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Cinema has been continuously improving and developing towards something different from what it is known for or what it was in the past. Narrative is the strategy with which any material is organised and presented to an audience. This is an integral part of a film and as Thomas Elsaesser argues cinema ‘become a predominantly narrative medium’ with the development of its ‘codes of intelligibility’. The classical narration is the type of narration that we all as spectators normally expect from a film while nonlinear narratives have emerged from the classical narrative form. Non linear narratives have been in vogue for a long period of time and were considered by some as being inferior to classical narrative. However, non linear narratives are now present in many media forms and the digital formats have played a crucial role in their development as Lev Manovich argues; ‘the use of digital compositing to create continuous spaces out of different elements can be seen as an example of the larger antimontage aesthetics of computer culture’ (Manovich, 2000,p.155). I believe that investigating something which is contemporary can be very motivating and constructive. This dissertation would offer me a good knowledge and understanding of a concept that would be crucial for my future career as a filmmaker. For the research I collected ample amount of literature from diverse sources. Based on the literature collected I have analysed three nonlinear narrative films chronologically. Further to the analysis and literature collected I have understood many concepts related to non linear narratives and have arrived at a conclusion as to how non linear narratives have revolutionized fictional films.
NON LINEAR NARRATIVES: HERALDING A REVOLUTION IN FICTIONAL FILMS
TABLE OF CONTENTS
1. ABSTRACT-------------------------------------------------------------- 1
2. CHAPTER 1: INTRODUCTION 1.1. 1.2. 1.3. 1.4. 1.5. Background Information ---------------------------------------6 Rationale of Research -----------------------------------------7 Research Question ---------------------------------------------8 Objectives of Research-----------------------------------------8 Conclusion --------------------------------------------------------8
3. CHAPTER 2: ACADEMIC CONTEXT 2.1. Narratology-----------------------------------------------------------9 2.2. What is Narrative? -------------------------------------------------9 2.3. Elements of Narrative----------------------------------------------9 2.4. Components of Narrative -----------------------------------------10 2.5. Cinematic Narrative ------------------------------------------------13 2.6. Factors that Sustain the Interest of Viewers in Films ------15 2.7. Elements of a Film Narrative -------------------------------------16 2.8. Narrative in Fictional Films ----------------------------------------17 2.9. Narrative Devices ---------------------------------------------------18 2.10. Classical or Linear Narrative ------------------------------------18 2.11. Post Modernism and Non Linearity ----------------------------19 2.12. Non Linear Narratives----------------------------------------------20 2.13. Linear Vs. Non Linear Narratives in Fictional Films---------21 2.14. Issues in Non Linear Narratives ---------------------------------23 2.15. Non –Linear Editing -------------------------------------------------25 4. CHAPTER 3: RESEARCH METHODS--------------------------------28
5. CHAPTER 4: ANALYSIS 4.1. Don’t Look Now---------------------------------------------------------30 4.2. Pulp Fiction---------------------------------------------------------------33 4.3. 21 Grams-------------------------------------------------------- ---------37 6. CHAPTER 5: CONCLUSION----------------------------------------------40 7. LIST OF REFERENCES----------------------------------------------------44
LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS: Figure 1: Suspense –Arc and its five act structure-----------------15 Figure 2: Elements of a Narrative---------------------------------------16
CHAPTER 1: INTRODUCTION 1.1. Background Information:
Cinema is a medium through which numerous people shared fictional or non fictional stories. In simpler words cinema catered to a larger section of population replacing the storyteller with technology and manipulated the viewer’s response to the story (Lindroos, 1999, p.3). Films revolutionized story telling as it was possible to destruct time scales and reconstruct them in any order. The viewer’s perception of the story changed. Cinema offered the viewer a newer form of spatial and temporal experience (Lindroos, 1999, p.4). Tom Gunning in his essay ‘The non-continuous of early film’ talks about early cinema and its contribution to film history. ‘The challenge that early cinema offers to film history is a search for a method of understanding the transformations in narrative form in cinema’s first decades; a method that maintains as awareness of early film’s difference from later practices, without defending if simply as relation of divergence from a method of continuity’ (cited by Elsaessar, 1990, p.86). In his book Manovich emphasises the influence that ‘new media’ has upon film and consequently how things can be modified. He argues that “new
media abandons this “human-centred” representation altogether – to put represented time fully under human control. Time is mapped onto two-
dimensional space, where it can be managed, analysed and manipulated more easily” (Manovich, 2000, p.51).
1.2. Rationale of Research: Films have undergone vast changes over the recent years owing to the digital media systems. The narrative structure has also undergone many changes. It can be said that the classical narrative has given way to and has emerged as newer forms (Favero, 2001, p.1). It is commonly perceived that in a digital medium the narrative structure is non digital and non narrative. It is also said that narrative in a digital media doesn’t have any artistic characteristics. Non linear narrative reflects the real life method in which an information or story is transferred between people. This technique is now been increasingly used in fictional films. Non linear films now comprises of an immersive narrative where the viewer assumes an interactive role. In the interactive environment the viewer gets transformed into a protagonist. Non linear films have changed a passive audience and stifling surroundings characteristic of a linear film into an active, attentive audience and offer an unrestricted viewing environment. Non linear narrative has emerged to prevent spectators from just seeing and comprehending sequentially arranged story material (Henderson, 2008, p.2). The non linear narrative with its unconventional style, dialogues, camera angles combined with non linear editing techniques has brought in a change to fictional films. I have undertaken this research to understand if non linear narrative techniques have brought about a revolution in fictional films. I believe that the subject I am going to do for my dissertation is appropriate and valuable because my intentions are to do a profound study on a form of narration and narration is a basic and significant element of fictional films.
