Franco-Bulgarian historian and essayist, Tzvetan Todorov, created a theory concerning the structure of narratives. According to his work, pieces begin with an equilibrium which is disrupted by an event leading into the disequilibrium and once good is restored, audiences are introduced to a new equilibrium. My A2 film, Screen Three, adheres somewhat to this theory. The close-up on the elderly protagonist showing his relaxed and comfortable state presents the equilibrium; a man quietly enjoying a film at the cinema. However, true to Todorov’s theory, our film soon comes to its disequilibrium when the three youths who enter the scene begin to abuse our protagonist. It could be argued our film subverts from Todorov’s ideas since my piece ends on a cliffhanger and audiences do not know of the protagonist’s fate. It remains a mystery and this means a new equilibrium is not featured in my film. The way this part of the story is left out may be an interesting subversion of this narrative theory since are left to imagine what happens next for themselves.

If one looks at the characters in Screen Three, an adherence may be seen to Propp’s theory of characters which is that all narratives contain certain characters. His list includes a hero, villain, help, donor, princess, dispatcher and the false hero and our character arguably features two from this list; the hero and the villain. Due to the focus given on the old man at the start of the film, created by close ups of him and the lighting emphasising his appearance in the frame, it’s easy for audience to recognise him as the hero of the story; the protagonist who the audience expects to follow as the film progresses. His elderly appearance and stillness makes him seem like a threat and vulnerable however, the youths are identifiable with the qualities of villains. They are dressed in dark clothing and act abusive towards the protagonist by yelling at him, throwing popcorn at him and kicking his seat which places them into Propp’s category as villains. While these adhere to Propp’s ideas. the other characters in his list are not featured within my film and so the film subverts with his ideas.

Theorist Levi Strauss identified that narratives work because they are often based around the conflict between binary opposition. The protagonist and antagonists of Screen Three arguably adhere to certain examples of binary opposition, such as good and evil. The abuse of the youths and their villainous characteristics suggested through their offensive and rude dialogue regarding sex and violence at the start of the scene portrays them as evil. This strongly contrasts with the old man, whose facial expressions shown in close ups and reluctance to act upon the youths suggests he is good. The way much of the narrative focuses on this battle between the evil youths and the good old man adheres to Strauss’ ideas. Similarly, the binary opposition regarding age is certainly within my film. The white haired old man who is reserved and quiet conflicts with the loud and energetic youths who throw popcorn and move amongst the cinema to annoy their target. Their movement and the way the old man stays still conforms to stereotypes the audience may have upon the fragile elderly and the bashful youth of today.

Barthes’ codes of action, symbols and enigma in conventional narratives offer gratification for audiences. Codes arousing fear are used in horrors, codes that thrill and excite are often used in action and thriller films. The narrative for Screen Three heavily focuses on this codes that help the audience identify what they’re watching. For example, the heavy focus on the old man and the negative portrayal of the youths let audiences sympathise and empathise with this protagonist. These feelings and effects are often exploited in drama films as a narrative element.



  1. You’re getting the hang of this! Good balance of theory and examples. If you wanted to bung even more evidence of your theoretical understanding in there, though, it wouldn’t go amiss…

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out /  Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )


Connecting to %s