When looking at narrative, we can look at many theories and apply them to the film genre, using my chosen texts, ‘City Of God’ and ‘Monsters’, I am able to look at theories such as, the classical narrative structure, Todorov’s narrative structure and Levi Strauss’ binary opposition theory.
At the most basic level, narrative can be seen as the sequencing of information of events into a logical and cohesive structure within time and space. It has been argued that the underlying structure of all narrative is basically the same, with variation only taking place in terms of character and settings.
The classical narrative structure is the way that most movies are made in Hollywood. It’s the most common structure of story telling in mainstream films. and it is based on a three-act format that organizes the story, in part one we are introduced to the main characters within the story, their goals, and the obstacles that they are likely to face to achieve their object, in part two (the development), plot complications are added to the story, and an increasing sense of urgency is created, in part three (the resolution), the final segment of the film, results of the stories main conflict come to dramatic confrontation and it is the point where key struggles are waged and an eventual victor is determined.
Within ‘City Of God’, there are three sections that build one narrative, much like the classical narrative structure, however it doesn’t quiet follow the rest of it. We have one main story teller (Rocket), who is key to the narrative, as our narrator he is able to build personal relationships with the audience and he is able to retell a story in which he is sometimes not present within, this allows the audience to feel trust in Rocket and believe what he is telling us. This type of narrative is very manipulative to its audience and tricks us into believing things that are not sound fictional acts.
‘Monsters’, builds a very different story with a very different narrative sense. It mostly presents the three sections that build one narrative, however we do see the end of the movie happening at the very beginning. Apart from this one scene within the movie, the rest of the movie correlates to much the same of the classical narrative structure. In part one (the set up), we meet the main characters Andrew and Sam, their goals which is to get Sam home and we meet the obstacles that they are going to face (The Monsters), it sets the story up so the film engages the audience and suggests the stories likely development. In part two (The development) Sam and Andrew are faced with more and more dilemmas to achieve their goal, they also engage in a romantic story and we are able to follow their journey home, facing more and more issues, with their main obstacle being the monsters.
Todorov reduces the concept of narrative to a simple recurring formula
Equilibrium Disequilibrium New Equilibrium.
A narrative starts with a state of equilibrium or harmony, a firm sense of order is established, into this comes the disequilibrium or disruption, which destroys the sense of order, by some mechanism, the force of evil is overcome and order and harmony in the form of a new equilibrium is restored.
in ‘City of God’, there is a slight sense of todorov’s theory, we first meet Lil Z, Rocket and other main characters on the beach playing, with such problems presented from the neighborhood and other people from the community, the disequilibrium is present all the time as the story is almost set in a way that goes from generation to generation, the new equilibrium shows that the neighborhood is much of the same. However if we look closely at only Rockets story which is set inside of the narrative then we can see a very close line that goes with Todorov’s theory. Rocket is first presented as a child, his goal is to become a photographer and move away from The City Of God, he is then presented with his disequilibrium, the challenge of escaping death, drugs and gangs within the city, he is unable to do this until he is presented with the gift of taking photo’s of Lil’Z, this allows him to move past his disequilibrium and move to his new equilibrium of having a happy life outside of The City Of God and being what he always dreamed of.
Within ‘Monsters’ Todorov’s theory once again is not seen as straight forward, the new equilibrium is shown at the beginning of the story rather than the end. We as an audience see the fate of Andrew and Sam to begin with. Also the disequilibrium is set from the beginning of the plot rather than the second quarter, the equilibrium is suggested at and that is that it was the lifestyles we are living within now.
Todorov’s theory is a typical structure that most texts can fit into, however we should consider the problem of the idea of a resolution. Monsters as a media text tries to challenge the audience and has an open narrative in which we have to think about to realize that we began with the ending of the story and therefore we have to interpret what we are told and even watch the movie a second time.
Levi-Strauss claimed that in any narrative there is the constants creation of
conflict/opposition that propels the narrative forward, he called this his binary oppositional theory. He said that narratives can only end on a resolution of conflict, opposition can only be visual such as light and dark or conceptual such as love and hate.
In ‘City Of God’ there is constant creations of conflict presented, we see love and hate between characters, we see good and bad amongst many more. These objects progress the narrative however do not complete it. This is much the same within ‘Monsters’ we see bad vs good, women vs men and alien vs Human. These are very important within the plot but need something more to complete the narrative structure.
Many other narrative techniques are used within both films.
Flashbacks are very important, ‘Monsters’ begins with a scene which presents the ending of the film, this scene is very important to the understanding of the completion of the movie and without this scene the film would not complete its meaning.
In ‘City Of God’, Rocket reconstructs the events we see in a series of flashbacks. He is remembering things that have taken place; many of the events are things that he may not of actually seen or been involved with. these include intimate moments such as Bene and Angelica making love.
Non-Diegetic devices such as newspaper headlines, Rocket’s photographs and Nock out Neds TV interview are used within ‘City of God’ to progress the narrative and also make it seem more realistic and believable. ‘Monsters’ also use some of these techniques such as the use of news papers and television to make the monsters more real and also use them to push on the narrative structure.