Nonlinear Narratives

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ABSTRACT: Cinema is a powerful medium of expression. Cinema has been continuously improving and developing towards something different from what it is known for or what it was in the past. Narrative is the strategy with which any material is organised and presented to an audience. This is an integral part of a film and as Thomas Elsaesser argues cinema become a predominantly narrative medium with the development of its codes of intelligibility. The classical narration is the type of narration that we all as spectators normally expect from a film while nonlinear narratives have emerged from the classical narrative form. Non linear narratives have been in vogue for a long period of time and were considered by some as being inferior to classical narrative. However, non linear narratives are now present in many media forms and the digital formats have played a crucial role in their development as Lev Manovich argues; the use of digital compositing to create continuous spaces out of different elements can be seen as an example of the larger antimontage aesthetics of computer culture (Manovich, 2000,p.155). I believe that investigating something which is contemporary can be very motivating and constructive. This dissertation would offer me a good knowledge and understanding of a concept that would be crucial for my future career as a filmmaker. For the research I collected ample amount of literature from diverse sources. Based on the literature collected I have analysed three nonlinear narrative films chronologically. Further to the analysis and literature collected I have understood many concepts related to non linear narratives and have arrived at a conclusion as to how non linear narratives have revolutionized fictional films.





1. ABSTRACT-------------------------------------------------------------- 1

2. CHAPTER 1: INTRODUCTION 1.1. 1.2. 1.3. 1.4. 1.5. Background Information ---------------------------------------6 Rationale of Research -----------------------------------------7 Research Question ---------------------------------------------8 Objectives of Research-----------------------------------------8 Conclusion --------------------------------------------------------8

3. CHAPTER 2: ACADEMIC CONTEXT 2.1. Narratology-----------------------------------------------------------9 2.2. What is Narrative? -------------------------------------------------9 2.3. Elements of Narrative----------------------------------------------9 2.4. Components of Narrative -----------------------------------------10 2.5. Cinematic Narrative ------------------------------------------------13 2.6. Factors that Sustain the Interest of Viewers in Films ------15 2.7. Elements of a Film Narrative -------------------------------------16 2.8. Narrative in Fictional Films ----------------------------------------17 2.9. Narrative Devices ---------------------------------------------------18 2.10. Classical or Linear Narrative ------------------------------------18 2.11. Post Modernism and Non Linearity ----------------------------19 2.12. Non Linear Narratives----------------------------------------------20 2.13. Linear Vs. Non Linear Narratives in Fictional Films---------21 2.14. Issues in Non Linear Narratives ---------------------------------23 2.15. Non Linear Editing -------------------------------------------------25 4. CHAPTER 3: RESEARCH METHODS--------------------------------28


5. CHAPTER 4: ANALYSIS 4.1. Dont Look Now---------------------------------------------------------30 4.2. Pulp Fiction---------------------------------------------------------------33 4.3. 21 Grams-------------------------------------------------------- ---------37 6. CHAPTER 5: CONCLUSION----------------------------------------------40 7. LIST OF REFERENCES----------------------------------------------------44


LIST OF ILLUSTRATIONS: Figure 1: Suspense Arc and its five act structure-----------------15 Figure 2: Elements of a Narrative---------------------------------------16


CHAPTER 1: INTRODUCTION 1.1. Background Information:

Cinema is a medium through which numerous people shared fictional or non fictional stories. In simpler words cinema catered to a larger section of population replacing the storyteller with technology and manipulated the viewers response to the story (Lindroos, 1999, p.3). Films revolutionized story telling as it was possible to destruct time scales and reconstruct them in any order. The viewers perception of the story changed. Cinema offered the viewer a newer form of spatial and temporal experience (Lindroos, 1999, p.4). Tom Gunning in his essay The non-continuous of early film talks about early cinema and its contribution to film history. The challenge that early cinema offers to film history is a search for a method of understanding the transformations in narrative form in cinemas first decades; a method that maintains as awareness of early films difference from later practices, without defending if simply as relation of divergence from a method of continuity (cited by Elsaessar, 1990, p.86). In his book Manovich emphasises the influence that new media has upon film and consequently how things can be modified. He argues that new

media abandons this human-centred representation altogether to put represented time fully under human control. Time is mapped onto two-

dimensional space, where it can be managed, analysed and manipulated more easily (Manovich, 2000, p.51).


1.2. Rationale of Research: Films have undergone vast changes over the recent years owing to the digital media systems. The narrative structure has also undergone many changes. It can be said that the classical narrative has given way to and has emerged as newer forms (Favero, 2001, p.1). It is commonly perceived that in a digital medium the narrative structure is non digital and non narrative. It is also said that narrative in a digital media doesnt have any artistic characteristics. Non linear narrative reflects the real life method in which an information or story is transferred between people. This technique is now been increasingly used in fictional films. Non linear films now comprises of an immersive narrative where the viewer assumes an interactive role. In the interactive environment the viewer gets transformed into a protagonist. Non linear films have changed a passive audience and stifling surroundings characteristic of a linear film into an active, attentive audience and offer an unrestricted viewing environment. Non linear narrative has emerged to prevent spectators from just seeing and comprehending sequentially arranged story material (Henderson, 2008, p.2). The non linear narrative with its unconventional style, dialogues, camera angles combined with non linear editing techniques has brought in a change to fictional films. I have undertaken this research to understand if non linear narrative techniques have brought about a revolution in fictional films. I believe that the subject I am going to do for my dissertation is appropriate and valuable because my intentions are to do a profound study on a form of narration and narration is a basic and significant element of fictional films.


1.3. Research Question: Has non linear narratives revolutionized fictional films? 1.4. Objectives of the Research: To comprehend the meaning of a narrative, the elements and the components of the narrative To analyse the cinematic narrative and the different elements of a cinematic narrative To understand the narrative devices used in a fictional film To distinguish between a classical narrative and non linear narratives To understand the various issues of nonlinear films To analyse how non linear editing has helped non linear narrative develop 1.5. Conclusion: In my dissertation I intend to explore and research the nonlinear narrative by studying the fundamental characteristics of this method and the changes that it brings to fictional films. I would also research about the non linear editing techniques and how they have helped non linearity in films. Also I would analyse three non linear films in a chronological order to understand how non linearity has developed over time.


CHAPTER 2: ACADEMIC CONTEXT This chapter is an analysis of literature collected from diverse sources such as journals, books, conference papers and web pages. This helps in understanding the basic concepts of narratives and non linear narrative in particular. 2.1. Narratology: Narratology has two elements: the story and the way it is said. Story is a chronologic ordering of events related causally while the method of presentation of a story is called narration (Tomaszewski, 2005). The story becomes a narrative or a narration when the story is placed on a medium and is viewed by spectators. This is possible after the story is edited determining which part of the story should be told and the method it should be told. Narrative and narration can be distinguished as the collection of the elements of a story and the navigation between the elements of the story respectively. 2.2. What is Narrative? Humans have always found the urge to narrate and communicate their experiences to others through various mediums (Thuresson, 1998, p.5). In general a narrative is a linear, organized, uniform progression of ideas. Narrative is chain of events in cause-effect relationship occurring in time and space (Bordwell & Thompson, 2005, p.69). 2.3. Elements of a Narrative: A narrative has certain elements such as Action: the events of the story Characters: the enactors of the story


Setting: the location of the story Perspective: is the way the story elements are told

(Tomaszewski, 2005). 2.4. Components of a Narrative: