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The fabula is the story in all its semantic, chronological, and causal detail.Against most of film and literary theory, I believe we should acknowledge that there are actually two fabulas.In 12 studies I show that normative aspects in patterns of shot durations, shot transitions, shot scale, shot motion, shot luminance, character introduction, and distributions of conversations, music, action shots, and scene transitions reduce to 5 correlated stylistic dimensions of movies and can litigate among theories of movie structure. The basic principle of the Hollywood cinema is that a narrative should consist of a chain . The everyday stories that we tell each other are the reconstruction of our experience in narrative form, and these become the units of remembered life.
Notice my focus is on the story as it is physically told, not on the story as it is comprehended.
I will explore how this story form has been “designed,” albeit tacitly across generations of filmmakers, to engage spectators.
One reason for this is that storytelling is culturally important to us, but another is that general narrative formulae have been honed over millennia and that a derived but specific filmic form has developed and has been perfected over the last century. Nonetheless, I recognize that their study is not an empirical psychologist’s usual professional fare.
The result is a highly effective format that allows rapid processing of complex narratives. Movies are seemingly too complex—as complex as life, and often even more engaging.
The five-part scheme was codified in the 19th century by the German novelist and playwright Gustav Freytag (Mac Ewan, . A 14th–15th century Japanese treatise by Zeami Motokivo describes the ideal form of the Noh play as having five acts (Yamazaki, ), with the third act having the greatest climax and the first and fifth being more peaceful and serene.
According to Freytag, these units began as separate, descriptive parts of drama—Roman theater was the first to use acts as a theatrical division, perhaps dictated by the needs for actors resting, changing costumes, or for scene changes—and then these became crystalized into separate functional, narrative units (Mac Ewan, p. If we take the visual representation of Freytag’s pyramid seriously, however, it doesn’t really have five equal parts.
The variations in these physical parameters can also drive the emotion and attention of the viewer. In his oft-quoted and much-modified analysis, given above, he wrote that stories are wholes in three parts.
More concretely, in Greek theater, the beginning of a play, the ) thought five acts a folly, he acknowledged that this pattern pervaded English, German, and French plays, but not the Spanish. Act 1 is the The five-part, ordinally symmetric structure also seems to have some cross-cultural resonance.
These make comprehension vastly easier in a complex world. First, I will investigate the narrative structure of popular movies in general.
Second, through investigation of the extrinsic physical norms of movies I will make inferences about how that narrational form should affect the viewer.