Film Theory: Narratology, Narrative, Real Time

Film Theory: Narratology, Narrative Structure, Real Time


The examination of the fundamental properties of the narrative across a variety of forms: films, novels, etc.

The comparison is done in the most possible neutral way, without proving the superiority of one form over the other

Narrative Structure:



Ensemble-driven (Grand Hotel, Stagecoach)



British films tend to be more character-driven than American, which are often plot-driven

Ensemble-Driven Formula: Grand Hotel Formula

A story of assortment of characters who are thrown together into a single locale or location (hotel, boat, stagecoach)

They may be unified by a common concern or goal (to get somewhere in time)

or they may share lifestyle

The anthology formula is ideal for exploring multiple narratives, with no single story or character predominating (Giannetti, 341)

The disaster movie genre of the 1970s

Longtime Companion

David Bordwell:

“Narratives are composed in order to reward, modify, frustrate, and defeat the viewers’ search for coherence.

Narrative: Kitsch

Polonsky (Body and Sol, 1947): For me, movies are irrevocably and richly rooted in kitsch, in childhood, in storytelling, in the rubbish of paperbooks, and sitting under streetlights.

Narrative: Studio era

During studio era, most scripts were written by committees, rather than single author

The collaboration effort like patchwork quilts

Good collaborations:

“Twentieth Century”


Narrative Structure:

Act 1: The set-up

Act 2: Exploring conflicts (subplots) and climax

Act 3: Resolution, reconciliation

Narrative: Real Time

Most narratives condense time

Only a few movies have a screen time that conforms to real time:

Cleo from 5 to 7

High Noon

The Set-Up

The first two run 90 minutes, and the third 72 minutes.  But even they compress time in the expository opening sequence and expand time in the climax.