Elements of Narrative Aristotle: three-part structure Today: five-part structure – Exposition (including inciting incident) – Rising Action (development) – Climax (turning point) – Falling Action (transition - winning or losing) – Denouement (resolution/conclusion) Jean-Luc Godard: Yes, to the beginning, middle and end – but not necessarily in that order.
Story and Plot Not the same thing Story: – All narrative elements explicitly presented on screen – All the implied events that are not presented directly, but which the audience infers – All diegetic elements (the world of the story)
Plot – Everything we see and hear in a film – All diegetic material – All nondiegetic material (outside the world of the story, but available to the audience)
Implied events Explicitly presented events Nondiegeti c material Story Plot
Plot, for the filmmaker, is the job of selecting events that tell the story. As an example, consider Cameron’s Titanic and how the plot focuses on the story of Rose Calvert’s diamond.
Order While story order flows (as life does) chronologically, plot order can be manipulated. – To emphasize importance or meaning – To establish desired expectations in the audience – To challenge, puzzle and delight the audience
Duration Story Duration: the amount of time the implied story takes to occur Plot Duration: the elapsed time of the explicitly presented events – the elapsed time of the plot. Screen Duration: the movie’s running time onscreen
Duration: Story vs. Plot vs. Screen Story duration = 1 week Plot duration: 3 days out of that week Day 1 Day 4 Day 7 Screen duration: 90 minutes
Duration within Scenes Summary Relationship: screen duration is shorter than plot duration Real Time: screen duration corresponds directly to plot duration Stretch Relationship: screen duration is longer than plot duration
Surprise vs. Suspense Surprise: the audience is taken unawares. Suspense: the audience experiences anxiety brought on by partial uncertainty.
Repetition Suggests a pattern and a higher level of importance A signal that a particular event has meaning or significance that should be acknowledged Can be done in several ways – A character may remember something several times – Flashbacks – Slow-motion sequences (mythical quality)
Characters Round characters vs. flat characters Frodo and Indi – flat or round characters?
Don’t think of the term “flat character” as necessarily critical or derogatory. Protagonist vs. Hero – While some protagonists have virtuous qualities, others may have a darker, more hostile nature.
Antagonist: Opposes the protagonist Can be an individual or part of a larger group Or a force of nature Motivation – All characters need motivation in order to be believable, but occasionally some characters – often the antagonist – have eccentric actions for which we can identify no motivation…
… and with whom we (hopefully) do not have any familiarity.
Narration and Narrators We instinctively understand that the camera is a visual recorder – a visual narrator. – It can be omniscient or restricted (limited) Films may also have auditory narrators. – First-person narration – Voice-over narration – Direct-address narration (breaking the fourth wall) –