978-1457663543 Chapter 7

Document Type
Homework Help
Book Title
The Film Experience: An Introduction 4th Edition
Patricia White, Timothy Corrigan
Summarize the cultural ubiquity of storytelling in film.
Describe the different historical practices that create the foundations for film narratives.
Explain how film narratives construct plots that can arrange the events of a story in different ways.
Identify the way film characters motivate actions in a story.
Break down the way plots create different temporal and spatial schemes.
Describe how the power of narration and narrative point of view determine our understanding of a story.
Distinguish the differences between classical and alternative narrative traditions.
Chapter 7 is the first chapter in Part 3, which deals with organizational structures: narrative, documentary, and
experimental films, as well as familiar movie genres. Chapter 7 begins with a short history of narrative and narrative
film from its roots in storytelling to the present day. It then examines stories and plots, characters, the three -part
structure of narrativebeginning, middle, and endand the different ways in which narrative elements can order
time and space. Finally, it considers the cultural and historical contexts that shape each narrative.
This chapter draws upon ideas that students may have encountered in literature, creative writing, anthropology,
sociology, or screenwriting classes. It exposes the underlying structures that cause viewers to prefer and seek out movies
with certain kinds of plots, stories, or narrative styles and prompts students to examine what motivates their own
moviegoing choices.
Oz the Great and Powerful (2013) relies not just on the audience’s familiarity with narration and narrative
conventions but also on its knowledge of 1939’s The Wizard of Oz and the Oz books by Frank L. Baum. We take it for
granted that there’s no place like home, even though Kansas’s drab black-and-white mise-en-scène does little to persuade
us visually. Consider beginning the discussion of narrative forms by looking at two scenes from the movie that subvert our
expectations: when Dorothy first meets the Cowardly Lion and when she learns from the Wizard that he has no magical
powers to grant her wish. Students can discover how much they already know about how narrative works. It is worth
discussing with them how Sam Raimi’s name in the opening credits of the 2013 movie might signal that the movie will
follow one type of narrative, or how the Walt Disney name left viewers unprepared for the darkness of director and
all-around polymath Walter Murch’s more Baum-faithful film Return to Oz (1985); and how all three films capitalize
upon and upends our narrative expectations.
We seek out good films with interesting characters, plots, and narrative styles. All of these narrative elements and
structures offer numerous possibilities for creating different kinds of stories, invariably related to the cultural and
historical contexts that help shape them. Movies draw from a wide variety of narrative traditions: oral, written, visual,
and musical. Many film narratives follow a classical pattern of linear development and parallel plots; others deviate from
those patterns and explore different ways of constructing a story. Choosing a specific narrative form means committing
to certain options and excluding others.
In real life, students create narratives all the time. They tell stories about their weekend, describe how they
overcame an academic obstacle, revise the story of a failed romance, or omit incriminating details from an anecdote when
sharing it with a parent or teacher.
According to Jean-Luc Godard, every film has a beginning, a middle, and an end, but not necessarily in that
order. Film narratives allow us to explore and think about how we organize time and history into meaningful
Teaching Technical Vocabulary and Key Concepts
Regardless of the academic home of this course or its particular focus, it is essential that students are conversant with
the myriad ways film organizes time and space. The chapters in Part 3 examine the different ways in which movies are
organized to tell a story or, in the case of experimental film, evoke memories, dreams, and sensory states. When teaching
technical vocabulary for this section, encourage students to construct their own narratives by asking them to write essays
and journal entries that apply terminology learned in class to the films watched.
Another approach to evaluating comprehension could be to administer a short quiz after the screening. Ask
students to name the major and minor characters, name the type of plot, list the narrative time and locations, and
identify the kind of narration used. Or have them write a brief treatment of the plot and describe how it differs from
the story.
In the years following World War II, Hollywood began producing socially conscious films that did very well at
the box office, including William Wyler’s The Best Years of Our Lives (1946) (which won the Academy Award for
Best Picture), Edward Dmytryk’s Crossfire (1947), and Fred Zimmerman’s The Men (1950). In this sense, Salt of
the Earth was very much in line with Hollywood at the time. But the rise of anti-communist sentiment in Hollywood
made for a much more intimidating atmosphere, and Herbert J. Biberman and his Salt of the Earth were among the
Red Scare’s many casualties. As the “History Close Up” box indicates, Salt of the Earth plays a role in multiple
narratives about American life, not just the story of the “Hollywood Ten.” It is also a film that brings feminist and Latino
issues into focus.
