Elements of Narrative Art in Film

Elements of Narrative Art in Fiction

External Narration

External Narration is the basic narrative point of view of the film medium. All stories in film are presented from a point of view outside the story. The duel-channels of image and sound presenting the story performs the role of the External Narrator of written fiction.

External Narration presentation of Consciousness: Portals to the Brain

Film, by arranging external signs for our visual perception, or by presenting us with dialogue, can lead us to infer thought. But it cannot show us thought directly. It can show us characters thinking, feeling and speaking, but it cannot show us their thoughts and feelings. (George Bluestone, Novels into Film, pp. 47-48.) A common view, but not true. The film medium from its inception has created--to use an expression from Adaptation--"Portals to the brain." Here are major techniques for rendering consciousness.

Narrator Commentary

The External Narrator in film, like the External Narrator in writing, can make comments and judgments about the characters and events within the story. In principle any aspect of the film medium can be used to create external comment on the story.

Internal Narration in Film

Film Narration can use a variety of First-Person Narrators to enrich the story. In both fiction and film, Internal Narrators are characters within the story who speak their minds directly to their listeners, readers, audience. There is no difference in the mediums on this point. The major difference is that in writing the whole story can be narrated by an internal narrator while in film first-person narration is always only partial--embedded in external narration. The film medium has no equivalent of the complete first-person story in writing. .

The film medium has two basic ways of incorporating internal narration into an externally narrated story: Characters who tell their stories to others within the story; characters who tell their stories to the audience outside the story.

Narrative Structure: Linear and Non-Linear

Film narratives are about characters and events in time. There are two basic options for structuring a story: telling the story in a linear, chronological way or in a non-linear, achronological way.

Resources for the study of Film Narrative

John Hartzog