NarrativeWhat is a narrative andwhat are the different typesof story?
What is Narrative?Narrative is defined as a chain of events in a cause-effectrelationship occurring in time (Bordwell and Thompson, FilmArt, 1980Digesis is the internal world created by the story that the charactersexperience and encounter.
Story and PlotStory – all events referenced both explicitly in a narrative andinferred (including back story as well as those projected beyondthe action.)Plot – the events directly incorporated into the action of the textand in the order in which they are presented.
Narrative RangeUnrestricted narration – a narrative which has no limits to theinformation that is presented i.e. news bulletin.Restricted narration – only offers minimal information regarding thenarrative i.e. thrillers.
Narrative DepthSubjective character identification – the viewer is given uniqueaccess to what a range of characters see and do.Objective character identification – the viewer is given uniqueaccess to a character’s point of view such as seeing things from thecharacters mind, dreams, fantasies or memories.
NarrativeTheoryWhat are the differentnarrative theories and whatfilms or types of films dothey apply to?
Vladimir ProppConventional narrative theory can be explored via the work ofRussian Formalists from the 1920’s.Vladimir Propp’s theory of narrative is that characters took on a roleof narrative “spheres of action” or functions. From a comprehensivestudy of folktales Propp came up with seven different charactertypes:The HeroThe VillainThe DonorThe HelperThe PrincessThe DispatcherThe False HeroTo illustrate these character types I am going to apply them to thefilm Iron Man(1)…because I love it!
The Hero Usually male, the hero is the agent who restores the narrative equilibrium, often by embarking upon a quest (or search). Propp distinguishes between the victim hero, who is the centre of the villains attentions, and the seeker hero who aids others who are theVillains victims. The hero is invariably the texts central character.
The VillainThe villain usually creates thenarrative disruption.
The DonorThe donor gives the herosomething, which may be anobject, information or advice,which helps in the resolution ofthe narrative.
The HelperThe helper aids the hero in thetask of restoring equilibrium.
The PrincessThe princess (the victim) isusually the character mostthreatened by the villain whohas to be saved, at the climax,by the hero. The father’s job isusually to give the princessaway to the hero at thenarratives conclusion.
The DispatcherThe dispatcher sends the heroon his or her task.
The False HeroThe false hero appears to begood but is revealed, at thenarrative’s end, to have beenbad.
Todorov’s TheoryTzvetan Todorov suggested that conventional narratives arestructured in five stages:A state of equilibrium at the outset.A disruption of equilibrium by some action.A recognition that there has been a disruption.An attempt to repair the disruption.A reinstatement of the equilibrium.This type of narrative structure is very familiar to us and can beapplied to many mainstream film narratives.
Modular NarrativesAllan Cameron has identified four different types of modularnarrative:o Anachronico Forking Pathso Episodico Split Screens
AnachronicAnachronic modular narratives involve the use of flashbacks and/orflash forwards, with no clear dominance between any of thenarrative threads. These narratives also often repeat scenes directlyor via a different perspective.Examples include Pulp Fiction and Memento
Forking PathNarrative’s juxtapose alternative versions of a story, showing thepossible outcomes that might result from small changes in a singleevent or group of events. The forking path narrative introduces anumber of plotlines that usually contradict one another.Examples include Groundhog Day and Run Lola Run
EpisodicEpisodic narratives are organised as an abstract series or narrativeanthology. Abstract series type of modular narrative ischaracterized by the operation of a non narrative formal systemwhich appears to dictate (or at least overlay) the organization ofnarrative elements such as a sequence of numbers or thealphabet. Anthology consists of a series of shorter tales which areapparently disconnected but share a random similarity, such as all“episodes” being survivors of a shipwreck.An example of a narrative anthology could be He’s Just Not ThatInto You, where all characters are struggling with relationships(although their stories do all link together)
Split ScreenSplit screen narratives are different from the other types of modularnarrative discussed here, because their modularity is articulatedalong spatial rather than temporal lines. These films divide thescreen into two or more frames, juxtaposing events within the samevisual field, in a sustained fashion.An example of this is Timecode
My FilmMy film fits in with Todorov’s theory of equilibrium. There is a state ofequilibrium at the start, there is a disruption of that equilibrium whenthe main character spots the boy who has been bullying herdisturbing her mothers grave and throwing photo’s from the grave.This is her recognition that there has been a disruption. She chaseshim from the graveyard where she stabs him; which is her attempt torepair the equilibrium.My film doesn’t fit with any of Allan Cameron’s theories, nor does it fitwith Vladimir Propp’s theory of characters.