what is a narrative film
More the province of fiction, point of view is nonetheless used in film. It is most often varied, moving from :
objective point of view (generally a long shot, standing back observing the action)
Narrative is generally accepted as possessing two components: the story presented and the process of its telling, or narration, often referred to as narrative discourse. Story is a series of represented events, characters (or agents for some), and actions out of which the audience constructs a fictional time, place, and cause–effect world, or diegesis. In the Lumière short, the material elements include the arrival of the train, the scurrying of rushed passengers, the gestures of the railway workers, the steam emitted from the engine, even the moving shadows beneath people’s feet. Out of these rather minimal visual objects and actions, the viewer generates tiny story events, including any effects that the train has on the people on the platform. The narrative discourse is evident in strategies of presentation, especially the camera position, which offers a view of the action that emphasizes perspective and depth, but also allows the viewers to watch the faces and movements of a number of the people involved. However, Lumière’s film offers a very low level of narrative development, in part because of the short length and paucity of story events, but also because of the absence of other narration devices, including plot ordering, mise-en-scène choices, editing, sound effects, intertitles, or camera movement. As films expanded in length and technical options, narrative strategies increased as well. Stories could develop more complex characterization, thematic concerns, and temporal development, along with increasing devices for the narrator to manipulate and present those events.
While many sorts of films employ some storytelling strategies, when we speak of narrative film we are typically referring to fiction films. However, before moving to fiction films completely, we should acknowledge that French film theorist Christian Metz has famously argued that on one level, all films are fiction films. All cinematic experience is based by definition on illusion. Motion pictures are fundamentally still images projected onto a flat screen. Nothing moves and there is no real depth of space, yet we cannot help but “see” movement and spatial cues as the film is projected. The entire process is based on a fiction that what we see is actually present. We know Cary Grant is long dead, we know that we are only seeing his shadowlike image projected on a screen, and yet we see and hear him in an illusory three-dimensional world in which he moves in front of and then behind his desk, right there in front of us. Lumière films, Cary Grant laughing, or a bird chirping in a sex education documentary are all based on an illusion, an absence, that is only possible thanks to the cinematic apparatus and the audience’s perception system. From this perspective, the fiction film is a specific type of cinema based on the content of the images and sounds rather than their material traits. The fiction film, the subject of narrative history, theory, and criticism, assumes a spectator who not only sees movement where none really exists, but also constructs characters, time, space, and themes.
Given that The Wizard of Oz is a narrative film, every scene and song relates to the central plot and doesn’t diverge by introducing sub-plots or characters with their own storylines. Keep this is mind as we take a look at some early narrative films.
Since their emergence in the late 19th century, films have played a significant role in the lives of people around the world. For example, movies have the power to share new ideas and teach lessons about the past or future. Sometimes, films only exist to entertain us. Just like there are many different styles of art, there are many different styles of film, but the style most commonly found in movie theaters is the narrative film.
Story and Plot
Films don’t just start and stop – they begin and end. A narrative’s use of causality, time, and space usually involves a change from an initial situation to a final situation. A film’s beginning (possibly medias res) provokes expectations and our search for causal motivations by setting-up a specific range of possible causes and effects. The portion of the plot that lays out important story events and character traits in the opening situation is called the exposition. Most patterns of development depend on how causes and effects create a change in a character’s situation. There is no set pattern of development but some common ones are the goal orientated and investigation plots. Time and space can also provide plot patterns. E.g. deadlines, flashbacks, single locales.
What do the filmmakers expect of you?
To summarise, because of all of these things, the makers of the film can expect you to be in quite a different state of mind to someone who just happens to be watching the film on TV at home. You will be expectant and curious, anxious to find out the solutions to the problems the characters face (the resolution of the problematic)
adapted from Steve Baker “Film & Narrative”