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Film Narrative, Character, and The Journey of the hero

Page history last edited by Jayson Yeagley 10 years, 1 month ago

FILM NARRATIVE

When we refer to the narrative of a film we are concerned with the way the filmmaker has organised the material so that viewers will take meaning from it. Narrative does not have to be fictional; documentary makers use narrative as a way of structuring factual material.

Various writers have proposed ways of exploring narrative by focusing on the similarities which all narratives share. The Russian writer, Vladimir Propp, worked on the written narratives of Russian folk-tales. He claimed to have identified certain types of character who always appeared and also a set of actions or events. Other writers have found his ideas can be applied to film narrative quite accurately.

 

Propp’s basic characters were:

* The hero - who is seeking something * The villain - who is in opposition to the hero

* The donor - who provides an object with magic power

* The helper - who assists the hero

* The princess - who acts a reward for the hero * The dispatcher - who sends the hero on his way

* The false hero - who disrupts the hero’s hope of reward Graeme Turner, in his book Film As Social Practice, applies this list to the film Star Wars*:

 

* The hero - Luke Skywalker * The villain - Darth Vader

* The donor - Ben (Obi-Wan) Kenobi * The helper - Han Solo

* The princess - Princess Leia * The dispatcher - R2-D2

* The false hero - Darth Vader

In Channels of Discourse, Robert Allen tries the same thing with the television programmes Batman and Miami Vice and manages to fit most of the categories:

FILM:

THE HERO: THE HELPER: THE DISPATCHER: THE VILLAIN: THE PRINCESS:

BATMAN

Batman Robin Police Commissioner Gordon The Penguin / The Riddler / etc. —

MIAMI VICE

Crockett / Tubbs Vice detectives Lt. Castillo Guest star Guest star

 

Narrative

Some other writers have suggested that, while Propp’s ideas can be easily fitted to simple texts, like the television programmes quoted above or popular Hollywood movies, more complex ‘art’ films do not fit the model very well.

 

To what extent is it possible to fit the characters in Apocalypse Now into Propp's character types?

Just as Propp claimed that the same characters recurred in narratives, there was also a distinct structure which could be identified. Reworking Propp’s ideas, Edward Branigan describes the following as a typical narrative structure:

 

* introduction of settings and characters

* explanation of a state of affairs

* initiating event

* emotional response or statement of a goal by the protagonist

* complicating actions

* outcome

* reactions to the outcome.

 

Task

How accurately does Branigan's narrative model fit the structure of Apocalypse Now?

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the hero's journey : summary of the steps

     
  1. Departure
    1. The Call to Adventure
      The call to adventure is the point in a person's life when they are first given notice that everything is going to change, whether they know it or not.
    2. Refusal of the Call
      Often when the call is given, the future hero refuses to heed it. This may be from a sense of duty or obligation, fear, insecurity, a sense of inadequacy, or any of a range of reasons that work to hold the person in his or her current circumstances.
    3. Supernatural Aid
      Once the hero has committed to the quest, consciously or unconsciously, his or her guide and magical helper appears, or becomes known.
    4. The Crossing of the First Threshold
      This is the point where the person actually crosses into the field of adventure, leaving the known limits of his or her world and venturing into an unknown and dangerous realm where the rules and limits are not known.
    5. The Belly of the Whale
      The belly of the whale represents the final separation from the hero's known world and self. It is sometimes described as the person's lowest point, but it is actually the point when the person is between or transitioning between worlds and selves. The separation has been made, or is being made, or being fully recognized between the old world and old self and the potential for a new world/self. The experiences that will shape the new world and self will begin shortly, or may be beginning with this experience which is often symbolized by something dark, unknown and frightening. By entering this stage, the person shows their willingness to undergo a metamorphosis, to die to him or herself.
     
  2. Inititation
    1. The Road of Trials
      The road of trials is a series of tests, tasks, or ordeals that the person must undergo to begin the transformation. Often the person fails one or more of these tests, which often occur in threes.
    2. The Meeting with the Goddess
      The meeting with the goddess represents the point in the adventure when the person experiences a love that has the power and significance of the all-powerful, all encompassing, unconditional love that a fortunate infant may experience with his or her mother. It is also known as the "hieros gamos", or sacred marriage, the union of opposites, and may take place entirely within the person. In other words, the person begins to see him or herself in a non-dualistic way. This is a very important step in the process and is often represented by the person finding the other person that he or she loves most completely. Although Campbell symbolizes this step as a meeting with a goddess, unconditional love and /or self unification does not have to be represented by a woman.
    3. Woman as the Temptress
      At one level, this step is about those temptations that may lead the hero to abandon or stray from his or her quest, which as with the Meeting with the Goddess does not necessarily have to be represented by a woman. For Campbell, however, this step is about the revulsion that the usually male hero may feel about his own fleshy/earthy nature, and the subsequent attachment or projection of that revulsion to women. Woman is a metaphor for the physical or material temptations of life, since the hero-knight was often tempted by lust from his spiritual journey.
    4. Atonement with the Father
      In this step the person must confront and be initiated by whatever holds the ultimate power in his or her life. In many myths and stories this is the father, or a father figure who has life and death power. This is the center point of the journey. All the previous steps have been moving in to this place, all that follow will move out from it. Although this step is most frequently symbolized by an encounter with a male entity, it does not have to be a male; just someone or thing with incredible power. For the transformation to take place, the person as he or she has been must be "killed" so that the new self can come into being. Sometime this killing is literal, and the earthly journey for that character is either over or moves into a different realm.
    5. Apotheosis
      To apotheosize is to deify. When someone dies a physical death, or dies to the self to live in spirit, he or she moves beyond the pairs of opposites to a state of divine knowledge, love, compassion and bliss. This is a god-like state; the person is in heaven and beyond all strife. A more mundane way of looking at this step is that it is a period of rest, peace and fulfillment before the hero begins the return.
    6. The Ultimate Boon
      The ultimate boon is the achievement of the goal of the quest. It is what the person went on the journey to get. All the previous steps serve to prepare and purify the person for this step, since in many myths the boon is something transcendent like the elixir of life itself, or a plant that supplies immortality, or the holy grail.
     
  3. Return
    1. Refusal of the Return
      So why, when all has been achieved, the ambrosia has been drunk, and we have conversed with the gods, why come back to normal life with all its cares and woes?
    2. The Magic Flight
      Sometimes the hero must escape with the boon, if it is something that the gods have been jealously guarding. It can be just as adventurous and dangerous returning from the journey as it was to go on it.
    3. Rescue from Without
      Just as the hero may need guides and assistants to set out on the quest, often times he or she must have powerful guides and rescuers to bring them back to everyday life, especially if the person has been wounded or weakened by the experience. Or perhaps the person doesn't realize that it is time to return, that they can return, or that others need their boon.
    4. The Crossing of the Return Threshold
      The trick in returning is to retain the wisdom gained on the quest, to integrate that wisdom into a human life, and then maybe figure out how to share the wisdom with the rest of the world. This is usually extremely difficult.
    5. Master of the Two Worlds
      In myth, this step is usually represented by a transcendental hero like Jesus or Buddha. For a human hero, it may mean achieving a balance between the material and spiritual. The person has become comfortable and competent in both the inner and outer worlds.
    6. Freedom to Live
      Mastery leads to freedom from the fear of death, which in turn is the freedom to live. This is sometimes referred to as living in the moment, neither anticipating the future nor regretting the past.

     

     

     

     

     

     

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