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AS Film Studies: Genre & Narrative.

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Presentation on theme: "AS Film Studies: Genre & Narrative."— Presentation transcript:

1 AS Film Studies: Genre & Narrative

2 Cinematography – Camera movements, lighting, single shots
Editing – pace, structure, repetition. Mise-en-scene – props, setting, location, costume Performance – actors, body language Sound – narration, diegetic, non-diegetic, contrapuntal (contrasting but adding new meaning) These aspects are all directly manipulated either by technicians or by the director in order to maximize the opportunity to ensure an audience is exposed to an intended meaning. These are elements that are absolutely in the control of a filmmaker: there should be nothing in a shot, scene, sequence or film that is there accidentally, as all these ingredients should have been within the filmmakers' control. They play a significant part in the construction of narrative and genre

3 Loose definitions: NARRATIVE: a structuring device, both across a whole film and across a single scene or sequence. The ordering of information within a practical piece of work is of vital significance to how a spectator will make meaning from it. GENRE: the use of signifying devices within a practical piece of work that are recognizable as belonging to a group of films. Use of codes and conventions will help structure a work and ensure that the spectator views it in terms of other, similar, films.

4 Task: In groups, list the generic conventions for the following genres: Romantic comedy Action Blockbuster Comedy Horror Thriller Sci-Fi

5 Storytelling expectations
The use of narrative is one of the fundamental ways in which we make sense of the world. Stories could be said to bring order and structure to our otherwise chaotic experiences. As a result, as viewers who are already familiar with the storytelling conventions of narrative structure we approach film with definite expectations. We expect to see a range of characters, or character types, involved in a series of structured events that occur in certain places and at certain moments in time. There are likely to be problems and conflicts, and these are likely to be finally resolved in some way after having reached some climactic moment of confrontation

6 Storytelling expectations
Using The Matrix as an example: Equilibrium – Neo is introduced in his hum-drum world Dis-Equilibrium – Neo is ‘unplugged’ and the ‘matrix’ is explained (Agents are the bad guys) New Equilibrium – Through a series of events, and eventually when he is ‘resurrected’ a new equilibrium is established. The character and his ‘world’ have changed. Story arc Character arc

7 Narrative Usually, our concern in studying film will be with works of fiction, narratives with characters and a setting that are told to us in a certain way and claim to represent the world to us. We need to consider the fundamental nature of narratives, or stories, and the role and use to which they are put within human society. Narratives seems to be integral to human experience of the world. We constantly use stories to make sense and to create meaning out of our otherwise chaotic experiences. In telling stories we give order and shape to a series of events.

8 Narrative structure Narratives may be seen as particular arrangements of events within a structure. This structure may be the simplest one of relating events in chronological order, or it may be more complex. It could, for instance, involve the use of parallel episodes (Pulp Fiction) that form a deliberate contrast to each other, or the repetition of events seen from different perspectives (Rashomon, Vantage Point) or the integration of symbolic events or images used in order to create significance.

9 Task 2: In the same groups, make a list of the structuring devices for your chosen genre. How is the story told? E.G. Rom Coms: Boy meets girl, boy loses girl, boy spends entire film trying to win her back, girl has moved on, eventually they get back together

10 Everything is planned (mostly)
If there is no apparent relation between the events in a film it is without plot. It may be that what is being represented to us is the chaotic nature of human experience, or a lack of meaning in the universe. (Or perhaps we are dealing with a surrealist that aims to delve into the unconscious or the subconscious.) But such lack of structure is extremely rare, and not something that will be found in mainstream cinema; the very nature of storytelling is essentially that of giving order to events. Even if the structure is extremely complex, involving unexpected time shifts and demanding that the viewer should keep elements of the story on hold until the bigger picture becomes clearer (Tarantino's Pulp Fiction (1994), order and shape will eventually be found. Indeed, the sense of achievement that comes from eventually recognizing and understanding the shape and form of the narrative is one of the pleasures offered by film. Through narrative we are reassured that any events that may happen are not random, and that the world we face is not a place of chaos but one of order. N.B. Films still have to be different in some way.

11 The Role of the Narrator
One (or more than one person) who tells the story. EXAMPLE: Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (Jackson, 2001) and Lock, Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (Ritchie, 1998), both use the device of having a formal narrator's voice. The narrator's role is in effect fulfilled by the filmmakers who position themselves outside of the story and decide what to include, what not to include and the order in which to place events. It is they who are narrating the story for us, but we will usually be barely aware of the filmmakers' presence as narrator. (Using the above examples) If the device of a narrator as a character or presence within the film itself is used it may be more obvious that the narrator has a particular perspective on events. If such a narrator is also a character within the story it will be clear that this person will see things from a certain perspective and will have his or her own relationship to events and characters.

12 The Role of the Narrator
If an internal narrator is positioned outside of the main story and appears to be telling us what happened in an apparently objective way, he or she may be reliable or unreliable (Me, Myself and Irene, American Beauty). The key point is that as readers of films we always need to ask ourselves who the narrator might be, what he or she can and cannot know about events within the narrative, and what his or her perspectives might be on any narrative event.

