A2 G325: Advanced Portfolio in Media Section A: Theoretical Evaluation of Production

Narrative
Film is a way of telling stories about ourselves – not usually our own personal stories, but the story of us as a culture or set of cultures. Since stories in film have to be told in a very short space of time filmmakers have to adopt specific ways of telling stories. Narrative theory sets out to show that what we experience when we ‘read’ a story is to understand a particular set of constructions, or conventions, and that it is important to be aware of how these 1 constructions are put together. • • • Narrative: The structure of a story. Diegesis: The fictional space and time implied by the narrative – the world in which the story takes place. Verisimilitude: Literally – the quality of appearing to be real or true. For a story to engage us it must appear to be real to us as we watch it (the diegetic effect). The story must therefore have verisimilitude – following the rules of continuity, temporal and special coherence.

The Structure Of The Classic Narrative System
This structure is not unique to film. In fact it is an integral part of the majority of both western and eastern cultures. Thus what we expect from film is informed by our exposure to novels and plays. According to Cook (1985), the standard Hollywood narrative structure should have: 1. Linearity of cause and effect within an overall trajectory of enigma resolution. 2. A high degree of narrative closure. 3. A fictional world that contains verisimilitude especially governed by spatial and temporal coherence. 4. Centrality of the narrative agency of psychologically rounded characters.

Narrative Structure
Every story ever told can be fitted into one of eight narrative types. Each of these narrative types has a source, an original story upon which the others are based. These stories are as follows: 1. Achilles: The fatal flaw that leads to the destruction of the previously flawless, or almost flawless, person, e.g. Superman, Fatal Attraction. 2. Candide: The indomitable hero who cannot be put down, e.g. Indiana Jones, James Bond, Rocky etc. 3. Cinderella: The dream comes true, e.g. Pretty Woman. 4. Circe: The Chase, the spider and the fly, the innocent and the victim e.g. Smokey And The Bandit, Duel, The Terminator. 5. Faust: Selling your soul to the devil may bring riches but eventually your soul belongs to him, e.g. Bedazzled, Wall Street. 6. Orpheus: The loss of something personal, the gift that is taken away, the tragedy of losss or the journey which follows the loss, e.g. The Sixth Sense, Love Story, Born On the Fourth Of July. 7. Romeo And Juliet: The love story, e.g. Titanic. 8. Tristan and Iseult: The love triangle, Man loves woman…unfortunately one or both of them are already spoken for, or a third party intervenes, e.g. Casablanca.

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DOMAILLE, KATE, (2001). Narrative Theory, The Horror Genre: Classroom Resources, Leighton Buzzard: Auteur Publishing, p.2.1.

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A2 G325: Advanced Portfolio in Media Section A: Theoretical Evaluation of Production
Some narrative theorists claim that all stories can fit into one of only three narrative structures: 1. Man Verses Man, 2. Man Verses God (or Nature), 3. Man Verses Himself.

Tzvetan Todorov
Tzvetan Todorov is a Bulgarian structural linguist. He was interested in the way language is ordered to infer particular meanings and has been very influential in the field of narrative theory. • • • • Todorov argued that all stories share a common structure. Stories begin with equilibrium: this means that all the forces in the story are in balance. There is a disruption of the equilibrium: something happens that sets off a chain of other reactions. There is a close, establishing a new equilibrium different from the first.

This sounds like every story has a beginning, middle and an end, which is obvious. In fact there is a little more to it than that. In analysing a story using Todorov’s descriptions the reader is invited to think about how and why the story has been told in that way and not in another. In doing so the reader will see that the story has a particular point of view and will privilege some aspects over others. Todorov’s argument is that stories are a construct and that the way, or the form, in which a story is constructed influences how the events of the 2 story are received. Todorov sees the start of the narrative as: • • • • • Stage 1: A point of stable equilibrium, where everything is satisfied, calm and normal. Stage 2: This stability is disrupted by some kind of force, which creates a state of disequilibrium. Stage 3: Recognition that a disruption has taken place. Stage 4: It is only possible to re-create equilibrium through action directed against the disruption. Stage 5: Restoration of a new state of equilibrium. The consequences of the reaction is to change the world of the narrative and/or the characters so that the final state of equilibrium in not the same as the initial state.

