Wednesday, 13 May 2015

Narrative Theory

Narrative theory within films is the way in which films meanings are conveyed and how stories are constructed. There are numorous theories with different ways films are structured to tell a story, these are Levi Strauss' Binary Oppositions, Vladimir Propp's Seven Spheres of Action and Tzvetan Todorov's 5 Stages of action. All of these are different but all are used in the process of creating a film with a solid narrative behind it.

Levi Strauss - Binary Oppositions.

The theory of Binary Oppositions is all to do with story lines being built up around opposites. For example, Romeo & Juliet, the opposite here being love and hate, the love between Romeo and Juliet and the hate between the Montagues and Capulets. He argues that all films are based around the conflict between binary opposites, some more examples of these opposites are:

  • Good Vs Evil
  • Human Vs Nature
  • Black Vs White
  • Protagonist Vs Antagonist
  • Man Vs Woman
  • Peace Vs War

Vladimir Propp - Seven Spheres of Action

Vladimir Propp states that there are seven spheres of action to every film, these are types of stock characters that are present in all films. These characters are, the Hero, the Villain, the Donor, the Helper, the Princess, the Dispatcher and the False Hero. Each of these have their conventions that are met within films. These are as follows:

  • Villain - Fighting, Action, Creates narrative complication
  • Donor - Gives magical agent or helper which helps in resolution of the narrative.
  • Helper - Aids the Hero, makes good a lackm rescues from pursuit, solves difficult tasks, transforms the hero.
  • Princess - Threatened by villain, needs to be saved, assigns difficult tasks, give princess away at the end.
  • Dispatcher - sends the hero on his task.
  • Hero - Aims to resolve complication, departs on search, reacts to the donor, attempts difficult tasks, restores equilibrium, 'marries the princess'.
  • False Hero - Unfounded claims to hero's sphere of action, appears to be good, turns out bad.

Tzvetan Todorov - 5 Stages of Action

Here is an image showing a brief description of Tzvetan Todorov's 5 Stages of Action.

His narrative theory suggests that there are 5 different stages of conventional narrative, these are, State of equilibrium, disruption of equilibrium, recognition of equilibrium, attempt to repair disruption and new equilibrium. Essentially it is a more complex version of the beginning, middle and end theory for film. An example of this is Avengers: Age of Ultron, the state of equilibrium being where Ultron hasn't been announced, the disruption of this equilibrium is when he enters the film, the recognition is where the avengers first meet Ultron, the repairing of the disruption is the avengers fighting Ultron and his army and the new equilibrium is when they beat him.

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