13 Plot Structure The story is the basic chronological order of events: the plot is the rearranged, highly selected chain of events in the film that has been given its own internal logic. By using narrative's ability to move backwards and forwards through time and space and rearranging the elements of simple stories, let us say 'Little Red Riding Hood' or 'Cinderella', we can create individual plot arrangements of the basic story events. For example, we could start our story of Cinderella at the ball or our story of Little Red Riding Hood at the point at which she is about to be eaten, and then in both cases use flashback sequences to tell the story. In fact, we could start our narrative at any point within the chronology of the story that we chose. But what will always happen in a mainstream cinema narrative is that the plot will consist of a cause-and-effect flow of actions. You should be able to take any film and see how the sequence of events has been rearranged into a particular cause-and-effect chain.

14 Task: In groups, take a well known children’s story/Fairy Tale and write down key events, leaving two lines between each event. Tear the events out of the page so that each strip of paper has one event written on it Re-arrange the events to create a new structure. Does the story have the same impact? Is a new meaning created?

15 Characters When approaching a film we should also consider carefully each of the main characters. Usually they will provide the filmmakers with a means of exploring various aspects of the human experience. Often they display particular commonly recognized traits of human nature, or complex inner conflicts of values and emotions. Often there will be contrasting, or parallel characters, that are used to highlight the oppositional possibilities open to human beings: love and hate, compassion and brutality, vengeance and forgiveness and so on. Sometimes characters are dramatized as unique individuals, and at other times they are presented as symbolic representations of what are seen to be particular types of character (perhaps a Christ-like character, perhaps a satanic character, perhaps something on that broad spectrum in between). Certainly characters and the relationships between characters will be a key element of any film's approach to storytelling.

16 Sound Techniques: Non-diegetic sound:
the sound that is outside the fictional world, and that characters in the fictional world cannot hear. This would include overlays of soundtrack music and any voiceover narration. Contrapuntal sounds (image and sound in juxtaposition): a great technique where the sound is not directly related to the image, but when placed together an additional meaning (or depth of meaning) is created. Thus the sound of a boxing match playing on a television in shot becomes more significant when the person watching the match walks into another room and begins beating an elderly person in there. The sound carried across from the television to the room where the beating is taking place is in counterpoint to the image of the abuse, yet serves to make a bigger statement about violence in general. It may be that a mix of contrapuntal sound and the diegetic sound of the beating may heighten this statement further.

17 Sound examples: Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels (Ritchie, 1998) Head slam This Is England (Meadows, 2006) Milky gets beaten up Snatch (Ritchie, 2000) Brick Top pig pen scene Saving Private Ryan (Spielberg, 1998) Opening scene Blade Runner (Scott, 1982) Shooting of first replicant Jaws (Spielberg, 1975) First beach attack The Shining (Kubrick, 1980) Opening with and without sound Seven (Fincher, 1997) Meeting of detectives at first crime scene Face/Off (Woo, 1997) Over the

18 You do not notice good editing
Editing Techniques You do not notice good editing Dissolve An image fades out as another fades in, making a connection between the two (girlfriend fades out as mother fades in). Fade Often to black but can be to any colour. The duration of screen time given over to the fade and the end colour can suggest particular meanings. Graphic Match Two shots can be connected through shapes within the frame (a clock matched to a car wheel). (Psycho/2001) Match on Action Two shots can be connected by the replication of an action across each (character begins putting drink down in seedy Soho bar, and cuts to drink reaching bar counter of Caribbean beach bar). Montage Placing one image next to another creates meaning (person's face with apple pie = hungry, person's face with coffin = sadness). Parallel editings this refers to moving back and forth between two or more narrative lines of action supposedly occurring at the same time.

19 Editing examples: The Lost World (Spielberg, 1997) Opening sequence Match on action 2001: A Space Odyssey (Ritchie, 1998) Graphic match Psycho (Hitchcock, 1960) Shower scene graphic match Toy Story 2 (Lasseter, background transition and 00:40:00 audio/visual match Trainspotting (Boyle, 1996) Opening chase scene +V/O Casino Royale (Campbell, 2006) Opening chase scene

20 Do all stories have the some basic structure?
Theorists interested in narrative structure have suggested that all films (indeed all stories) are structurally the same: we are introduced to a hero/heroine and shown the world in which they live (equilibrium) the normality of this world is disrupted (dis-equilibrium) the hero/heroine sets out to restore order (new equilibrium) In basic terms we deal with a scenario of good versus evil, and a world in which order is set against chaos. Experience would tend to suggest that all stories are founded upon the idea of a conflict between two or more central characters or groups of characters.

21 Tzvetan Todorov Wrote “Structural Analysis of Narrative” (1969)
The conventional narrative structure pointed out by Tzvetan Todorov as a rule has five stages though this can be rudimentary broken down to three stages, a beginning (state of equilibrium), middle (disruption to the equilibrium) and end/resolution (reinstate the equilibrium).

