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FILM FORM NARRATIVE – FIVE STAGES Narrative describes how stories are told to the viewer in terms of the structure and movement of a story within a film. You do not have to employ complex theories of narrative in order to provide a good analysis of its function. In any film, the settings, characters and events may be different, but there will be structural elements that are constant. Once you have decided on the sequence(s) for your macro essay, you will need to decide which of these structural elements are most relevant to your discussions. On a very basic level, all films have the same narrative pattern. Stories move through the following stages: exposition, development, complication, climax, and resolution.

Example Steven Spielberg’s Minority report (2002)

Exposition The exposition of a film’s narrative introduces the setting and the characters to the viewer. Minority Report opens with scenesthat introduce the futuristic setting, Tom Cruise’s character (John Anderton) and the role of the Pre-Cogs.

Development In the development section, the storyline is taken further and more characters are introduced. We are shown the workings of John Anderton’s law enforcement organisation, his lost son, his ex-wife and the other characters who will have significance in the story.

Complication During this stage of the film’s narrative, we are presented with a complicating event which will affect the lives of the main characters. In Minority Report, the discovery of the possibility that the three Pre-Cogs might not always agree on their predictions for future crimes and that, in fact, there is a crime on which they did not agree provides the first part of the complication. The second complicating factor comes in the form of John Anderton’s shift from law enforcement official to hunted perpetrator of a crime.


Climax This is the point at which dramatic tension is at its height and we uncover the mystery of the story or have our questions answered. John Anderton’s discovery of the truth about the lost ‘minority report’ provides the climatic section.

Resolution The resolution sequencere-establishes stability and restores a form of calm. In the final scene,John Anderton is reunited with his now pregnant wife, looking forward to a new future.


Narrative - 5 Stages