1.3. Research Question: Has non linear narratives revolutionized fictional films? 1.4. Objectives of the Research: To comprehend the meaning of a narrative, the elements and the components of the narrative To analyse the cinematic narrative and the different elements of a cinematic narrative To understand the narrative devices used in a fictional film To distinguish between a classical narrative and non linear narratives To understand the various issues of nonlinear films To analyse how non linear editing has helped non linear narrative develop 1.5. Conclusion: In my dissertation I intend to explore and research the nonlinear narrative by studying the fundamental characteristics of this method and the changes that it brings to fictional films. I would also research about the non linear editing techniques and how they have helped non linearity in films. Also I would analyse three non linear films in a chronological order to understand how non linearity has developed over time.
CHAPTER 2: ACADEMIC CONTEXT This chapter is an analysis of literature collected from diverse sources such as journals, books, conference papers and web pages. This helps in understanding the basic concepts of narratives and non linear narrative in particular. 2.1. Narratology: Narratology has two elements: the story and the way it is said. Story is a chronologic ordering of events related causally while the method of presentation of a story is called narration (Tomaszewski, 2005). The story becomes a narrative or a narration when the story is placed on a medium and is viewed by spectators. This is possible after the story is edited determining which part of the story should be told and the method it should be told. Narrative and narration can be distinguished as the collection of the elements of a story and the navigation between the elements of the story respectively. 2.2. What is Narrative? Humans have always found the urge to narrate and communicate their experiences to others through various mediums (Thuresson, 1998, p.5). In general a narrative is a linear, organized, uniform progression of ideas. Narrative is “chain of events in cause-effect relationship occurring in time and space” (Bordwell & Thompson, 2005, p.69). 2.3. Elements of a Narrative: A narrative has certain elements such as Action: the events of the story Characters: the enactors of the story
Setting: the location of the story Perspective: is the way the story elements are told
(Tomaszewski, 2005). 2.4. Components of a Narrative: Narrative includes five basic components. They are spatiality, temporality, causality, dramaturgy and personification. In simpler terms a narrative takes place in a certain location (spatiality), at a certain time or within a certain time frame (temporality), has characters which perform certain actions (causality), the actions which the characters perform are arranged in a sequence (dramaturgy) and all these are received by a receptee who identifies with the events that has happened (personification). Not all the elements are present neither in narratives always nor in the same degrees (Thuresson, 1998, p.5). Spatiality: A narrative has to take place in a location which can either be a real one or an abstract one. Though location plays an important part in books and non digital medium to draw the reader into the situation the role of the same in digital media can’t be discounted. The linear narrative details about the history of the plot and has a strict time line while a non linear narrative doesn’t employ a time line and is more a reflection of a particular moment. However, caution should be exercised when using the space or the environment in the narrative as there are chances that the viewer might be confused about the story or the story might become fragmented. Certain elements of the space or environment can be utilized to effectively increase the potentiality of the narrative.
Temporality: Temporality is the occurrence of an event or a sequence of events within a time frame. Temporality in films is achieved through single images presented one after another within equal time intervals (Thuresson, 1998, p.6). However, the temporality between the successive frames is less effective as the images inculcate the concept of time only indirectly and the frame and the system that host these images have certain restraints. According to Ricoeur (1980) “A story is made out of events to the extent that plot makes events into a story”. Also the concept of time in a narrative in films can be divided into “story time” and “actual time”. Actual time is the time it takes to present the story as a film to the audience while the story time is the time frame within which the story takes place (Thuresson, 1998, p.7). Editing in films can be defined as the ordering of units of time between which implicit temporal connections can be established. In films the time of telling is very significant and makes sure that the viewer’s interest is sustained through the film. It is also not necessary that the sequence of events should follow a chronological order (Thuresson, 1998, p.7). Causality: Causal relationship between the various events is very important in a film narrative. It is the binding force which brings together events that are ordered by both temporally and spatially. In simpler words the actions of certain characters cause the events in a story to happen. However, it is also felt that not all events are causally motivated. However, the concept of dramaturgy might establish weak links between these events in a story forming an overall pattern (Thuresson, 1998, p.7).
Dramaturgy: According to Aristotle a story has three acts. In the first act the main characters, the time, location and the conflict between the characters are presented, in the second act the supplementary characters are introduced and the conflict develops while the in the third act the conflict is resolved. However, each act has an event or disruption which alters the balance of the story and keeps the story line moving. It can be said that characters, completeness, unity and the motivated incidents are the four factors that make up a story. Personification: Actors perform an action but in some cases the action denotes the characters. Also these characters evoke an interest in the viewer as the interaction between the various characters in the network helps in understanding the narrative (Thuresson, 1998, p.9). It can be understood that characters are very important to the narrative in a digital environment. The viewer’s interest in a character is developed and maintained in a digital media like films by considering even a simple antropomorphic figure as a character, contextualizing it and maintain the interest of the viewer. Hypertext/Hypermedia: A narrative in a digital media can either be linear or non-linear. Non linearity is achieved in a digital environment by using hypertext or hypermedia. Hypertext can be defined as blocks of text which is non linear in nature and connected with each other through electronic links offering multiple alternate paths. The viewer can choose anyone of these paths while reading or viewing. One
perfect example of hypertext is the Internet where blocks of text are electronically connected and the person browsing the Internet is free to choose any link and browse different information. At present the term hypertext has been replaced with Hypermedia due to the increased use of graphics and other multimedia components in digital environment. There are certain elements that are characteristic of hypertext. A hypertext does not have any distinctive starting or ending points not does it include a natural central pole. Every hypertext section should include comprehensive information as the reader might have directly clicked on the link to this hypertext and it can’t be confirmed what sections that the user has read before. This implies that the whole text is fragmented completely and self explaining or complete in itself (Thuresson, 1998, p.10). All the elements of the hypertext can be applied to hypermedia too. 2.5. Cinematic Narrative: A narrative can be defined based on its temporal character as “the linear organisation of events, selected and arranged in a particular order” (Whitebrook, 1995). A cinematic narrative can be best described as an activity that organizes data that is available to provide an experience. Cinematic narrative includes the temporal element similar to a novel (Lindroos, 1999, p.9). It is said that the temporal entity of the narrative assumes importance in cinema. A cinematic narration demonstrates both events linked together on a spatial or temporal basis and also the historical events of the story. So a spectator gets to view the space time on the screen and the story. Cinema also utilizes light
