Narrative and Story structure

Day 3

The basis of today was to learn about Story, plot, narrative and narration with a talk from Roy Stafford, a film studies expert.

Screen shot 2014-12-13 at 12.48.47

We learned that the definition of ‘Story’ is “a chain of events in cause-effect relationship, occurring in time and space”, said by Bordwell and Thompson (1997). We also learned that narration refers to the way in which the story is told, and about Todrov’s theory :-

1. Narrative of a story begins with disruption- an ‘inciting incident’ that upsets the ‘equilibrium’ in a specific community

2.  development up to a climax

3. movement towards a ‘resolution’–> 4. leading to a new ‘equilibrium’ that is different from the start

We then talked about  the genre of film noir: dark themes, extreme light and shadow techniques which was particular popular in the 1950s with directors such as Orson Welles and Billy Wilder.

Screen shot 2014-12-13 at 12.47.44

Using our knowledge of narratives, we then watched ‘A La Folie Pas Du Tout’ (He loves me, he loves me not), starring Audrey Tautou. We found that is was based around 3 narratives; the female lead, the male lead, and the reality. The film also highlighted a ‘mis en sen’ theme- opposites portrayal such as colour opposites- reds v blues.  The music throughout the film also played a key role in setting the theme up and the repetition of the song,’L.O.V.E’- Frank Sinatra, highlights the drama, mystery and creepy feel that the film has overall.

Screen shot 2014-12-13 at 12.51.44

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Story Structure

I found this website online which highlights the key structure of a story in 5 stages: The Setup, The New Situation, Progress, Complications and Higher Stakes, The Final Push.

  • The Setup– this sets the scene for the film. It needs to engage the audience and summarize the characters- who they are, job, location etc
  • The new situation– something new happens, such as a new job which changes the order of things in the character’s life. The opportunity often takes the character to a new location.
  • Progress- the character’s plan seems to be working as they take action to achieve a goal.
  • Complications and higher stakes– achieving the goal seems more difficult, as your characters has much more to lose if they fail. The conflict builds until they suffer a major set back.
  • The final push- your character must now risk everything to give the last push to achieve the final goal, using every ounce of strength and courage. Everything seems to work against the character until they reach the climax, where the height of the story is.
  • The Aftermath- no movie ends precisely with the resolution of the character’s objective, you need to reveal the new life your character is living now the journey is over.

The website talks about how this story structure applies to the film ‘Erin Brockovich’, and ‘Gladiator’, but the structure applies to most Hollywood films.

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