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Narrative structure

By Casey Jefferies
Todorov’s theory
Tzvetan Todorov’s theory states that there are five stages of
development to every film. These five stages are:

1.A state of equilibrium
2.A state of disequilibrium
3.Acknowledgement of disequilibrium
4.Attempt to repair situation
5.Return to a state of equilibrium
Todorov’s theory ‘The Shining’
Applied to a film
1. A state of equilibrium – Family move into a hotel
for dad’s business career.
2. A state of disequilibrium – Child hears voices and
sees ghosts and the mother sees the father has
done no work apart from writing “All work and no
play makes Johnny a dull boy”.
3. Acknowledgement of disequilibrium – Father tries
to kill wife and son.
4. Attempt to repair situation – Try to escape the
terror.
5. Return to a state of equilibrium – Wife and son
get in truck, drive away and live happily together.
Vladimir Propp’s theory
Propp’s theory states that the characters of the film took on the role of the narrative
‘spheres of action’ functions. He came up with seven different character types:
Levi-Strauss’ theory
Claude Levi-Strauss’ theory states that all narratives could be reduced down to binary opposites.
Eg. Weak vs strong, east vs west, good vs evil.

He suggested that all narratives are driven by conflict by opposing forces eg. Light /dark, right/wrong.
Barthes’ theory
Roland Barthes was a semiologist- he was paid to look at texts and decide and decipher how they were
put together. If a text is like a ball of string, can it be unravelled in one or many ways?
How I will use these theories
I will use Todorov’s theory of narrative at the beginning of my planning process to determine the
basics of my film’s storyline. I will use it as a step-by-step process to plan my plot effectively,
following the five structured points.
I will use Propp’s theory next in my planning to create relevant and effective characters in relation
to my basic plot.
Levi-Strauss’ theory will have an underlying effect on my film plan as most gangster films have the
theme of good vs evil and/or wealth vs poor. This supports Levi-Strauss’ theory.
I will use Barthes’ theory throughout the later stages of planning, especially the ‘action code’ as my
opening will likely include various action scenes.

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Narrative theory

  • 2. Todorov’s theory Tzvetan Todorov’s theory states that there are five stages of development to every film. These five stages are: 1.A state of equilibrium 2.A state of disequilibrium 3.Acknowledgement of disequilibrium 4.Attempt to repair situation 5.Return to a state of equilibrium
  • 3. Todorov’s theory ‘The Shining’ Applied to a film 1. A state of equilibrium – Family move into a hotel for dad’s business career. 2. A state of disequilibrium – Child hears voices and sees ghosts and the mother sees the father has done no work apart from writing “All work and no play makes Johnny a dull boy”. 3. Acknowledgement of disequilibrium – Father tries to kill wife and son. 4. Attempt to repair situation – Try to escape the terror. 5. Return to a state of equilibrium – Wife and son get in truck, drive away and live happily together.
  • 4. Vladimir Propp’s theory Propp’s theory states that the characters of the film took on the role of the narrative ‘spheres of action’ functions. He came up with seven different character types:
  • 5. Levi-Strauss’ theory Claude Levi-Strauss’ theory states that all narratives could be reduced down to binary opposites. Eg. Weak vs strong, east vs west, good vs evil. He suggested that all narratives are driven by conflict by opposing forces eg. Light /dark, right/wrong.
  • 6. Barthes’ theory Roland Barthes was a semiologist- he was paid to look at texts and decide and decipher how they were put together. If a text is like a ball of string, can it be unravelled in one or many ways?
  • 7. How I will use these theories I will use Todorov’s theory of narrative at the beginning of my planning process to determine the basics of my film’s storyline. I will use it as a step-by-step process to plan my plot effectively, following the five structured points. I will use Propp’s theory next in my planning to create relevant and effective characters in relation to my basic plot. Levi-Strauss’ theory will have an underlying effect on my film plan as most gangster films have the theme of good vs evil and/or wealth vs poor. This supports Levi-Strauss’ theory. I will use Barthes’ theory throughout the later stages of planning, especially the ‘action code’ as my opening will likely include various action scenes.