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WJEC GCE AS Film Studies Stuart Grenville-Price Introduction to Narrative Narrative Structure in Film This week’s session will focus on techniques and approaches used by filmmakers with respect to filmic narrative and narration. Firstly we must be able to distinguish between the two, what is narrative and what is narration? Definitions


Narrative : Narrative concerns the events depicted in the story, including information about characters, events and actions.

• In order for a narrative to be understandable (or coherent ) in film or literature, the law of causality must be obeyed. i.e. a sequence of events must succeed one another subject to the laws of cause and effect. e.g. event B occurs becauseof event A. A random series of events doesnot constitute a narrative. Die Another Day (Lee Tamahori 2002) JamesBond (Pierce Brosnan) is s good example of causeand effect logic. His actions are always a reaction to somebody else’s actions

• Narrative development is dependent on the way in which characters motivate this cause-effect logic through their desires and needs. • Narrative consists of three components; a beginning (the initial stage of equilibrium), a middle (a disruption to equilibrium) and an end (resolution of equilibrium)

*******Screening: Magnificent Obsession (Douglas Sirk 1954 USA)*******


Narration Narration shows (denotes) the mechanism used to convey information regarding characters, events and actions to the spectator:

• Restricted narration ; Here, the film’s story is narrated from the viewpoint of one character, we thus see the film’s events through his/her eyes crucially through certain camerawork techniques such as extensive use of ‘point-of-view’ shots. Out of the Past (JacquesTourneur 1947) Jeff Bailey (Robert Mitchum) in ‘Out of the Past’ is a good example of restricted narration. As in ‘The Big Sleep’ we only get the information he unveils throughout the film’s crime mystery narrative This approach means that the viewer only has accessto a limited amount of narrative events, and is aligned with the character in question. Restrictive narration therefore works as a barrier mechanism for the viewer. It is typically used in the detective genre as a way of increasing the mystery and impenetrability of the story.

What you see? How do you feel? The effect creates?

*******Screenings: Apocalypse Now (Francis Ford Coppola, 1979)*******

2b • Omniscient narration ; This technique is often used in melodrama and is intended to introduce a discrepancy between the information held by the characters and that of the spectator.

This is useful in increasing the dramatic suspense crucial to melodrama. Narrative information is conveyed from a wide variety of sources by means of camerawork; the camera freely moves from one character to another so the events can be seen through the eyes of different characters. Overhead or God’s-eye-view shots are also employed in order to convey a panoramic of events. Scream (Wes Craven 1996) Casey Becker (Drew Barrymore) in ‘Scream’ is a good example of omniscient narration. As in ‘most horror genre films we know more than the victim does. (He’s behind you!)

An example of omniscient narration in terms of camerawork What you see? How do you feel? The effect creates?

*******Screenings: Halloween & Short Cuts******* ******** * * * * * *G roup questions:

a) How important do you think narrative structure is to the coherence of a film? Could a film be both coherent and causally incoherent?

b) Which form of narration do you consider to be the more effective?

Omniscient and Restricted Narration