Classical Narrative Cinema Analysis

1689 Words7 Pages
With reference to Bordwell/Staiger/Thompson’s model of classical narrative cinema, examine whether D.W. Griffith’s short films (1910s) might be seen to fit the model in the areas of story construction; narration; character development; staging; performance.

In this essay I wish to examine whether the short films of D.W Griffith fit into the model of Classical Narrative Cinema presented by David Bordwell, Janet Staiger and Kirstin Thompson. They examined how CNC developed through changes in acting, the constructing of a storyline, development of characters and staging to create a narrative based cinema. These changes were motivated by audience’s expectations of film. Therefore, filmmakers had to make changes in order to create a narrative
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Filmmakers had to create a more cohesive story in which the narrative could unfold. Thompson in her analysis of classical film states that while filmmakers were attempting to create a more complete narrative, they needed “to find the means of creating a unified space in which the story could take place” (194). Film need to find alternative methods of creating this space, as they could not do it in the way the stage or the novel could. As Tom Gunning discusses in his study of Griffith, the formulation of a new type of “language” or as Terry Ramsaye describes it a new kind of “syntax” “rhetoric” and “grammar” was key to developing a discernable story (35). One technique used by filmmakers like Griffith, to counteract this was “continuity editing” (194). As Thompson indicates, this included “cut-ins”, “point of view “shots, “eyeline structures” and “dialogue inter-titles” (194). Continuity became important in the film industry as it was one of the “basic principles” that created an ‘indiscernible thread’ which the audience were “controlled and comprehending” (196). This continuity then developed as a tool for narrative structure. Thompson comments that continuity “quickly developed from a general notion of narrative unity to the to the more specific conception of a story told in visual terms and continuing unbroken, spatially and temporally, from shot to shot” (196). These…show more content…
Thompson argues that during this period; people became more interested in human psychology. “The same was true of the classical cinema’s concept of the character; it derived in part from a growing interest in the other arts during the same period in character psychology” (170) “writers were increasingly interested in portraying realistic characters and their environments” (170). One of the main methods of creating character psychology and development was through acting. The 1910s was a time when acting changed from a style strongly influenced by vaudeville to a more subdued type of acting, which in part came from the need for a more believable portrayal of characters. As Eileen Bower discusses, “Stage pantomime, with its stylized gestures and artistic traditions, was not going to be clearly understandable to the new audience, and in addition, it conflicted with the precepts of realism” (86). Two types of acting that existed during this time, the “Saxon” style of acting, which was “restrained” and used more “facial-expression” juxtaposed to the “Latin” style of acting which used the “whole body” and was more “exaggerated” (88). This was in line with what Victorian society expected as “controlled emotions” and “naturalness” were linked with “restraint” (88). Moreover, actors were discouraged from looking at the camera as it would “destroy the illusion” (89) of the film. This type of acting is
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