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DOMAILLE, p.2.1.

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A2 G325: Advanced Portfolio in Media Section A: Theoretical Evaluation of Production

Vladimir Propp
The Russian theorist Vladimir Propp in his 1928 book The Morphology Of The Folktale studied the narrative structure of Russian Folk Tales. Propp concluded that regardless of the individual differences in terms of plot, characters and settings, such narratives would share common structural features. He also concluded that all the characters could be resolved into only 7 broad character types in the 100 tales he analyzed: 1. 2. 3. 4. The villain — struggles against the hero. The donor — prepares the hero or gives the hero some magical object. The (magical) helper — helps the hero in the quest. The princess and her father — gives the task to the hero, identifies the false hero, marries the hero, often sought for during the narrative. Propp noted that functionally, the princess and the father can not be clearly distinguished. 5. The dispatcher — character who makes the lack known and sends the hero off. 6. The hero or victim/seeker hero — reacts to the donor, weds the princess. 7. [False hero] — takes credit for the hero’s actions or tries to marry the princess.

The characters were seen as stable elements from story to story, despite individual variations of appearance or idiosyncrasies of personality. Propp also pointed out that there were standard narrative events, which he called Functions, which were also common to all of the stories he studied. The narrative units were sufficient to describe all of the stories, although not all units appear in all of the stories, but when they do appear they are in a prescribed order. After the initial situation is depicted, the tale takes the following sequence of 31 functions: 1. ABSENTATION: A member of a family leaves the security of the home environment for some reason. This may be the hero or perhaps it’s some other member of the family that the hero will later need to rescue. This division of the cohesive family injects initial tension into the storyline. The hero may also be introduced here, often being shown as an ordinary person. This allows the reader of the story to associate with the hero as being 'like me'. 2. INTERDICTION: An interdiction is addressed to the hero ('don't go there', 'don't do this'). The hero is warned against some action (given an 'interdiction'). A warning to the hero is also a warning to the reader about the dangers of life. Will the hero heed the warning? Would the reader? Perhaps the reader hopes the hero will ignore the warning, giving a vicarious adventure without the danger. 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. This generally proves to be a bad move and the villain enters the story, although not necessarily confronting the hero. Perhaps they are just a lurking presence or perhaps they attack the family whilst the hero is away. This acts to further increase tension. We may want to shout at the hero 'don't do it!' But the hero cannot hear us and does it anyway. 4. RECONNAISSANCE: The villain makes an attempt at reconnaissance (either villain tries to find the children/jewels etc; or intended victim questions the villain). The villain (often in disguise) makes an active attempt at seeking information, for example searching for something valuable or trying to actively capture someone. They may speak with a member of the family who innocently divulges information. They may also seek to meet the hero, perhaps knowing already the hero is special in some way. The introduction of the villain adds early tension to the story, particularly when they are found close to the previously-supposedly safe family or community environment. The eloquence or power of the villain may also add tension and we may want to shout at their targets to take care.

