What is Narrative Cinema?

The term “Narrative cinema” sounds quite vague to the average film buff. In its essence, there are no specific rules of narrative cinema, which makes it quite hard to define. However, there are some consistent characteristics of narrative film.



Definition

A film that narrates a cohesive and fictional story with causality through filmmaking techniques can be called Narrative Cinema. The two elements of narrative cinema are story and narrative. The narrative involves various filmmaking techniques such as screenwriting, cinematography and direction.


History

The first public screening of motion pictures was by the Lumière Brothers. Their most iconic film was Arrivée d'un train en gare a La Ciotat (1896). But these films were recordings of life events, which fell more in the genre of documentary films. The first narrative fictional film was The Great Train Robbery, made in 1903. The film was directed by Edwin S. Porter, who had been a cameraman for Thomas A. Edison. It was a "one-reeler" that ran for 10 minutes and had 14 scenes in total.


Characteristics

Narrative Cinema has some distinct characteristics namely causality, structure and narrative devices. Causality refers to the cause and effect chain of events that take place in a story and make the narrative move forward. This chain of events forms the plot. In case of the absence of causality, the film falls into the experimental film genre.


Then the plot is inserted into a structure, inspired by the 3-plot structure of Greek dramaturgy. This structure mainly concerns the plot of a narrative film, but also affects the character arc structure of a narrative film. Once the plot structure is in place, narrative devices like cinematography, sound design, editing and direction are used to carry it out. Over the decades, these techniques have evolved a lot, but their basic functionalities have remained unchanged.

 

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