1) Choose ONE of the following Alfred Hitchcock films: he 39 Steps; The Lady Vanishes; Rebecca; Spellbound; Notorious; Rope; Strangers on a Train; To Catch a Thief; North By Northwest; Psycho; The Birds; Marnie; Frenzy
2) Each section should be between 300 – 500 words in length (no more than 1500 in total).
NB: The Narrative Report does not require an introduction and conclusion – it is simply a set of short-answer sections separated with subheadings. The ‘Report’ structure here means that this is not like a normal essay but designed to show your engagement with the concepts in discrete sections. Do not write the questions out in full – just use the following subheadings
—– Story and Plot
* What is the difference between story and plot? In your own words outline the distinction made in Film Art between story and plot in narrative films. Do not repeat or reiterate Film Art here – use your own words.
* What is the relationship between the story and the plot in this film? How are order, duration and frequency used in the narrative to manipulate time? Discuss and describe the relationship between the story and the plot in your chosen film. Ensure your discussion considers the temporal role of order, duration and frequency in the narrative of the film. When discussing temporal order, make sure you discuss not only the ordering of scenes, but also explain when and why significant story information (perhaps pre-dating the plot) is revealed in the plot.
—— Opening and Closing Scenes
* What narrative expectations are set up in the opening scene of this film? How are these expectations set up in relation to the central character/s? Consider the way in which the opening scene works to establish audience expectations about the narrative through such techniques as enigma and goals.
* Looking at the closing scene, how have the elements established in the opening scene been transformed into a new or different situation? Discuss how the expectations identified in the opening scene develop the narrative to its conclusion, and how the conclusion resolves these expectations about narrative and character. Ensure you discuss the transformation that has occurred in relation to character in the final scene.
Note: There is no absolute or definitive way you will be able to state what the beginning and end to an opening and closing scene is. You will need to make a decision yourself about where the opening “ends” and the closing “begins” in the overall plot of your film – this will usually be roughly between 3 and 8 minutes, depending on your film.
——– Range and Depth of Information
Go back to the distinction you made between story and plot, but this time consider the ways in which the plot presents or implies story information.
* Where does the film sit in terms of the continuum between unrestricted and restricted narration? Explain, using examples, how the film presents its range of story information.
* Where does the depth of story information sit in terms of the continuum between objectivity and subjectivity? Explain, using examples, how the film presents its depth of story information. How deeply does the plot plunge into a character’s psychological state?
* In the light of what you’ve argued regarding range and depth of information, in general do you consider the plot to be withholding information for the sake of curiosity or surprise, or supplying information in such a way as to increase suspense (or, perhaps, both)? Why? Provide explicit examples from the film to make your argument.
* How does causality (cause and effect) operate in two or three other scenes (besides the Opening and Closing scenes discussed earlier) in your film? Consider two or three other key scenes within the film which are integral to and further the transformation you have begun to describe. Discuss how causality works through these example scenes, describing how specific events motivate other events in the process of transformation (i.e. how does the narrative get from the opening state to the closing state?).
Remember when you are completing this section of the assignment you are considering the way in which causality is connected to the major structural transformation/s of the film. Connect characterisation, its narrative techniques and its transformation, to the deliberate formal structure of the narrative.
NB: Be very careful with Causality – make sure you note how it is spelt! Don’t fall into the trap of misreading this as ‘casuality’ or, worse, ‘casualty’: ‘causality’ comes from ‘causal’, not ‘casual’!! Watch out for where you place the letter ‘U’ in this term!
3) The only texts you should refer to are your chosen film, and the textbook, Bordwell and Thompson’s Film Art. Do not use any other references for this assignment as your understanding of the set readings, your application of key terms and your analysis of the film text is what is required from this task.
Do not reference Bordwell and Thompson with in-text references, citations or direct quotations. As it is expected that you will be basing your analysis entirely on your grasp of their key concepts, you need to bold the relevant Film Art concepts in your analysis. It’s okay to bold the first instance only, but if you bold the terms every time you mention them that is fine too.
4) Structure your report by clearly using the numerical points and underlined subheadings listed below. A couple of words maximum should be used for each subheading. You do not need to repeat or write out the question lines in italics. Rather you must use these questions to construct your analysis. Bold the relevant Film Art concepts to make them stand out in your analysis.
5) Reference List
In your Reference List at the end of the assignment, the only texts you should list are your chosen film, and Film Art. Do not use any other references for this assignment as your own understanding of the set readings and your own analysis of the film text is what is required.
Include a detailed Segmentation for your chosen film after your Reference List. Be very careful: this is not a DVD chapter breakdown. This is an integral part of your research that you create to assist your film analysis of the narrative
The Segmentation should be approx. 1000 words in length and list every scene and the main action taking place in that over the course of your chosen film.
Use present tense (e.g. The character walks into a bar). Don’t refer to the Segmentation in your analysis (e.g. As per Scene 23 [see Segmentation]…). Your marker knows the film very well and doesn’t require this reference. Just discuss the scene as is (e.g. In the climactic scene in which the character walks into the third bar).
How you present the Segmentation is entirely up to you – we deliberately leave the format open in order to encourage our students to independently devise their approach to listing each scene.
You may choose any one of the following or create your own approach to showing the different scenes and key action – bolded, italics or numbered headings; scenes listed by location; dot points or paragraph form.
It is up to you to decide how best to summarise in words each scene in the film, in the order the scenes occur.
Note: You may include “screen grabs” or “screen shots” if you find this helpful to your analysis – but please note that these are to be used in concert with your written analysis, not in place of. If using screen shots you will still need to supply a written description of each scene and its action.
This Segmentation exercise will prove very useful to you in analysing the text and will certainly help you gain perspective and clarity in writing up your assignment, and provide you with a list of scenes for your analysis. Markers are looking to see the depth of your engagement with your chosen film and the detail with which you have attended its overall construction. You will lose marks for not including an appropriate segmentation whereas as fine-grained Segmentation showing care and attention to the film itself will earn you marks. As its length can vary, depending on the analyst, your Segmentation will not be considered part of your overall word count. Ensure you include your Segmentation at the end of your assignment, not as a separate document.
7) The key thing to bear in mind is that the markers have seen ALL the films between 20 and 30 times (sometimes more!) as they are classics of film analysis – hence their inclusion in this course! So you absolutely do not need to expend many words on describing scenes that the marker knows off by heart and back to front. Same goes for Film Art – summarise, summarise, summarise! Limit description because you are assuming prior knowledge. Again: Limit description, assume complete prior knowledge on the part of the reader with the text and the film chosen, and above all prioritise your analysis – that is what will make the difference and make your work stand out!!