Film Structure: Part 1


A film structure is made up of two components: narrative and narration. By narrative one means the action that happens through characters and events. Narration, on the other hand, refers to how the story is told, that is the mechanism that determines the information given to the spectator about characters and events. An auteur director, rather than solely thinking as a technician, can grip audience by giving a script a style and theme. Although the mode of Hollywood may be good it imposes and restricts a film-maker. Through narration one can develop a preferred thematic composition.


Spectators may not have full control on the story. The reason is because the film-maker is free to apply the adequate narration for the narrative. There are two types of narration: first-person (restricted) and third-person (omniscient) narration.


First-person narration presents only actions, events and characters which the main character episodes. Thus the audience experiences what the character experiences. Thus one can say that this type of narration restricts information and allows spectators to view events from the eye of the character. It solidifies the protagonist and aids audience to sympathize with the character. Therefore the camera moves along with the character presented, and ‘restricts’ shots from his point of view. This type of narration is usually found in detective films such as The Big Sleep (1946). It may also be experienced in other genres such as Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver (1976).


On the contrary, third-person narration is characterised by camera shots jumping from one character to another; showing things that the protagonist may not have seen. The director usually is more truthful to the audience. In the sense that the action happening is viewed from a wider picture rather than limiting only to what the main character thinks. The audience can gather information of what is happening from various characters. Here the spectator is expected to anticipate objectively than subjectively. One can thus manipulate spectators by thinking suspiciously about the character. For example in a pure third-person narration a voice-over narration is misplaced. This may be one of the reasons why melodramas (a type of drama with stereotype character development) are in tune with omniscient narration.


Sometimes when watching a third-person narration film we are being demonstrated with camera movements withdrawing themselves from all characters. In such case, someone else is controlling it, someone who is outside the narration – the director. For instance Psycho (1960) is a mixture of first and third-person narration. The camera is found engaged with Marion for the first two scenes. From screen 3 onwards it shifts to omniscient narration, depicting Alfred Hitchcock’s perspective.