and sound elements to create space, time and causal interaction (Lindroos, 1999, p.9). Film studies talk about diegetic and non diegetic worlds. The diegetic elements of cinema refer to the events that surround the character and the sequence in which these events are presented. It includes both visible and non visible elements such as characters and environment that is not shown in the film (Lindroos, 1999, p.8). The non diegetic elements of the film help the viewer to understand the character and the events that surround the character. The film’s music can be cited as an example of this and these non diegetic elements support the films story. A viewer’s distinction of the film into both diegetic and non diegetic elements plays a significant role in understanding the film’s narrative. In cinema there is a wide difference between the person who writes the story and the person who narrates it on screen. There is a difference between implicit and explicit narration in cinematic narrative. The narrative of the film is completely different from what the original author of the story intended to explain (Lindroos, 1999, p.8). Films include within themselves a facility to rearrange events from their original order depending on the story’s narrative (Lindroos, 1999, p.9). A screen time presents images that can span hundreds of years. A spectator while viewing the films understands these vast leaps in time and links them to the films narrative to comprehend the film. The technological advantage of films help in either slowing down an event in screen time, make it appear rapidly or repeat the same event in different situations. It can be easily concluded that the technological innovation in fictional and other genre films
has made it possible to cut, arrange and change events of the film. This technology has led to the emergence of modern narrative techniques such as non linear narrative techniques in films (Lindroos, 1999, p.10). 2.6. Factors that Sustain the Interest of Viewers in Films: There are certain factors that create and sustain the interest in the viewers when it comes to digital media or in particular films. They are: Interesting aspects of the content Novel and original methods of presentation of the content Variety – The content of film should not be monotonous but should have a variety in them Suspense- The viewer needs to have as suspense embedded in the film to sustain his concentration in the film. The suspense element in the film would create a curiosity in the viewer and make him take note of the events in the film till the suspense is resolved. Suspense has many different segments. These segments were clearly explained by Aristotle. This diagrammatically represented below:
Fig.1. Suspense –Arc and its five act structure
Climax- As discussed earlier each part of the film should end with a climax
Surprise- This can be achieved by including subtle shock elements in the film
Tone of the film: The tone of the film refers to the attitude demonstrated (Thuresson, 1998, p.8).
2.7. Elements of a Film Narrative: There are two elements to a narrative: The Story and The Plot. The story has both explicitly and implicitly presented events while the plot has diegetic and non diegetic elements.
STORY DIEGETIC ELEMENTS IMPLIED EVENTS
NON DIEGETIC ELEMENTS
Fig.2. Elements of a Narrative
The events of a plot can either be ordered chronologically or nonchronologically or can be classified into hubs or satellites. Hubs are significant major events of the plot that force the characters to traverse alternate paths while satellites are minor events of the plot which are not essential to the plot but perform the function of adding complexity to the plot and characters. There are also three types of duration. The story duration is the time that the 16
story occurs while plot duration refers to the time that has elapsed between the events of the story and the screen duration is the time that the film takes to complete in a theatre. The other elements of the film narrative are as follows: Suspense and Surprise elements Frequency: Refers to the number of times that the story elements occur in the plot. Characters: Can either be a flat character with predictable behaviour and one dimensional presentation or a round character which has been presented three dimensionally with unpredictable and multiple characters. There can be major, minor and marginal characters. Time and Space Settings: Includes location, date, characters, education, habits and other traits Point of View (POV): This can either be a physical or mental point of view. Physical point of view refers to the camera angle or how a particular character observes an event while mental point of view is the mental viewpoint of a character or narrator about an event. This can be further classified as omniscient POV in which the cinematographer uses the camera unrestrictedly and captures complete details. Subjective POV is the perception of an individual character of the story. This is further divided into Direct and Indirect POV (University of Texas, 2005). 2.8. Narrative in Fictional Films: A fictional film or a narrative film explains a story and differs from films that explain information or documentaries. Narrative in a fictional film is the
principle using which the story is converted on to the screen for an audience while narration is the method which determines how and when the audience understand the information that is presented on screen (Branigan 1992, p. 36) (Branigan 1992, p. 76). 2.9. Narrative Devices: There are certain narrative devices which help to control the transfer of information to the audience. Shift in Time: This is achieved through flash backs, dream sequences, flash forwards and repetitive sequences. Shift in Narrative Point of View: 1. Division between audience knowledge and character
knowledge: When an audience knows something that the character in the film doesn’t know this leads to tension. 2. Division between audience knowledge, one character’s knowledge and another character’s knowledge: One
character and the audience knows information which another character in the film doesn’t know. 3. Division between one character’s knowledge, another
character’s knowledge and the audience’s knowledge: This is when all the three people have differences in the knowledge of information 4. Voice over narration techniques (Tarek, 2002). 2.10. Classical or Linear Narrative: Classical narrative focuses on linear presentation and causality which in turn was accepted as the right form of art by the audience (Henderson, 2008, p.2). 18
In a linear narrative the viewer is passive and identifies with the main character of the film who has a goal or has been victimized. The viewer moves with the character from the start till the end of the film. The feelings that the viewer experiences like anger, satisfaction, tension and suspense are all dependant on the way how the viewer identifies with the character. It can be said that linear narrative is a non experiment based safe movie experience where the spectator participation is not present. The narrative style can be applied to almost all story genres and the viewer once identifies the genre will know how the story would proceed further. The writer of a linear story follows many strategies to enhance the relation of the spectator with the film’s protagonist. To sum up the spectator performs a non participatory role in a linear film where his/her role ends with their identification with the main character of the film (Dancyger &Rush, 2006, pp.155-156). One of the major elements of the classical narrative is that many events happen during the course of the film and is brought to an end or a result is generated (Lindroos, 1999, p.10). 2.11. Post Modernism and Non Linearity: Non linear narrative and post modernism is often discussed on a similar scale. Post modernism is where materials and information from previous materials are taken and then displayed in styles completely in contrast from the original. Non linear narrative evolved by borrowing heavily from the classical narrative and being presented in a completely different structure (Shamtoot, 2006, p.4). This kind of fragmented or non linear viewing of images, films is linked to the post modernistic attitudes of the people. Non linear narratives have no proper ending and the viewers are free to interpret the meaning of the narrative in
their own way without engagement to any particular meaning (Shamtoot, 2006, pp.9-10). 2.12. Non Linear Narratives: Narratives structures in films play a very significant role in stirring up different emotions in the spectator. Depending on the type of narrative either emotions such as fear, anxiety and anger or longing and sorrow are evoked (Knudsen, 1996, p.4). The challenge of non linear narrative lies in its capacity to arrange fragmented images and secondary visuals. Though fragmented images or actions produces a feeling of disruption of continuity these non linear narratives have the ability to explain reality (Lindroos, 1999, p.17). A modern film is an independent entity composed of discontinued images, disturbed time and space with no central core and focuses on a viewer. A film presented in a non linear form offers the various perspectives to the viewer (Lindroos, 1999, p.19). Fictional narrative according to David Bordwell is the “process whereby the film’s syuzhet [plot] and style interact in the course of cueing and channelling the spectator’s construction of the fabula [story]”. Non linear presentation does not include action driven learning but however, can be compared to a story narration. A same story can be explained in many different ways. It can either be shortened or dealt with in detail or the sequence of narration changed to suit the situation. However, non linear presentations have one major disadvantage. The presentation’s progression is changed at decision points leading to a feeling of dissatisfaction in the viewer and a thought that they have missed some important parts of the presentation. To avoid this in
non linear presentations the coherence of the data discussed should be maintained by making inherent decisions (Schneider, Bleimann, Harriehausen & Phippen, 2006, p.2). The possibilities that non linear narratives offer are endless with infinite variation of time space elements either moving backward or forward or time and space uniting them in to one single entity. It was believed that one needed to have a lot of narrative intelligence to create interactive and nonlinear stories and films. Non linearity has been in use right from the year 1929 when the first non linear film hit the theatres (Dancyger &Rush, 2006, p.154). Non linear narratives have developed tremendously since its early days and have been fuelled by the non linear editing and computer programs. Computer based cinematic story telling systems help in the production non sequential or non linear narrative structures. The computer applications have enhanced the open nature of the non linear film. The cuts, the sounds and the fragmentary elements of the non narrative techniques offer the viewer endless possibilities to comprehend the story in his/her own methods. The viewer is made aware that besides the story that is presented there are other versions of the story that are possible. Fictional films now come with completely disorganised linear narrative structure. Sometime spectators are confused and surprised by the order of the events presented (Lindroos, 1999, p.10). 2.13. Linear Vs. Non Linear Narratives in Fictional Films: There are certain advantages about non-linearity. Traditional or classical narrative is sometimes felt as being very stifling while non linear narratives are
considered to offer better freedom. Also it is said that the non linear narrative reflects the way in which our minds work that is non linearly. However, the importance of traditional narrative can’t be overlooked. The classical narrative offers a storyteller the method to order ideas and appeal to the artistic part of the audience. If not executed properly non linear narrative might offer a feeling of disorganization. Non linear narrative is unconventional style of filmmaking which doesn’t give importance to a protagonist but has multiple independent stories that end with a final event where all characters and stories collide and mingle in to one. In simple words non linear narrative is one where events are not narrated chronologically. Events happening in different times may be shown back and forth or in quick succession. In the non linear narrative the spectator can’t identify with any character and just observes the characters in the story unlike the linear narrative where the viewer travel along with the character in the story. Non linear stories might or might not include a plot (Dancyger &Rush, 2006, p.156). The structure of the non linear narrative may either be loose or layered. The linear film generally has a three act structure while the non linear film might have tow acts or no act breaks at all. A non linear film might have multiple stories presented as two acts or small short films within a larger film (Dancyger &Rush, 2006, pp.159-160). The tone of the non linear film can’t be predicted. In linear films the tone of the film matches the story genre and is constant through out the film. However, the tone keeps on changing within the story in a non linear film. The tone of the film does not correspond to the film but changes with the writer’s intensions (Dancyger &Rush, 2006, p.160).
In a linear film it is imperative that the antagonist and protagonist has goals and the clash of the interest in the goals provides the impetus to move the film forward. However, the goal may or may not be present in a non linear narrative. The impetus to take the film forward is done by either positioning the characters in a situation where they contradict each other. The viewers can also be made to sit up in their seats with the effective use of dialogues. The effective use of dialogues is evident in a scene in the film Pulp Fiction. Two men are discussing a murder of a person over financial matters. The audience keeps on expecting some kind of dialogues in relation to the matter. However, they are taken by surprise as they completely deviate from the subject and talk about eating, French habits and foot massages. This really pushes the spectator into a surprised state and creates a tension and energy which propels the movie forward (Dancyger &Rush, 2006, pp.160-161). In linear stories plot is very important and an integral part. However, this is not the case in non-linear narratives. Plot may or may not be present and if present is sometimes pushed to the background like in the movie Pulp Fiction (Dancyger &Rush, 2006, p.161). 2.14. Issues in Non Linear Narratives: Voice: The non linear narrative has both strengths and weakness. However, one entity which is really significant to the non linear story is the voice of the writer. The predominant presence of the writer’s voice enhances the character and offers freedom and flexibility to the writer. The voice of the writer acts as a unifying force in a non linear narrative moulding together different stories in the narrative.
