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Thursday, 15 August 2013

Narrative and Time

I did a module on narrative and time last year, it was pretty heavy going and the end product was a film proposal (I also did an analysis of time in film in general which I will release when I find). The proposal is pretty confusing to be honest and takes into account some in depth theories but I'm sure you will all get along fine, so here it is, be prepared!

Robin Booker




Death or dream?


Military General Sires faces rebellion, they attack his military encampment no matter how

hard he fights back they always return. However with the perpetual repetition, bloodshed

and danger can one man's conscience bear the weight? Troubled by dreams of past, present,

future and death Sires is tired of fighting it’s time to stamp out the rebellion once and for all.


A film of two extremes Sires fights back rebellion on the battlefield and in his dreams.

The visual style of the film is extremely important almost more so than the narrative and

is comprised of two opposing styles, firstly close ups at 24fps with a quick cut rate and a

vivid saturated chroma. This visual style is largely influenced by Guillermo del Toro's Pans

Labyrinth (2002 del Toro) I wish to achieve the same kind of dark fairytale aesthetic. The

other visual style is almost the opposite, long takes, long shots and a realistic colour pallet

will be complimented by the use of 48fps to make the shots look as real as possible. These

two visual styles will mix at times and a range of mids will be used at the less essential points

of the plot however some sections will use these styles exclusively.

The opening of the film an exclusive close up section will show the death of innocent women

and children at Sires' own hand and the premonition of his death, a bullet to the chest and a

bullet to the head. Yanked from one visual style to another as Sires is from dream to reality

Sires discuss' the previous nights attack before preparing a strike force to kill rebel fighters in

their homes.

The massacre is viewed again exclusively in the long shot style removing much of the

emotion and action to the confined and hidden tents of the rebels. On the return journey to

camp, the midpoint of the film, Sires is attacked, the whole scene is shot from outside of the

truck. A gunshot is heard. The scene is replayed this time inside the truck, claustrophobic

and messy Sires is shot. Another troubled dream to wake from, but this time to the sound of

gunfire. This is the point at which the majority visual style switches to the close ups to reflect

the idea of an "infinity narrative" talked about in my research.

Guns are loaded and fired, blood platters faces and mud flies up to the knees as grenades

devastate the defences of Sires encampment. Gunpowder fills the air and after a hectic

battle Sires men stand tired but victorious. As they drag the dead bodies onto a bonfire Sires

decides he has had enough, killing the rebel fighters obviously want enough, this time he

would attack their homes and their families.

In the penultimate and revelatory scene Sires and his men gun down the village, bullets fly

into homes, children cry in fear before their parents are overpowered and their lives ripped

from them. Close up the brutal murders should look more horrific than last time to both us

and Sires who sees the woman and child he recognizes from his dreams. He shoots them

both. He stands still in regret. A long shot shows the mayhem around him as he stands statue

like in horror and a rebel shoots him in the chest, then head. The close ups from the first

scene play again, will he wake up this time?

This film is to be as much an experiment as a film made to entertain, the mixing of frame

rates and styles will hopefully draw academic minds towards the project as it is something

rarely attempted. I also believe the vast theories of time woven into the plot will attract

academic minds and those of fans of "puzzle narratives". Surely a film for an older and more

mature audience I hope to create an accessible film with enough depth to warrant study

2. Outline of the theoretical focus (the main concept or issue)

I wish to explore two oppositional views of cinema including Bazin's realism and

Eisenstien’s montage within my visual style whilst using recent technological advances to

push them further than before and explore which view offers more emotional response and

how combining them and separating them can give different views of similar events. Using

theories on perpetual death and repetition I will twist narrative in a new and interesting way

to explore Stambaugh’s ideas of significant actions within repeating cycles of death such as

in the Greek tale of Prometheus.



3. An explanation of your aims, and of how you developed your creative treatment from

the initial concept or issue, as well as how you have incorporated further research

My whole project hinges on my two contrasting styles which came originally from

my fascination with Aristotle's Arrow and how it links to frames per second, a

relevant discussion in cinema today as Hollywood begins to experiment with using

both 24 and 48 frames per second. The idea of still moments creating movement

displayed in Zeno’s Paradox (The direction of timeReichenbach 1991)directly links to

arguments over frames per second and many viewers have said that in 48fps things

seem fast and more real. The idea that the number of frames per second changing

could alter how real the image seems is somewhat supported by Sacks' In The

River Of Consciousness (Sacks 2004) in which he observes the opposite, people

stuck in one image and frozen in that moment in time.