Discussion Question #1: Consider this film in relation to Italian Neorealism (see chapter 2, pp. 70, as well as chapter 3, pp.
124-125). How might Salt of the Earth be considered an example of American neorealism?
Discussion Question #2: What recent films have shed light on similar issues of labor, gender, and ethnicity? Wh ich genre,
the narrative film or the documentary, is better suited to addressing these issues?
1900-1920: Adaptations, Scriptwriters, and Screenplays, p. 247
For the film you recently watched in class, describe as much of the story as you can. What are the main events, the
implied events, and the significant and insignificant details of the film’s story?
Ask students, alone or in groups, to describe the movie using forms characteristic of an oral narrative, a
newspaper story, a graphic novel, a children’s picture book, a pop song, or a symphony. Or ask them to use the
storytelling conventions of their major. Have them write a lab report, create a PowerPoint presentation, draft a
blueprint, or even solve an equation. Discuss the advantages and disadvantages of each approach.
Character Coherence, Depth, and Grouping, p. 256
In the film you are watching for class, select a character that you might define as singular. Does that singularity
indicate something about the values of the film? Does the character seem coherent? How?
This Viewing Cue works well as a prompt for discussion. Eve Harrington in All About Eve (1950) seems at first to be
a singular character, but our impression of her uniqueness is overturned in the final minutes of the film. Debate the merits
of character coherence in class. Do real people act coherently?
Character Types, p. 257
What kinds of social hierarchies are suggested by the character groupings in a film youve just viewed?
One interesting approach to implementing this Viewing Cue would be mapping the social hierarchies in the
Film in Focus movies Apocalypse Now and Daughters of the Dust (1991) and how they relate to issues of race in
each film. Another might involve comparing the matriarchal structures in Julie Dash’s film with those found in
Mildred Pierce.
Diegetic and Nondiegetic Elements, p. 260
Describe the diegesis of the film you just watched in class. Which events are excluded or merely implied w hen that
diegesis becomes presented as a narrative?
This Viewing Cue highlights how plot selection and omission shapes a story from its diegesis. For example, what
we know about Colonel Kurtz in Apocalypse Now is filtered through the accounts that characters share with Captain
Willard long before we meet Kurtz himself. Ask students to apply what they’ve learned in this chapter to movies they
watched for other chapters.
Diegetic and Nondiegetic Elements, p. 261
As you view the next film, identify the most important nondiegetic materials and analyze how they might emphasize
certain key themes or ideas.
Use this Viewing Cue in class and then again as an exam question. Have the students identify and make a case
for a single nondiegetic element being the most important one for a particular movie. For example, in the Film in
Focus Apocalypse Now, it might be Walter Murchs many credits or perhaps the pop music on the soundtrack.
Plot Chronologies: Flashback and Flashforward, p. 265
How is time shaped in this clip from Shutter Island (2010)? What especially important elements of narratives time
scheme can you point to?
This Viewing Cue works best as a journal or an essay prompt, enabling students to demonstrate their mastery of
the material and the relevant vocabulary. After they’ve watched the clip on LaunchPad for The Film Experience,
encourage them to locate the same scene in Dennis Lehane’s novel and discuss how Scorsese makes the literary
Narrative Perspectives, p. 269
From what point of view is the narration of this clip from The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)? If not controlled by an
individual, how might the narration reveal certain attitudes about the story’s logic?
Reassign the narrative point of view to a secondary character—say, the late Kumar Pallana’s Pagoda, then ask the
class to describe the plot from his, her, or its perspective in a journal entry. Choose a couple of promising entries to share
in the next class meeting.
Reflexive, Unreliable, and Multiple Narrations, p. 274
What narrative perspective features most prominently in the film you’ve just viewed? If the narration is omniscient or
restricted, how does it determine the meaning of the story?
Daughters of the Dust takes an unusual approach by sharing the narrative perspective of several characters,
including that of Unborn Child, who tells viewers the futures of the other characters. In class, for a journal entry, or
on an exam, ask students to describe how a story’s meaning would change if a restricted narration was replaced by
an omniscient narration or vice versa. Have them cite specific examples from the movie to build their case.