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5.6: Unit 2735: Media Issues And Debates, Section B: Film The Concept Of Genre In Film 5. DELIVERY: The villain gains information about the victim. The villain's seeking now pays off and he or she now acquires some form of information, often about the hero or victim. Other information can be gained, for example about a map or treasure location or the intent of the 'good guys'. This is a down point in the story as the pendulum of luck swings towards the villain, creating fear and anticipation that the villain will overcome the hero and the story will end in tragedy. 6. TRICKERY: The villain attempts to deceive the victim to take possession of victim or victim's belongings (trickery; villain disguised, tries to win confidence of victim). The villain now presses further, often using the information gained in seeking to deceive the hero or victim in some way, perhaps appearing in disguise. This may include capture of the victim, getting the hero to give the villain something or persuading them that the villain is actually a friend and thereby gaining collaboration. Deception and the betrayal of trust is one of the worst social crimes, short of physical abuse. This action cements the position of the villain as clearly bad. It also raises the tension further as we fear for the hero or victim who is being deceived. 7. COMPLICITY: Victim taken in by deception, unwittingly helping the enemy. The trickery of the villain now works and the hero or victim naively acts in a way that helps the villain in some way. This may range from providing the villain with something (perhaps a map or magical weapon) to actively working against good people (perhaps the villain has persuaded the hero that these other people are actually bad). We now despair as the hero or victim acts in a way that may be seen as villainous. Perhaps we worry that the hero will fall permanently into the thrall of the villain. Perhaps they will become corrupted and evil also. We also fear for the reputation of the hero who may be perceived as evil and thus never find the true treasure or win the hand of the princess. 8. VILLAINY and LACK: Villain causes harm/injury to family member (by abduction, theft of magical agent, spoiling crops, plunders in other forms, causes a disappearance, expels someone, casts spell on someone, substitutes child etc, comits murder, imprisons/detains someone, threatens forced marriage, provides nightly torments); Alternatively, a member of family lacks something or desires something (magical potion etc). There are two parts to this stage, either or both of which may appear in the story. In the first stage, the villain causes some kind of harm, for example carrying away a victim or the desired magical object (which must be then be retrieved). In the second stage, a sense of lack is identified, for example in the hero's family or within a community, whereby something is identified as lost or something becomes desirable for some reason, for example a magical object that will save people in some way. 'Lack' is a deep psychoanalytic principle which we first experience when we realize our individual separation from the world. Lack leads to desire and deep longing and we look to heroes to satisfy this aching emptiness. 9. MEDIATION: Misfortune or lack is made known, (hero is dispatched, hears call for help etc/ alternative is that victimized hero is sent away, freed from imprisonment). The hero now discovers the act of villainy or lack, perhaps finding their family or community devastated or caught up in a state of anguish and woe. This creates a defining moment in the story as we wonder what will happen now. Perhaps we do not realize that the hero is the hero, as they may not yet have demonstrated heroic qualities. We feel the lack in sympathy for the act of villainy, but the hero may just have arrived on the scene or may be undistinguished from other grieving family members. 10. BEGINNING COUNTER-ACTION: Seeker agrees to, or decides upon counter-action. The hero now decides to act in a way that will resolve the lack, for example finding a needed magical item, rescuing those who are captured or otherwise defeating the villain. This is a defining moment for the hero as this is the decision that sets the course of future actions and by which a previously ordinary person takes on the mantle of heroism. Having made this decision, acting with integrity means that there is no turning back, for to do so would be to remove the mantle of heroism and be left only with shame. 11. DEPARTURE: Hero leaves home; 12. FIRST FUNCTION OF THE DONOR: Hero is tested, interrogated, attacked etc, preparing the way for his/her receiving magical agent or helper (donor);