Focus on Specific Scenes: The non linear story should focus on individual scenes in the film and treat them as independent films. This kind of focus increases the intensity of the story similar to a linear story despite the non linear story having looseness of plot and insignificant focus on characters (Dancyger &Rush, 2006, p.162). The Issue of Involvement: The non linear story requires lesser involvement form the spectator than a linear story. To address this issue some writers use different strategies such as more focus on the plot or unique characters that attract the attention of the spectators. Such a lack of involvement of the spectator subsequently leads to boredom. To prevent this in the movie Pulp Fiction dialogues, plot and exaggeration techniques were followed. Since these were fresh techniques not tried by anyone else it really attracted the attention of the spectators and lifted the film. Boredom can also be resolved by the appropriate use of writer’s voice or incorporating techniques not tried by others (Dancyger &Rush, 2006, p.163). Non linear plots or narratives start and end at a point however, offer multiple paths or multiple story branches between the point A and B. Though the end point is certain the means that the end is reached has multiple paths. This kind of structure makes the spectator more immersed in the narrative and the audience has the ability to control the development of the plot in the non linear narrative. A good non linear narrative will either have multiple plot points which allow the user to manoeuvre between the different plots but reach a same conclusion or the story might have smaller story branches which are not linked together and the audience will come to different conclusions. A non
linear narrative in a film or novel can be a combination of both. Non linear narrative films require a good amount of concentration and patience from the audience. 2.15. Non-Linear Editing: With the advent of computers editing in films have become an easy task with the computers generating narratives easily and performing the decision making role (Brooks, 1996, p.318). Non linear editing is done by storing the video or movie in a computer and then breaking down the digitized version into smaller segments. With the help of the director notes and script the smaller segments are then edited in the system itself. The non linear editor scores over the linear one as the video and movie is electronically stored the video is easily accessible (Browne, 1998, p.3). In the Michael Brandt project about ‘Traditional Film Editing vs Electronic Nonlinear Film Editing: A Comparison of Feature films’ he compares the two different forms of editing in six different films. In this study Brandt argues that ‘the editing of the three films cut electronically. There are statistically differences on a number of measures, and although the sample is not random (and therefore the differences apply only to these films and not to the whole universe of Hollywood films)…’ (Brandt, 1994). In the present age there has been a shift from traditional editing to a nonlinear, electronic editing system such as Montage or EditDroid. Films which were edited non linearly were has shorter shot lengths, used double the number of opticals and had a unique dialog sequences which relied more on alternate images rather than on the speaker of listener in the scene. On an average it was found that 5.15 seconds as the shot time in traditional cut films
with the electronically edited ones being 4.75seconds in length. One factor that needs to be considered while editing films electronically is the time that the spectator needs to adjust with a shot cut. It has been proven that an average viewer takes anywhere between 0.5 to 3 seconds to really understand a shot cut change. If the length of the shot in electronically edited systems is less then the spectator might find it very difficult to completely comprehend the shot. This would lead to the viewer understanding the different shots incompletely. However, such short shot cuts are also creative and useful to create tensions in the viewer and really create an acute interest in the proceedings of the film. It becomes very easy to use optical transitions in electronic non linear editing techniques and subsequently transition effects such as wipes and fades are used frequently in the editing technique. Studies have proven that such transitions appear in around 3.10% of shots compared to their occurrence of 1.56% in traditionally cut films. The increased use in electronic editing is obvious as an editor can test how these transition would look on screen during electrical editing while this is not so in traditional systems. Not only these transitions but more computer effects would be utilized during electrical editing due to the ease of its use. It was also found that films electronically edited had more close up shots when compared to the traditional ones. An editor prefers one particular shot to others as they might look good in a particular viewing situation. Editors who use electronic systems might choose close up shots are these might look good in the low resolution viewing environment of films. Also it was found that traditionally edited films had more complex dialogue structures than
electronically edited ones. Traditional cut films had an average of 1.093 for dialogue complexity while it was 0.873 for electronically edited films. The dialog complexity index analyses the dialogue usage and the complexity it offers to the editor. Off screen dialogues are simple while on screen dialogues are tougher. However, pictures and sounds are very easily structured and synchronized by the electronic systems. Also electronically edited films show alternate images other than the character who is delivering the dialogue. In fact the editors feel that such alternate images are a creative way of editing. Also electronically edited films used 30% less reverse shots when compared to the traditional ones (Brandt, 1994). Non linear editing techniques have made the non linear story and films as a feasible form of narration. Since the non linear story does not have a single main character and there are many short story streams there need to be set goal to edit the film non-linearly. They can be listed out as follows: The narrative should be coherent and should be held together or made coherent by a shaping device. The shaping device may vary from film to film. In Pulp Fiction the identity crises faced by the criminals is the device or tool which makes the narrative coherent. The energy of the film is important. Though gangster films have tremendous energy due to its plot structure in Pulp Fiction there is no significant plot. There are three stories and they are not presented chronologically. The plot is concentrated in the second story. The energy to propel the film Pulp Fiction comes from its dialogue and camera movement (Dancyger, 2007, p.417-418).