Classical Film Narrative, p. 276
For the film you will watch next in class, what type of history is being depicted? What does the narrative say about
the meaning of time and change in the lives of the characters? What events are presented as most important, and
Any of the Film in Focus movies would work well with this Viewing Cue. Discussion of national, social, and
personal histories could touch on changing gender and racial roles as well as how perceptions of U.S. history and foreign
policy evolve. For example, when U.S. soldiers riot during a Playboy Bunny extravaganza in the depths of the
Vietnamese jungle in Apocalypse Now, the visual and sonic chaos might reflect the collision between the highly mediated
bodies represented in Playboy and the horrifically real injuries inflicted upon the bodies and psyches of American
servicemen, images of which were broadcast on U.S. evening news every night.
Classical Film Narrative, p. 277
View the clip of the opening of Midnight Cowboy (1969), and consider how it refers to the classical narrative
tradition. What features signal that this film is a postclassical narrative?
While they are very different films, you might consider comparing the opening of Midnight Cowboy to the opening
minutes of Jean-Luc Godard’s Breathless (1960). Note how the former tilts both towards the classical narrative tradition
(with its conventional credit titles, a linear, forward-moving montage, and diegetic score) and towards a self-reflexivity
associated with the New Wave (direct address, the allusion to Hollywood genre, the shot of Joe Buck walking past a
run-down movie theater).
Nondiegetic Images and Narrative, p. 263
It may be useful to spend a little time discussing the intertitles in Intolerance (1916). D.W. Griffith includes his
authorial signature in the design of the intertitles and creates a rhythm by returning to the quotation from Walt
Whitman. Ask the class how the flexibility of intertitles might lend itself to reaching audiences who speak different
languages. Conduct a poll: Are they more or less distracting than subtitles or dubbing are today? To create context
for the evolution of opening and closing credit conventions, ask them to research Saul Bass or more current title
designers like Kyle Cooper. (Consult www.artofthetitle.com for other possible candidates.) Does it affect our
experience of a film to know that its titles are not the work of the film’s director? Or does it make us feel like
complicit, savvy insiders, as we feel when we are addressed directly by Ferris Bueller in Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)
or by Harry Lockhart in Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005)?
Narration and Gender in
Gone Girl
(2014), pp. 272-273
Many of David Fincher’s films, such as The Game (1997), Fight Club (1999), Panic Room (2002), and Zodiac (2007),
weave multiple narrative snares. With Gone Girl, Fincher uses reliable and unreliable narration to encourage and frustrate
the viewer’s efforts to unravel the mystery of Amy Dunne (Rosamund Pike), a woman who both speaks for herself and is
spoken forby her husband, her sister-in-law, a criminal detective, a television personality who ring leads a media circus.
Fincher’s film highlights the gender dynamics of investigation narratives and gives the viewer privileged access to t he
female point of view. How would the film change by excluding the extended
sequences with Ann hiding incognito at a nearby campground?
Discussion Question 1:
Ask students to choose a characterNick, Amy, Detective Boney, Margowhat would
change if the film connected exclusively to that character’s point of view?
Discussion Question 2:
How does Fincher make use of minor characters, such as Greta and Desi? What interpretive
frameworks do these characters impose on Amy? How does Amy respond to these interpretations?
Classical and Alternative Traditions in
Mildred Pierce
(1945) and
Daughters of the Dust
(1991), pp. 278-279
One way to get at how these personal, female narratives differ from one another might be to ask what would happen
if you switched their narrative patterns.
Discussion Question 1:
How would Mildred Pierce’s plot structure change if the narrative drifted across the
perspectives of Veda and Monty, too?
Discussion Question 2:
If the movie could show only a few days from Mildred’s life, which should they be?