22 Tzvetan Todorov’s conventional narrative structure complete with five stages:
Stage 1 A state of equilibrium is defined. Stage 2 Disruption to the equilibrium by some action or crisis. Stage3 The Character(s) recognition that there has been a disruption, setting goals to resolve problem. Stage4 The Character(s) attempt to repair the disruption, obstacles need to be overcome to restore order. Stage5 Reinstatement to the equilibrium. Situation is resolved, a conclusion is announced.

23 With the five stage layout the narrative becomes more comprehensive
With the five stage layout the narrative becomes more comprehensive. However its essential to remember films need to be seamless as the chain of events unfold, with all the questions raised answered and all the loose ends tied up unless you want to break the conventions, induce a cliff hangar, intentionally create doubt in the minds of the audience and leave them questioning. Even though these stages are presented here as a linear structure there is no golden rule that it has to be this way, especially if you wish to create a non-linear structure. Should you wish to you can always muddle up the chronological order and have the end at the beginning. Remember a film should have clear goals with believable characters if its to maintain a sense of credibility.

24 Vladimir Propp A Russian scholar who analysd the basic
plot components of Russian folk tales to identify their simplest narrative elements. Morphology of the Folktale (1928) After the initial situation is depicted, the tale takes the following sequence of 31 functions. Some examples include: 1. ABSENTATION: A member of a family leaves the security of the home environment for some reason 2. INTERDICTION: An interdiction is addressed to the hero ('don't go there', 'don't do this')The hero is warned against some action. 3. VIOLATION of INTERDICTION. The interdiction is violated (villain enters the tale). The hero ignores the interdiction (warning not to do something) and goes ahead anyway.

25 Syd Field (Advising on Scriptwriting)
Good scripts comprised three clear acts. The first gave the set-up showing where the action was taking place, introducing who was involved and suggesting in broad terms what was going to happen. At the end of the first act there was a crucial point at which the direction of the whole of the rest of the film was set up. Second act with a key note of confrontation as the main character faced a series of obstacles to completing the central dramatic need of the film. At the end of this act there should be a further crucial point, he said, at which the central character would seem to have their goal in sight but would be faced with one final problem. In act three all the plots and sub-plots would be resolved.

26 The Use of Time in Stories
When we watch a film, we have to hold in mind at least three different time frames. There is: story duration (the time frame in which we conceive of the story taking place), plot duration (the time frame within which we conceive of ourselves being told the story) and screen duration (the amount of time we are actually sitting in front of the screen). The story is the simple chronology of narrative events: the plot is the arrangement of these events within the film.

27 The Use of Imagined Space Within Stories
In spatial terms watching a film involves us in exploring at least two spatial dimensions. There is screen space visible within the frame, There is off-screen space that we are asked to imagine or remember from earlier. In effect we are asked to contain a whole imagined world within our minds.

28 Cause and Effect As we are watching we expect each element within the narrative to be seen to have both cause(s) and effect(s); we expect events to be motivated in some way, to have been caused by something we have seen in the film and to have some discernible outcome. Without this all we would have would be a random series of unconnected scenes leading from nowhere to nowhere. By its very definition a story has an ordered series of events that leads to a conclusion. cause and effect also refers to the way in which mainstream films are moved forward by one scene or event having been caused by an earlier one and in turn giving rise to an effect which is seen in a subsequent scene or event. What this means is that everything we see has been motivated by something we have seen earlier and in turn motivates something we see further on in the film.

29 Film Making tips Always use a tripod to support the camera, unless you have a specific reason for wanting the shaky look that handheld will give you. This can be dynamic in certain situations (e.g. chase sequences) but often it simply makes a production appear lazy or amateurish. If something is wrong in shot, call 'cut' and retake the shot. If you accept a shot that has problems, then that will be the shot that creates problems for you in post-production. Always adhere to the 30° rule. This states that to avoid 'jump cuts' (where the camera appears to lurch towards a subject or the subject appears to 'jump' position between shots) any shots that are intended to be joined with each other in editing should be shot from camera positions that have at least 30° between them. Avoid cutting while in mid-camera movement - let the shot come to a 'rest' position, as this will benefit the editing. Let the camera run for five seconds prior to calling Action' and after calling 'Cut'. This not only serves the editing, but it also gives some 'moments' where the actors' bodies and expressions are relaxed - these are often valuable. Always adhere to the 180° rule. This rule is often complex to under­stand and even more complex to implement. The 'line of action' is an imaginary line - usually between two people, but it can run through one person - that the camera must stay one side of. The camera can travel anywhere on a 180° axis as long as it does not 'cross the line'; as soon as it does that then all spatial continuity is lost and editing becomes an exercise in confusion.

30 Add film clips Mythology, Propp, Fabula and sujet etc… V. Propp T. Todorov Greimas Claude Bremond Roland Barthes Levi Strauss

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