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5.6: Unit 2735: Media Issues And Debates, Section B: Film The Concept Of Genre In Film 13. HERO'S REACTION: Hero reacts to actions of future donor (withstands/fails the test, frees captive, reconciles disputants, performs service, uses adversary's powers against him); 14. RECEIPT OF A MAGICAL AGENT: Hero acquires use of a magical agent (directly transferred, located, purchased, prepared, spontaneously appears, eaten/drunk, help offered by other characters); 15. GUIDANCE: Hero is transferred, delivered or led to whereabouts of an object of the search; 16. STRUGGLE: Hero and villain join in direct combat; 17. BRANDING: Hero is branded (wounded/marked, receives ring or scarf); 18. VICTORY: Villain is defeated (killed in combat, defeated in contest, killed while asleep, banished); 19. LIQUIDATION: Initial misfortune or lack is resolved (object of search distributed, spell broken, slain person revived, captive freed); 20. RETURN: Hero returns; 21. PURSUIT: Hero is pursued (pursuer tries to kill, eat, undermine the hero); 22. RESCUE: Hero is rescued from pursuit (obstacles delay pursuer, hero hides or is hidden, hero transforms unrecognisably, hero saved from attempt on his/her life); 23. UNRECOGNIZED ARRIVAL: Hero unrecognized, arrives home or in another country; 24. UNFOUNDED CLAIMS: False hero presents unfounded claims; 25. DIFFICULT TASK: Difficult task proposed to the hero (trial by ordeal, riddles, test of strength/endurance, other tasks); 26. SOLUTION: Task is resolved; 27. RECOGNITION: Hero is recognized (by mark, brand, or thing given to him/her); 28. EXPOSURE: False hero or villain is exposed; 29. TRANSFIGURATION: Hero is given a new appearance (is made whole, handsome, new garments etc); 30. PUNISHMENT: Villain is punished; 31. WEDDING: Hero marries and ascends the throne (is rewarded/promoted).

Joseph Campbell And The Universal Hero Monomyth
Joseph Campbell’s influential work, The Hero With A Thousand Faces, 3 developed the idea of the ‘Universal Hero Monomyth’ . Campbell’s work suggests that there is an underlying structure of iconography, themes, concepts and narrative structure that is common to the religions, myths and legends of almost every culture in the world and that when brought together and broken down into their constitute parts these myths can be used to formulate a universal monomyth that is essentially the condensed, basic hero narrative that forms the basis for every myth and legend in the world and is, therefore, common to all cultures. Campbell’s theories essentially built upon those of Todorov and Propp all of which serve to illustrate the fact that all stories follow similar narrative patterns. Both George Lucas and Stephen Spielberg were heavily influenced by Campbell’s theories and Star Wars conforms to Campbell’s model of the Monomyth almost exactly. Campbell discussed the idea of The Hero’s Journey, which is a metaphysical as well as a physical journey that the hero must undertake in order to reach his goal. Though aspects of the journey may be emotional, they can often be interpreted quite literally:

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Campbell, Joseph, (1949). The Hero With A Thousand Faces, Fontana Press (1993 Edition), UK.

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5.6: Unit 2735: Media Issues And Debates, Section B: Film The Concept Of Genre In Film

Campbell’s Hero’s Campbell s Stages Of The Hero s Journey
1. Ordinary World – the ordered world that the hero will choose (or be forced) to abandon. 2. Call To Adventure – a problem or challenge arises. 3. Refusal Of The Call – fear or reluctance may strike the hero. 4. Meeting With The Mentor – the mentor is a key character. 5. Crossing The First Threshold – the hero commits to the adventure. 6. Test, Allies, Enemies – the hero must learn the rules that will govern his quest. 7. Approach To The Innermost Cave – the most dangerous confrontation yet, perhaps the location of the treasure, or the object of the quest. 8. Ordeal – the hero must face his fear or mortal enemy who will seem more powerful. Mental or physical torture may occur. 9. Reward (Seizing The Sword) – the hero can celebrate the victory. 10. The Road Back – vengeful forces controlled by the villain are unleashed. 11. Resurrection – perhaps a final confrontation with death. 12. Return With The Elixir – return to the ordinary world with some wisdom, knowledge or something else gained from the adventure.

Claude LèviClaude Lèvi-Strauss
Claude Lèvi-Strauss’ ideas about narrative amount to the fact that he believed all stories operated to certain clear Binary Opposites e.g. good vs. evil, black vs. white, rich vs. poor etc. The importance of these ideas is that essentially a complicated world is reduced to a simple either/or structure. Things are either right or wrong, good or bad. There is no in between. (This structure has ideological implications, if, for example, you want to show that the hero was not wholly correct in what they did, and 4 the villains weren’t always bad.

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DOMAILLE, p. 2.5.

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