
spheres of action:
Propp’s study of Russian folk tales has been applied to film to
suggest that while narratives may appear very different, there is
a shared character structural features.
Hero: Individual(s) who's quest is to restore the equilibrium.
Villain: Individual(s) who's task is to disrupt the equilibrium.
Donor: Individual(s) who gives the hero(s) something, advice,
information or an object.
Helper: Individual(s) who aids the hero(s) with their set task.
Princess (Prince): Individual(s) which need help, protecting
Dispatcher: Individual(s) who send the hero(s) on their quest.
False Hero: Individual(s) who set out to undermine the hero's
quest by pretending to aid them. Often unmasked at the end of
As a rule the conventional narrative has five stages, though this can be
rudimentary broken down to three stages:
1. Beginning (State of equilibrium)
3. Middle (State of Disequilibrium))
5. End (State of
Equilibrium = a state of balance, normality
in which the characters find themselves at
Tzvetan Todorov conventional
A state of equilibrium is defined.
Disruption to the equilibrium by some action or
The Character(s) recognition that there has been a
disruption, setting goals to resolve problem.
Stage4 The Character(s) attempt to repair the
disruption, obstacles need to be overcome to restore
Reinstatement to the equilibrium. Situation is
resolved, a conclusion is announced.
Barthes & Narrative Codes
Barthes’ interest in narrative derived from the
concept of the use of visual codes.
Enigma codes are images/sequences that
control how much we know in the story,
engaging and holding audience interest. They
present puzzles which demand to be solved.
Action codes are those images/sequences that
work as a form of visual shorthand making
complex ideas immediately apparent and
carrying the story forward.
Other Useful Terms
how much information do you release to
the compression of time within a film
the ‘because’ of the story
Back to ‘The Business’
Once again, be prepared to discuss the
opening of ‘The Business’ using some of
the theory used.