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Narrative Analysis

The Basics
Narrative refers to the way the story of a film is told, as well as the story itself. We will be looking at narrative structure this refers to the order in which the action takes place. It is also important to consider where the audience is placed in relation to the narrative and whose eyes we see the story through.

Narrative Structure
There are three ways in which a narrative is structured. 1. Circular 2. Episodic 3. Linear

Circular Narrative
The is when a film begins at the end. This might sound strange, but if you think about it there are many films that start at the end and use a series of flashbacks, or construct the narrative around a single flashback and then return to where the film began.

Episodic Narrative
Not all films with flashbacks and voiceovers are circular. For example Forrest Gump has an interesting narrative structure because although events unfold more or less in chronological order, rather than just seeing Forrest at the beginning and end of the film, we keep returning to him sitting on the bench telling his story. The narrative is broken up into episodes or more manageable narrative pieces.

Linear Narrative
This is the most simple and commonly used narrative structure; it refers to a story that is told in the order in which events happen from beginning to end. These are sometimes referred to as cause and effect narratives as the consequences of one event have an effect on something else and things move along in this linear fashion. This doesnt mean to say linear narratives are boring Sixth Sense and Pans Labyrinth follow linear narratives but still create intrigue and mystery. Remember linear narratives are only simplistic in reference to time and place, not in terms of plot!




Conduct some research on films with different narrative structures. See if you can find 5 films for each structure, one of which should be a sci-fi horror. Of the films you know, write a short paragraph explaining why you think the director chose to use that particular narrative structure. Take a well know story it could be from a film or just a simple story people will know that has a linear narrative (e.g. a fairy tale) Construct a new version of the story using a circular narrative and then try creating it with an episodic narrative.

Narrative Viewpoint
1. Restricted Narrative A narrative that only allows us to know what the characters know. 2. Omniscient Narrative A narrative which allows us to know more about the characters and their situations than they know themselves

Of the genres below, which have omniscient narratives and which have restrictive (usually) and why? 1. Crime 2. Action 3. Disaster Movie 4. Sci-fi 5. Horror 6. Romance

Research task
Research and make extensive notes on: 1. Vladmir Propps narrative theory 2. Todorovs narrative theory Apply these theories to 2 films you know well and explain how they are used. Also have a look at 1. Levi-Strauss (binary oppositions) 2. Roland Barthes (5 narrative codes)

Vladimir Propp

Propps 8 main character types

1. 2. 3.
4. 5. 6. 7. 8.

The hero The false hero The princess the reward for the heros endeavours The father (of the princess) The helper helps the hero along the way. The villain The donor gives the hero something to help them on their quest The dispatcher sends the hero on their quest

Obviously you cant take a theory from around 90 years ago about Russian stories and relate it directly to every film made. Having said that, if you take into account social change and the difference in form, it is surprising how accurately some of Propps character types can be applied to many modern film narratives.
What categories would the following well known characters fit into? 1. Gandalf? 2. Lara Croft?

For example
War of the Worlds (2005)
The hero = Ray The princess = Mary Ann The helper = Robbie The villain = the aliens The donor = Grandmother The dispatcher = Harlan
Task Choose a film you know well and see if any of the character types can be applied to it

1. 2. 3.
Todorov was a The equilibrium the state of balance Bulgarian theorist in the narrative, where we get to know the who devised a way of looking at characters and the situation different stages The disruption oppositional of the narrative: characters are introduced and the story moves forward The recognition (of the disruption) where the story develops, different events and characters become involved and more drama occurs. The attempts to repair the disruption where there may be a twist or climatic point The new equilibrium the problem is Can you apply solved and harmony is resolved, though this to a film things may have changed.

4. 5.

you know well?

We are now going to watch the first part of I am Legend. Whilst watching it is vital you make notes in your research notebook on the following: 1. Genre HOW do we know it is a sci-fi horror? What other genres are featured and HOW do we know? 2. Narrative HOW is the story told? What type of narrative structure is used? 3. Do any of the theories looked at today apply to the film? If so which? And HOW?