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Classical Hollywood Narrative. Principles of Narrative Construction. Narrative form : a film that tells a story Most common in fictional films, but it can appear in all other basic types -documentaries, cartoons, also some experimental and avant garde (art films)

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principles of narrative construction
Principles of Narrative Construction
  • Narrative form: a film that tells a story
  • Most common in fictional films, but it can appear in all other basic types

-documentaries, cartoons, also some experimental and avantgarde (art films)

  • When we go to the movies, we expect a series of incidents that will be connected in some way
  • We also expect that the problems or conflicts arising in the course of the action will achieve some final state
  • As the audience watches the film, they pick up on cues, recall info, anticipate, and generally participate in the film form
what is narrative
What is Narrative?
  • Narrative can be considered to be a chain of events linked by cause and effect occurring in time and space—more basically, story
  • Begins w/ a situation; a series of changes occurs according to cause and effect ; a new situation arises that brings about the end of the narrative
  • Components of narrative– causality, time and space
plot and story
Plot and Story
  • Inference and Cues
  • What do we learn from what we see?
plot and story1
Plot and Story
  • Story: the set of all the event in the narrative, both the ones explicitly presented and those the viewer infers
  • Diegesis: the total world of the story action; everything that exist in the film’s world
  • Plot: used to describe everything visibly and audibly present in the film before us

- includes the story events and everything that is included in the film

  • Nondiegetic: things from outside the story world (credits, music from the outside, etc)
  • Plot goes beyond the story world by presenting nondiegetic images and sounds
cause and effect
Cause and Effect
  • The main agents of cause and effect are characters

-humans or entities like people, i.e. the clock in Beauty and the Beast

  • Characters create causes and register events
  • A character has traits: attitudes, skills, habits, tastes, and other qualities that distinguish characters—complexity i.eBreaking Bad
  • Causal motivation often involves the planting of information in advance of a scene.

- minor details can become major plot points

  • Any film’s plot can withhold causes and thus arouse our curiosity
  • Plot may present cause but withhold effects, prompting suspense and uncertainty in the viewer
  • We construct story time on the basis of what the plot presents
  • We assume the character spends uneventful time sleeping, traveling, eating—as long as it is not integrated into the story
  • The viewer is engaged in putting events in chronological order, and to assign them some durationand frequency
temporal order
Temporal Order
  • We’re use to seeing movies out of order
  • Flashback – portion of story presented out of order
  • Flashforward- moving from present to future then back to present
  • Flashback scenes are arranged out of chronological order
  • Filmmakers play with temporal order to place emphasis on certain scenes that they may not have, if placed in regular temporal order
temporal duration
Temporal Duration
  • Film’s select certain stretches of story duration (the time in which the story takes place)
  • Sum of all slices of story duration yields an overall plot duration
  • The plot can use screen duration to expand story duration
  • The plot can use screen duration to override story time
temporal frequency
Temporal Frequency
  • Frequency- the aspect of temporal manipulation that involves the number of times any story event is shown in the plot
  • most commonly, story are presented only once in the plot
  • Often times, when a plot repeats a story event, the aim is often to provide new information
  • The repetition of actions may be motivated by the plot’s need to communicate certain key causes very clearly to the spectator
openings closings and patterns of development
Openings, Closings, and Patterns of Development
  • A film does not just start, it begins– the opening provides a basis for what is to come and initiates us into the narrative
  • The plot will seek to arouse curiosity by bringing us into a series of actions that has already started, called in medias res
  • The portion of the plot that lays out important story events and character traits in the opening scene is called exposition
  • the opening raises our expectations by setting up a specific range of possible causes for and effects of what we see.
  • The first 1/4th or so of a film’s plot is often referred to as the setup
openings closings and patterns of development1
Openings, Closings, and Patterns of Development
  • Most patterns of plot development depend heavily on the ways that causes and effects create a change in a character’s situation
  • Most general plot development is change in knowledge– a character learns something in the course of the action, with the most crucial knowledge coming at the final turning point of the plot
  • A common pattern of development is goal-oriented plot– the character takes steps to achieve a desired object or state of affairs

- ex: search plots, Indiana Jones, Star Wars, Wizard of Oz

  • Time or space may also provide plot patterns. A framing situation in the present may initiate a series of flashbacks showing how events led up to the present situation
  • The plot may also create a specific duration for the action– a deadline
  • Most often times, films will combine these patterns
openings closings and patterns of development2
Openings, Closings, and Patterns of Development
  • For any pattern of development, spectator will create specific expectations
  • As the film continues on and we get to know it better, these expectations become more and more precise
  • The pattern of development in the middle portion may delay an expected out come (i.e. the wizard asking for the witch’s broom in the Wizard of Oz)
  • Each step of the journey is governed by an overlying principle (i.e. her desire to go home)
openings closings and patterns of development3
Openings, Closings, and Patterns of Development
  • A film doesn’t simply stop, it ENDS
  • The narrative will typically resolve its causal issues by bringing the development of a high point or climax—there’s only a narrow range of possible outcomes
  • Emotionally, the climax aims to lift the viewer to a high degree of tension or suspense
  • Can leave endings open ended or definivelyclose them
narration the flow of story
Narration: The Flow of Story
  • The plot may arrange cues in ways that withhold information for the sake of curiosity and surprise
  • It may also supply info in a way to create expectations or increase suspense
  • All this is called narration- the plot’s way of distributing story information in order to achieve specific effects

-moment by moment process that guides us in building the story out of plot

  • The most important actors of narration are rangeand depth
range of story information
Range of Story Information
  • Unrestricted or Omniscient– we know, see, and hear more than any characters can

- builds suspense (Hitchcok and Truffaut)

  • Restricted – we don’t hear or see anything that the main character cannot see or hear

- curiosity and surprise for the viewer

  • These are two categories, no movie is clearly definitive one or the other; one range may be dominant over the other but it will still include both
  • “Who knows what when?”
depth of story information
Depth of Story Information
  • how deeply do we plunge into a character’s psychological states?
  • Objective- A plot confines us wholly to what the characthers say and do: their external behavior; outsider looking in– POV shot
  • Sound, perceptual, and mental subjectivity: how they hear, understand,and view/think things in their own minds
  • Just like the range of story info, it fluctuates as to how much of one we understandtrying to to achieve a specific effect on the viewer
the narrator
The Narrator
  • Narrator- some specific agent who purports to be telling us the story
  • Can be a character in the story or a non character (think documentaries)
  • how much they tell and give away is completely to how the story should be told