CHAPTER 3: RESEARCH METHODS This chapter details the method of analysis in this research. The narratology, the definition of narratives, the basic elements and components of narratives, the differences and salient features of both non linear and linear narratives were understood. Based on the literature and for the purposes of this research I plan to study the process of research and development, the elements that compose non linear narratives through the analysis of a three films from different directors in a chronological order. Though there are numerous non linear films I have chosen Don’t Look Now (1973), Pulp Fiction (1994) and 21 Grams (2003) for the purpose of the study. These films have been chosen for certain reasons. The film Don’t Look Now can be termed as a masterpiece from the director while the film Pulp Fiction is considered to be an influential film. It can be safely said that Pulp Fiction created a new genre of non linear films. The film 21 Grams stirs up so much emotion in the audience which can never be matched by any other film of its times. The film is noted for its brilliant star cast and techniques. Based on the analysis I would comprehend how the characteristics of non linear narratives are used in these films. I would also analyse how nonlinearity emerged in fictional films and what were the main causes and influences of its appearance. I will also focus on the development of the elements of nonlinearity and the expansion of this type of narration based on these films. I will examine the style and learn the main characteristics that make nonlinear narrative so distinctive through a profound research of the authors and directors who used the nonlinear technique in the films. I also intend to verify
the most common element of nonlinearity and find the reasons for the use of the same. I intend to see how each director applies these elements and also to read their perspectives about the films I will study the techniques and methodologies used. I would also concentrate my efforts on the editing techniques, camera angles and shots used in this film. I cannot study or make a paper on nonlinear narrative, without focussing my study on other relevant aspects of film and nonlinearity. During the process of examination, I will also have to analyse the structure of the film, time and space and compare these elements between the films. Time, as the other elements is an important characteristic of every film, and in nonlinear films, it plays a crucial role as it defines the narrative and situates the viewer. As Michael Toolan argues, ‘time itself, in the sense of systematic measurement of what separates particular states from our present one, is itself a structuring and structuralist notion’ (Toolan, 1988:83). As a result, all these elements articulate with each other and with the film narrative. Working on this project, would provide me with great knowledge and understanding of something that is crucial for films and for my future career as a filmmaker.
CHAPTER 4: ANALYSIS 4.1. Don’t Look Now- Nicholas Roeg (1973) Story: The story of the film is based on the short story by Daphne (Rebecca) du Maurier. The Baxter’s John and Laura portrayed by Donald Sutherland and Julie Christie are a couple who lose their daughter in a drowning episode in Britain. The scene opens with the death of the small child. To cope over the loss they move to Venice where Sutherland an architect by profession supervises a church restoration where his wife meets two psychic sisters. During the winter months in Venice the couple encounters supernatural connections. A psychic sister identifies the dead daughter’s spirit. Since a killer is on loose killing young women John asks Laura to return back to Britain. However, Laura refuses. John also sees a small figure in the red raincoat that the daughter of the couple was wearing on the day of her death repeatedly. In a chilling climax in the closing scene John sees Laura and the two sisters, oblivious to him, pass by on a funeral barge (Dayoub, 2008). Analysis: Nicholas Roeg has changed cinema from a time based medium to a medium in which time is comprehended by the viewer. Though the director still makes movies it is his movies in the 1970’s that he is still remembered for. Don’t Look Now (1973) is often remembered for its famous love making scene between a bereaved husband and wife. However, the film has many more elements that make it a masterpiece in its own right. The film Don’t Look Now has an eerie environment dealing with the death of a young girl and how the Baxter’s deal with the tragedy. The film is set in Venice
in winter. Don’t Look Now can be classified as a peculiar horror film as there are no scenes which predominantly depict the horror in the movie. However, there is always an uneasy tension prevailing in the film which is due to the grief and death of a small child and the bereavement of the parents. The film has all the elements that the director is famous for such as the use of colour, boldness of themes and the structure of the film including aggressive elements such as the famous love making scene (Kelly, 2008, p.1). The film includes impressive imagery with generous use of the colour red reminding the spectators of the colour of the dress worn by the young girl when she drowns during the start of the film. The film starts on a shocking note with the drowning of the small girl and the spectator has a sense of unease throughout the film as Sutherland sees various images which convince him that his daughter is still alive. The closing scenes of the film with graphic displays of blood and violence leave a lasting impression in people’s minds. Roeg is very creative and does not follow any predetermined story structure. He is of the opinion that the story needs to evolve all the time. Roeg wanted his viewers to be surprised by what the camera has captured and always followed the most original method of making his movies (Kelly, 2008, p.2). Don’t Look Now is a film which aptly subscribes to the view that the director is a master in creating films that are intellectual puzzles and this is considered as his best film till date. The opening drowning scene is a shot that has been tastefully done with a series of synchronous intercuts. The film abounds in many clues which imply to the spectator what is in store for them in the course
of the film like Sutherland’s struggle to rescue the child serves as visual precursor clue for the sex scene that would come in the film (Moria, 2008). A red coated small figure is always omnipresent in the camera frame. The director’s use of the colour red is also appreciated by the spectators. The scene where Sutherland chases the red coat figure across Venice is a treat to watch with the colour being depicted in multiple places such as the red sweater on a clothesline, the red square in Sutherland’s scarf. The colour red is used as a significant visual symbol across the film. The film also boasts of daring cross cuts with the love scenes being alternated with scenes in which the couple dress up for dinner after their act (Moria, 2008). Non linear techniques are very evident in the film with Sutherland always experiencing a feeling of death and slowly a sense of something morbid closing in on the couple is built up by the director creating a feeling that the couple have been trapped and cannot escape from the situation. The director uses contrasting images of the generally serene and beautiful locales of Venice. The director plays with the spectator’s instincts. In the film the locales of Venice are notably aloof, the streets are deserted, a killer is on the loose, and a blind psychic says that she has seen Baxter's dead daughter. A strange and sad quality is presented to the audience in contrast to the good and happy feel that a tourist destination such as Venice portrays. This creates a sense of foreboding in the spectator. This is one highlighting feature of this non linear film (Dayoub, 2008). The film is based on the theme of fate and the non linear editing of the film heightens this. The editing style of the movie is totally disorienting and distorted. The director uses a lot of mirror images, constant distraction
techniques and 180 degree action line in addition to unmotivated sounds to create the mood of the story. Story elements are warped by the director and elements like time and space are connected though in a distorted manner. Don’t look now is a thoroughly enjoyable film and thriller with a fitting finale. The film resembles a fragmented nightmare though delivered on the screen elegantly. 4.2. Pulp Fiction - Quentin Tarantino (1994) Story: Pulp Fiction has a prologue and epilogue. Pumpkin and Honey Bunny discuss small robbery in a coffee shop finish their discussion and food following it with robbery. This can be considered as the prologue of the film. The film then displays the titles followed by a scene were Jules and Vinnie discussing about BigMac. This scene is considered to set the pace for the entire film and informs the audience that the two killers’ works for Wallace and they need to get back the suitcase. The first story shows how Jules and Vinnie kill the three men and the scenes where Vinnie take Mia out to dinner in addition to the overdose and recovery of Mia. The second story is about Butch and his watch. The scenes depict what happens to Butch as he did not lose the fight as he had agreed to do so. The third story or part of the film is a continuation of the first story and shows how Marvin’s remains which are splattered in the car are cleaned. Jules, his transformation and his talk about divine intervention all form the epilogue including a continuation of the robbery that honey Bunny and Pumpkin did in the prologue part of the film (Syd Field, 2009).
