NARRATIVE
THEORY
UNIT G325 - SECTION A –Q1B
1
WHAT IS NARRATIVE?
o Narrative is not just ‘storyline’
o It involves deeper issues of how the text is structured and
organised and how the audience makes sense of it.
o For your video you need to consider how the narrative is
structured and what techniques are used to achieve this
structure.
o You should also look to apply some narrative theory to
your analysis.
2
NARRATIVE STRUCTURE
Open Structure:
?
The audience are left to wonder what happens next and make sense of it
themselves
Closed Structure:
Definite ending – clear conclusion for the audience
!
Circular Structure:
The narrative begins at the end events (often with the
climax). The audience are taken on a journey arriving back where they started.
(e.g. Pulp fiction)
3
NARRATIVE STRUCTURE (CONTINUED)
• Linear or non-linear structure?- often music videos
are non- linear as they involve montage editing;
sometimes they will contain a linear narrative
element to them.
• Single strand or multi-strand structure? Single strand
= one narrative thread; multi- strand = several
narrative threads
4
FILMING/ EDITING TECHNIQUES TO
ACHIEVE THE NARRATIVE STRUCTURE
• Editing- ordering of different narrative elements; use of
transitions such as fades/ dissolves to indicate passage
of time; use of post production effects to indicate
flashbacks/ flashforwards; titles to explain changes in
time; montage editing; continuity editing
• Camera- close ups on key characters, key props;
establishing shots of location; also consider what is
deliberately hidden from the camera
• Sound- use of sound bridges to show transitions between
scenes; important sound motifs to highlight key features;
voiceovers to introduce the story
• Mise en scene- use of light, props, costume, settings etc
to reveal key events in the narrative
5
You need to be able to apply the work of three major theorists to
your video:
• Craig Davis
• Roland Barthes
• Tzvetan Todorov
• Claude Levi-Strauss
NARRATIVE THEORISTS
* You will only need to know one or two for your exam*
6
CRAIG DAVIS
Music video narratives involve either:
o illustration- the images in the video match (illustrate) the
lyrics/ meaning of the song.
o amplification- the images in the video are related to the
lyrics/ meaning of the song, but involve creative interpretation,
unusual and maybe surreal ideas. Amplification is often
demonstrated by the music video ‘auteur’ or creative director.
o disjuncture- also created by ‘auteur’ directors these videos
are completely abstract and have no obvious link to the music,
lyrics, song title or artist. In this sense they are a point of
‘disjuncture’ from the song.
7
BARTHES
Barthes describes narrative as a series of codes that are read and
interpreted by the audience
Barthes has been an influential narrative theorist. He describes a text
as:
"a galaxy of signifiers, not a structure of signifieds; it has no beginning; it
is reversible; we gain access to it by several entrances, none of which
can be authoritatively declared to be the main one”
What he is basically saying here is that there is no one way of
interpreting a text. Individuals will interpret texts in different ways by
decoding a variety of narrative codes:
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BARTHES CODES
Action Code: (proairetic code)
something the audience knows and doesn't need explaining e.g. someone
being wheeled out on a stretcher tells us they are going to hospital
Enigma Code: (hermeneutic code)
something hidden from the audience (creates intrigue)
Symbolic Code:
Something that the audience recognise through connotations or something
that symbolizes a more abstract concept e.g. a darker than usual room of a
murder scene could symbolize the depth of darkness and depravity
Cultural Code: (referential code)
Something that is read with understanding due to cultural awareness (e.g.
youth culture use certain words that are understood by that culture)
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TODOROV
Todorov describes narrative as going from equilibrium to disequilibrium back to an
altered equilibrium
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TODOROV
Equilibrium: (sets the scene)
Everyday Life
Disruption: (complication)
Something happens to alter the equilibrium
Conflict: (climax)
Trying to solve the problem (seek resolution)
Resolution:
Problem is sorted
New Equilibrium: (satisfactory end)
Back to normal (but never the same)- a new normal
11
LEVI-STRAUSS
Levi-Strauss describes narrative as created by constant conflict of binary opposites
Love – Hate
Black – White
Man – Nature
Light – Darkness
Peace – War
Protagonist –Antagonist
Movement – Stillness
Civilized – Savage
Young – Old
Control – Panic
Strong – Weak
Man – Woman
Wealth – Poverty
Mankind – Aliens
Ignorance - Wisdom
Humans – Technology
“Mr. & Mrs. Smith”, “Avatar”, “Terminator”
“The Dark Knight” “Slumdog Millionaire”
Can you match them?
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COMPLEX NARRATIVE STRUCTURE
Today’s narratives have become increasingly complex as producers
know that audiences have a greater sense of media literacy when it
comes to making meaning of the text and reading the signs. There are
often numerous plot twists and surprises that keep the audience intrigued
with carefully spun storylines.
Films such as “Memento” (Nolan,2000)which weaves the story in reverse
gives the audience a similar experience to the protagonist who has short
term memory loss, as they try and fit the clues together through the use of
restricted narrative.
Unrestricted Narrative: What the are assumed to know e.g. thriller there
will be a crime so they will be expecting it
Restricted Narrative: The information that is withheld from the audience
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how the narrative is structured