The idea that the speed varies reminded me of a comment about time made by

Andy and Lana Wachowski, directors of the Matrix trilogy, (The Matrix (1999)

Matrix Reloaded (2003) Matrix Revolutions (2003)). In the special features on The

Matrix they discuss how they sped up time and slowed down time to reflect panels

and the gutters in comic books, the slow motion being the panels and the sped up

being the gutter. This began the two separate visual styles in my mind, the sped up

became 48fps and the slowed down 24fps a normal frame rate. Panels and gutters

(the space between the panels) also reflect cuts themselves and the space between

the cuts are something often discussed within film theory, this gave me the idea

of using montage like sequences with extreme close ups and fast paced editing.

Oppositionally for the 48fps sections I will use concepts defined by Bazin (What

is cinema? 2005) that make up realistic films such as long takes and long shots.

Although this separates the visual style from the gutter the distinction between the

two forms in terms of film making and the experimentation with which conveys

more emotion is a more interesting area to explore.

Now with the idea of using Eisentein esque montage (Eisenstein, (1977)) mixed

with long takes emphasising realism I had to construct a narrative. I wanted the

visuals to reflect my ideas on the two styles and therefore planned desaturated

realistic visuals mixed with more poetic and fairytale visuals strongly inspired

by Guillermo del Toro's Pans Labyrinth (2003 del Toro). As for story I wanted

to weave time theories into the narrative and needed some way to use both

contrasting narratives to make a point. Inspired by the geographical modelling of

the Mobius strip narrative I created a narrative around the shape of infinity, an

eight on its side. The start, end and middle are the sections where the visual styles

mix, in the first half, along with mids, the realistic long shots prevail until the

middle crossover, a turning point in the narrative in which the poetic shots become

the most prevalent.

The narrative itself is thematically based on the inescapability of death and

its haunting of the main character. Inspired by the tale of Prometheus and his

punishment I worked the idea of repeated death into the narrative. Although this

is often done in films and television I didn’t want exact and definitive repeats, to

reflect the perpetual nature and danger of war I decided rather than him dying and

repeating there would be an ambiguity surrounding his death hence the dreams.

This gave me space to repeat war events but with a change in Sires’ character

and actions, in Time Finitude and Finality (Stambaugh 74) Stambaugh talks

about causality and how “the question of how something significant can occur”

when “caught in the cycles of birth and death”. This in essence is what the film

represents, Sires’ first decision to kill only the rebel fighters is informed by

gruesome visions of dead women and children and the guilt from his previous life.

His second choice is however informed by the dream of the attack on the soldiers

and his own death in the trucks from the day/life before. The film ends with us

seeing the life/dream that informs the first choice.

The article The Fate of Prometheus ( 2011) talks about how for

Prometheus “Each successive instance of suffering perpetuates the desire within

him to succumb to his suffering, and die without repetition, but, instead, the

cessation of desire and death elude him more and more.” This offers some insight

and inspiration for the characteristics of Sires in my story. Originally I imagined

him as a hardened veteran trying to stomp our rebellion however making him

more suicidal, wanting to die to end things once and for all is a more interesting

character trait. The inspiration and theory gained through both Prometheus’ tale

and through the philosophical debates of Stambaugh add a lot to the understanding

of the narrative however I was keen to create a film that could be read into but

didn’t have to be read into. This is inspired in a backwards way by Lost Highway

(Lynch 1997) a film I personally didn’t enjoy because of the need to analyse

for pleasure. My aim as a film maker is to make films which can be explored

but don’t have to be read into therefore I ensured that Sires can be viewed as a

straightforward narrative about repetitive war and guilt.


1. Reichenbach, Hans, and Maria Reichenbach. The direction of time. Vol. 65. Univ of California

Press, 1991.

2. Sacks, Oliver. "In the river of consciousness." New York Review of Books 51.1 (2004): 41-45.

3. Stambaugh, Joan. "Time, finitude, and finality." Philosophy East and West 24.2 (1974): 129-135.

4. Eisenstein, Sergei. "A dialectic approach to film form." Film Form: Essays in Film Theory (1977):


5. Bazin, André. What is cinema?. Vol. 2. Univ of California Press, 2005.


1. "The Fate of Prometheus." 02 May 2011< http://>.


1. The Matrix, (1999) Wachowski A., Wachowski L., USA, Warner Brothers Pictures

2. The Matrix Reloaded (2003) Wachowski A., Wachowski L., USA, Warner Brothers Pictures

3. The Matrix Revolutions (2003) Wachowski A., Wachowski L., USA, Warner Brothers Pictures

4. Pans Labyrinth (2006) Del Toro G., Spain Mexico USA, Estudios Picasso

5. Lost Highway (1997) Lynch D., France, USA, October Films, CiBy 2000,

Asymmetrical Productions

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