Analysis: Pulp Fiction can be stated as a film innovative in thought, concept and the style of execution was considered unique. The plot and the story are non linear in structure and completely disjointed with multiple narrative themes. The average film goer’s expectations are aroused as the films opens not with the main characters but with small and insignificant characters though the film has multiple main characters. The tempo is sustained by stopping the Honey Bunny and Pumpkin narrative in the course of the film and merging it with the Vince and Jules character narratives. The characters in the film are indifferent to the crime and the hold up which happens in the film is very natural and not forced in to the narrative. Though each of these narratives deals with exclusive problems they often overlap and mix with each other during the story process. Some of the places where scenes take place and the scenes are repeated. However, each scene is dealt with differently and from a different point of view preventing a sense of boredom in the viewers and sustaining their interest throughout the film (English Teaching Online, 2003, pp.12). The movie uses dialogues to the minimum and does not use this to move the plot of the film forward. The films inculcates various post modernistic techniques in it including inter textual nature, fragmented plot and story, no clear ethical values reflected in the film, merging of low and high cultural values, no clear
sense of time, location and space in addition to irony (English Teaching Online, 2003, pp.1-2). However, certain mysteries in the film are not resolved. One example for this is the viewer is not shown what is inside the briefcase till the end of the movie. Also unlike a classical narrative the film does not clearly demarcate the good and bad characters. All the characters in the films have various levels of criminality in them leading to a sense of hatred in the viewer’s mind about all the characters in the film. The film is based on the contradicting theories and ides of rescue and revenge, loyalty and betrayal in addition the violence in the film is given a very indifferent treatment which is evident from the fact that sometimes violence is mixed with humour. The film’s music and costumes should be given special appreciation as they span different time periods. The dialogues in the film can be termed as the most interesting and humorous of its times. There are minimal establishing shots. For example, the exact location of the diner is not determined as the film does not include a shot to ascertain the place of the diner in which the action happens. The film defies convention as most of the scenes in the film are monologues and the camera is focussed on the backside of the character delivering the dialogue or in other words the face of the character which is listening. This is in difference to most of the films as a majority of them use only shot reverse shot technique. The film abounds in shots characteristic of the director Tarantino. One scene worth mentioning is the scene which focuses on Vince and Jules when
they open the car boot. It gives the viewer a feeling that the scene has been shot from the boot of the car (English Teaching Online, 2003, pp.1-2). The traditional dramatic structure is completely destroyed in the film. As an audience it was natural for them to expect the criminals to commit a crime rise and then fall. However, the crime scene included a philosophical dialogue between two main characters which completely douses the anxiety that would build up after the murder would be executed. The characters are introduced one at a time and at various points of the story. In the film events are shown from the perspective of each of the character while each character is depicted independently. However, it so happens that characters overlap into other characters sometimes. In other words pulp Fiction has multiple linear stories with these overlapping with each other sometime and having a common end in a single event (Pig, 2008, pp.1-3). The time line in the film Pulp fiction is bit strange. The films reel time is around one week and movie goes back and forth within this week’s time. The audience is left wondering for the change in costume of Jules and Vinnie. They appear in suits when they enter the apartment to kill the inhabitants but however, they are in gaudy tshirts and shorts when they leave the apartment. The costume change is explained later that is due to the blood of spilling on their suits when he is accidentally killed in the car. Also the non linear style is evident from the same opening and closing scene where Jules and Vinnie declare that they
have come to rob the coffee shop. The closing and opening scene are repeated but from different perspectives which is possible only with non linear story telling technique (Wiloux, 2008, pp.1-2). The movie does not include a cause and effect structure and is famous for its style of presentation, dialogue and non-linear approach (Dancyger, 2007, p.415). 4.3. 21Grams- Alejandro González Iñárritu (2003) Story: The film was directed by a Mexican Director Alejandro González Iñárritu in the year 2003 following the death of his young son. The film is written by Guillermo Arriaga and deals with three stories which are all linked together with a common car accident. The film starts with three people in a room with a gun shot being fired. Jack Jordon (portrayed by Benicio Del Toro) is an ex convict and is depicted as a person with a rough character while Christina Peck acted out by Naomi Watts is a mother and ex drug user while the professor Paul Rivers (Sean Penn) is suffering from a congenital heart disease. The lives of these three characters are entwined by a tragic car accident (Dermansky, 2008). Jack who wants to start life afresh runs over Christina’s husband and two children. Jack is consumed by guilt as he has been the cause of death of the family and turns himself to the police. Christina in turn agrees to have her husband’s heart transplanted to Paul to save the ailing professor. Paul involves a detective to search for the donor of his heart and he falls in love with Christina and then they go in search of Jack. The film ends with a scene involving all three of them in a dingy motel room.