Discussion Question 3:
How could Daughters of the Dust be reordered as a linear narrative powered by causal
Alternative Activity
Alternative Activity
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Adaptation (2002)
The Adventures of Robinson Crusoe (1954)
Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves (1905)
Alien (1979)
All About Eve (1950)
Amour (2012)
Amy (2015)
Aparajito (1956)
Apocalypse Now (1979)
Babel (2006)
Back to the Future (1985)
Batman v. Superman: Dawn of Justice (2016)
Battleship Potemkin (1925)
Ben-Hur (1907)
Ben-Hur (1925)
Ben-Hur (1959)
The Best Years of Our Lives (1946)
The Birth of a Nation (1915)
The Blue Bird (1940)
Bonnie and Clyde (1967)
The Bourne series (2004-2016)
Bringing Up Baby (1938)
The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920)
Cape Fear (1991)
Captain Phillips (2013)
Cast Away (2000)
The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (2006)
Cinderella (1900)
Cleo from 5 to 7 (1962)
Cloud Atlas (2012)
The Conformist (1970)
Contempt (1963)
Crash (2004)
Creed (2015)
Daughters of the Dust (1991)
Deadpool (2016)
The Deer Hunter (1978)
Desperately Seeking Susan (1985)
The Devil Wears Prada (2006)
Die Hard series (1988-2013)
Die Hard: With a Vengeance (1995)
Do the Right Thing (1989)
Double Indemnity (1944)
Edge of Tomorrow (2014)
8 ½ (1963)
Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004)
Ferris Bueller’s Day Off (1986)
Fight Club (1999)
Finding Nemo (2003)
Four Rooms (1995)
Gangs of New York (2002)
The General (1927)
Germany in Autumn (1978)
Gladiator (2000)
Glory (1989)
The Godfather: Part II (1974)
Gone Girl (2014)
Gone with the Wind (1939)
The Graduate (1967)
Grand Illusion (1937)
Gravity (2013)
The Great Train Robbery (1903)
Harry Potter films (2001-2011)
Hiroshima Mon Amour (1959)
The Hurt Locker (2008)
The Ice Storm (1997)
Imitation of Life (1934)
Inglourious Basterds (2009)
Interstellar (2014)
Intolerance (1916)
JFK (2001)
Jaws (1975)
Jeanne Dielman, 23 Quai du Commerce, 1080 Bruxelles (1975)
Jerry Maguire (1996)
Juno (2007)
King John (1899)
La Chinoise (1967)
La La Land (2016)
Lady in the Lake (1947)
Lee Daniel’s The Butler (2013)
Life Is Beautiful (1997)
Life of an American Fireman (1903)
Life of Pi (2012)
Lincoln (2012)
Little Big Man (1970)
Little Miss Sunshine (2006)
The Lobster (2016)
Lone Fisherman (1896)
Lost in Translation (2003)
The Man Who Knew Too Much (1934)
Meet the Parents (2000)
Memento (2000)
Mildred Pierce (1945)
Milk (2008)
Mulholland Dr. (2001)
My Fair Lady (1964)
Mystery Train (1989)
National Velvet (1944)
9 to 5 (1980)
Ocean’s Eleven (2001)
October (1927)
Oz the Great and Powerful (2013)
Paris, Je T’Aime (2006)
Pather Panchali (1955)
Pirates of the Caribbean series (2003-2017)
Pollyanna (1920)
Pretty in Pink (1986)
Pride and Prejudice (1938)
The Public Enemy (1931)
Pygmalion (1938)
Le Quattro Volte (The Four Times) (2010)
Queen of Katwe (2016)
Rashomon (1950)
Rear Window (1954)
Rebecca (1940)
The River (1951)
Robinson Crusoe (1902)
Robinson Crusoe on Mars (1964)
Roman Holiday (1953)
The Royal Tenenbaums (2001)
Run Lola Run (1998)
Russian Ark (2002)
Salt of the Earth (1954)
School of Rock (2003)
Se7en (1995)
The Searchers (1956)
The Sheik (1921)
Shutter Island (2010)
The Silence of the Lambs (1991)
Skyfall (2012)
The Social Network (2010)
Son of the Sheik (1926)
Stagecoach (1939)
Sunset Boulevard (1950)
Taste of Cherry (1997)
Taxi Driver (1976)
10 Cloverfield Lane (2016)
Thelma & Louise (1991)
They Shoot Horses, Don’t They? (1969)
Thirteen Days (2001)
The Tin Drum (1979)
Titanic (1997)
Trainwreck (2015)
Turn Me On, Dammit! (2011)
Two Evil Eyes (1990)
Uncle Tom’s Cabin (1903)
The Usual Suspects (1995)
Vagabond (1985)
Vertigo (1958)
Walk the Line (2005)
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The Wizard of Oz (1939)
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