Sunday, November 12, 2006

Aspects of the Fictional Film

In this post we'll briefly discuss what a narrative is, and then we shall examine major aspects of the fiction film: structure, time and style.


  • A Narrative — in film and in other texts — may be defined as a representation of a series of unified events(represented actions and happenings) that are situated in one or more settings.

  • A narrative may be factual or fictional or a blend of the two. It may be chronological or non-chronological.

    Pulp Fiction (1994); the perfect example of a non-chronological fiction


  • A fictional film is a narrative film including at least one character (imaginary person) and largely or entirely imaginary events its settings may be factual or imaginary.

  • In fictional films, usually the major characters have one or more goals but face problems in trying to reach them.

  • Short fictional films typically have only one or two major characters that do not change much during the film’s brief story time. The major characters of a short have a goal or goals, have obstacles to overcome, and succeed or fail in reaching the goal.

  • Typically, the beginning of a fictional film does not supply much exposition, although it usually establishes where and when the story begins. It also attempts to involve audience in the story.

  • Among other functions, the middle section of a film shows how the central characters deal with problems that impede progress toward their goals and reveals how happenings and the characters actions affect them and others.

  • The ending of a fictional film usually shows the consequences of major previous events. In stories with closure, by the end of the narrative the consequences of previous major events are shown or clearly implied. Most films of classical Hollywood cinema have closure, but many other narrative films do not.

  • A plotline is a brief narrative focused on a few characters or people that could function on its own as a separate (usually very brief) story. Typically, short films have only one plotline, and feature films have multiple plotlines.

  • In feature films, many combinations of plotlines are possible. For example, plotlines can be consecutive but with large gaps of story time between different time periods, or can be chronological and simultaneous and occasionally intersect.
  • Flashforwards are used only occasionally in fictional films, usually to suggest a premonition or inevitability. Flashbacks are often used and can serve many different purposes, such as showing how a character’s past has influenced the character or continues to trouble the character. On rare occasions, fictional films combine present-tense action with flashforwards and flashbacks.

  • A fabula is the mental reconstruction in chronological order of all the events in a non-chronological plot. Although a non-chronological plot contains the same events as its corresponding fabula, the plot creates different emphases and causes different responses in viewers.

  • How much time is represented in a fictional film (story time) is usually unspecified and difficult to determine, but story time nearly always far exceeds the film’s running time.

  • A style is the way that subjects are represented in a text, such as a film. A film may use a style only occasionally or throughout.

  • If viewers know nothing about a film’s style such as black comedy, and cannot figure it out quickly, the film will probably not engage them. If viewers know about the film’s style yet refuse to accept it, they will also likely fail to become engaged by the film.

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