Analysis: The film analyses the theme of human morality in different groups of people. The characters are portrayed differently and are all united by a common tragedy. The title represents the exact amount of weight that a person loses when he or she dies. The film deals with a theme of the dead people exercising an influence over the people who still live. The film is in line with non linearity principles and doesn’t demarcate the characters of the films as good or bad. The film also doesn’t have conventional main characters. The character Jack runs over a family but does nothing to help them after the accident. However, he is consumed by guilt because of the action. The characters of the film have contradicting features in them. The film has huge narrative scenes linked to together with emotions. Also the film uses light as an important object and pays adequate significance to the concepts of day and night. Till the accident happens the scenes happen in day light while after the accident there are afternoon, dusk and night scenes. The film also imbibes the theme of fate and the place in which the action happens is not defined. The film deals with death and other dark images. However, it has an element of hope in it (Curry, 2003). The film doesn’t have a sense of time and the narrative shifts back and forth posing a real challenge to the spectators to piece together the chunks of information. The film has been entirely shot with hand held cameras which result in grainy pictures. The film is shot in a documentary style and most of the shots are close ups in bleached style. The film’s audience doesn’t feel the time space continuity. The film has been edited to present a fragmented narrative presentation. Special mention should be made about the films
editing as the scenes are cut associately based on the characters emotions and not linearly. Such a non linear presentation makes the spectator sit up and take note of the film. The film also abounds in a lot of clues some of which are deceptive and confuses the viewers (Soares, 2008). The film deals with the theme of death in an indirect and realistic way. In this film unlike certain films the sub plots are also not in chronological order. The audience has to pay attention to minute details such as the costumes of the characters to understand the film’s time line. The film has numerous flash forwards and flash back shots. However, the film’s music is disappointing (Antulov, 2004). The spectator is always on the edge having a feeling that he knows what is going to happen and also that he doesn’t know what is going to happen. The film is a mosaic of images placed non chronologically which develops in to a tale of death, tragedy and redemption. The past present and future all converge together in the movie with no clear demarcation and the film shifts from one character to another with a dizzying frequency. The film imbibes modernist techniques such as non linear structure to depict fate, uncertain identity of the characters and time. Non linear narrative techniques, flash forwards, repetitive loops and theme are merged together to produce an expressive film (Hahn, 2005, p.53).
CHAPTER 5: CONCLUSION Cinema has a history of technological innovations and creative diversity. Cinema is a mix of various elements such as hyper realities, space and time that weaves magic over the audience in darkened cinema halls. Through the analysis of relevant literature, related archives and articles I understood the basic concepts of narratology, narration, story, elements of narration and cinematic narration in fictional films. A narrative is a series of events related through causuality, temporally and spatially. A film narrative not only includes formal elements of a story but also the audience’s comprehension of the information that is presented. Narrative includes the story and the way it is presented. The method of presentation includes camera shots, angle, technology and techniques used. Narrative film is synonymous with fictional films. Narration can be defined as a set of organised representations of the story that needs to be delivered to the audience. A fictional film is a collection of the narrative texts which have independent styles. Narrative should always be analysed based on the history of films, production modes and narrative theory (Film Reference, 2008). The classical and non linear narrative forms were analysed and the principal differences between these two forms of narrative were outlined. The research study also included an analysis of three non linear films by different directors to understand how the non linearity principles have been used in these films by the directors. After the analysis certain common features of non linear films were comprehended.
They are as follows: No conventional plot structure A character or event is presented not chronologically but broken down in to smaller events and rearranged to offer the audience a compelling movie experience. Characters in the film are not given any importance Action is an important element in the plot of non linear films but however, is not concerned about a single goal that the characters pursue. Theme is also significant for the plot structure. Dramatic unity in a non linear film is achieved by a theme and a framing action The controlling theme defines the film’s experience while the framing action is needed to establish continuity in the story and a context of the story (Cowgill, 2003). After analysing the films the common non linear techniques and
characteristics in these three films in particular can be listed out as follows: The films offer no significance to the traditional plot or dramatic structure The films include scenes that are very aggressive in nature The films don’t follow tradition when it comes to defining the virtues of the characters. There is no demarcation of the good and bad in the films.
The films have multiple stories running within them with some scenes overlapping with each other or all the stories coming to an end with a single event
The films use a lot of imagery, images and colours All the films follow a non linear structure and offer no importance to time.
All the films have no proper time lime as the scenes shift back and forth in time.
The films boast of special shot techniques such as flash backs, flash forwards, repetitive loops and intercuts.
Totally disoriented editing style is followed in all the films. In the films a bleak and sad nature of the society is presented All the films have a theme on which they base the story and narrative on.
In some films there is no proper definition of the place or location that the action is happening in
The films abound in a lot of visual clues to the audience The style of presentation, dialogue delivery and the film structure is worth mentioning
The audience is always given an active role in comprehending the film.
Non-Linear narrative has been in vogue from time immemorial. In early days this narrative was present in text only. However, the developments in cinema developed the non linear narrative as well to involve the audience as an active participant.
It was understood that non linear narrative has changed cinema into an immersive narrative space where the viewer becomes the camera person and editor. Non linear narratives have created a sensation and revolutionized fictional film making with their unique plot, dialogue delivery, tone and story. In its pursuit of excellence non linear narratives have been immensely helped by the non linear editing techniques. Non linear editing breaks away the conventions that a film should have an ordered flow of time. In a non linearly edited film The scenes would be linear in progression. However, the scene itself might be placed anywhere in the movie to create an interest in the viewer. Non linear editing was never considered to last long. However, non linear editing has withstood the travails of time and in fact completely put an end to off line linear editing techniques. Non linear editing technique is exciting and an easy to perform operation for editor (Browne, 1998, p.2). The linear or traditional story is now considered outdated. However, a non linear writer needs to address the issues which plague the non linear story through various strategies in order to lift the narrative style to better levels.
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