Section 2: Understanding Narrative…


Linear and non-linear –

Linear narrative is when a story follows a continuous line of prose and events happen in order numerically on the same timeline.

Non-linear narrative is when a storyline is disjointed or disrupted and doesn’t follow a chronological timeline.

Equilibrium and disequilibrium –

In Todorov’s theory, narratives generally follow this order: The story begins with equilibrium, where everything is balanced and nothing significant is happening to the narrative. Then something happens that unsettles that equilibrium (disequilibrium) which causes the storyline to become unbalanced. Then towards the end of the narrative, equilibrium is restored; The obstacle that caused disequilibrium has been resolved.

Equilibrium – When nothing significant is happening in the narrative and everything in the story is balanced.

Disequilibrium – When something happens to disrupt the narrative and the story becomes unbalanced.

Open and closed narratives –

Open narrative is when a storyline has no foreseeable ending. Open narrative is most common in soap operas such as Eastenders or Hollyoaks. It also occurs in movie sequels and generally follows a chronological order.

Closed narrative is when a film has a clear ending with no room for a continuation. It will often have its own soundtrack and will sometimes finish with ‘The End.’

Binary opposites –

Binary opposites are things that contrast each other, such as dark and light, bad and good, villain and hero, poor and rich, etc. These are simple concepts that help us understand the world around us and are the general base for storylines, especially fairytales.


Claude Levi-Strauss

Levi-Strauss claimed that everyone categorizes the world around them according to binary opposites:

Bad – Good

Poor – Rich

Villain – Hero

Black – White

Nasty – Nice

Old – Young

Ugly – Beautiful

Levi-Strauss said that we need the opposites of certain words, to be able to understand the concept.

Binary opposites are used in media (films, TV series, etc) to quickly establish “sides.” For example, Batman and the Joker; Batman is the protagonist of the story and the Joker is the antagonist. Good and evil, light and dark. This helps the audience to engage more in the storyline because they will generally like one character more than the other and will become invested in the character. As well as this, binary opposites create a world which is easily understandable and somewhat familiar.


Tzvetan Todorov’s theory is that storylines follow a similar pattern or path. There is five steps to Todorov’s theory:

  1. EQUILIBRIUM – In the first part of the story everything is well and nothing unusual or ‘bad’ is happening.
    For example, in the movie Coraline, the story starts out with Coraline’s family moving into a new house and starting to get settled; Nothing out of the ordinary is happening.
  2. DISRUPTION – Something happens in the world of the characters that disrupts the normality/happiness. This disruption changes the course of the narrative.
    So, when Coraline finds a strange, small door in her new living room and discovers that it leads to a whole other world, it changes the course of the narrative completely. In this case, Coraline finds (short -lived) happiness in the other world which disrupts the happiness in the real world.
  3. REALISATION – This is when the characters in the narrative realise that something is amiss and panic/dread ensues.
    For instance, Coraline begins to notice odd happenings that have an ominous feeling about them. Once she is informed by another character about the truth of the other world and the people in it, she realises she is trapped.
  4. RESTORED ORDER – This is when the characters in the story try and restore order and get rid of the problem that caused the initial disruption.
    In my example, Coraline has to find three hidden objects in the other world that will grant her and her parent’s freedom. She also has a secret agenda to destroy the antagonist who confined her.
  5. EQUILIBRIUM AGAIN – This is when everything is back to normal again and the problem has been resolved/gotten rid of. Happiness is restored.
    Finally, Coraline finds all the hidden objects and frees her parents. She escapes the grips of the other world and makes sure the little door can never be opened again. Coraline and her family find happiness again.



Vladimir Propp noticed that the plots of different Folk/fairy tales had a lot of the same aspects. He found that each story had a similar character structure:

  • The Hero – A character that seeks something.
  • The Villain – A character who opposes or actively blocks the hero’s quest.
  • The Donor – A character who provides an object with magical properties.
  • The Dispatcher – A character who sends the hero on his/her quest via a message.
  • The False Hero – A character who disrupts the heroes progress by making false claims.
  • The Helper – A character who aids the hero.
  • The Princess – A character who acts as a prize for the hero and the object of the villain’s plots.
  • Her Father – A character who acts to reward the hero for his efforts.

Applying this theory to the TV series ‘Stranger Things’:

  • The Hero – Eleven/Mike
  • The Villain – Dr.Martin Brenner/Demogorgon
  • The Donor – Eleven
  • The Dispatcher – Will/Eleven
  • The False Hero – Dr.Martin Brenner
  • The Helper – Mike/Eleven/Dustin/Lucas/Nancy/Jonathan/Joyce/Jim Hopper
  • The Princess/Prize – Will
  • Her Father – ?



For the analysis, I will be using the two pieces of Ed David’s work shown below:



Regarding the three different narrative theories shown above, I don’t feel as though Ed David’s work definitively fits into either. However, he does use the effect of light and dark, black and white and ugly and beautiful which fits into Levi-Strauss’ Binary Opposites.  The   films that I chose to analyse both contain these particular binary opposites, for example in “Falling Lessons: Erasure One,” Ed David uses light and dark consistently to create more of a comparison between the moments of happiness and the moments of sadness. The base story of the film is about a daughter who is struggling with the fact that her Father is losing his memory, so the whole narrative is supposed to be upsetting. Ed David shows this underlying darkness even in the brighter shots by filming in very intense sunlight which creates harsh shadows on the main character’s face; Even in light, there is darkness. This relates to the fact that even in her happiest moments, the daughter is plagued by sadness. Light and dark and black and white, is especially prominent in the second film I chose to analyse, “Flicker.”

The short film “Flicker,” starts off with dark shots with very weak light that tends to focus on only a small part of the frame. One of the first shots shows this technique when the camera zooms in slowly on some ballet shoes, of which are the brightest objects in frame. This helps to quickly establish what brings the main character happiness. During the film the main character is shown in a dim apartment, lit only by the flashing TV, speaking to her ill Mother (what I assume is her Mother, or relative). Again, Ed David quickly establishes the burden in the main character’s life by using light and dark to his advantage. But, his use of light is notably obvious in the main sequence of the short film. The main character is filmed in a light shop, dancing, as all the lights flicker. This creates a very dramatic atmosphere as well as an intense feeling of elation within the main character.

Ed David also uses the binary opposites ‘ugly’ and ‘beautiful’ in the short film ‘Flicker.’ The main character embodies the beauty whereas her life and the people in it embody the ugly. Her life seems bleak and her mother is sick which brings out the ugliness in the world, but, beauty shines through when the main character is dancing amidst the flashing lights in the surreal, climactic scene of the short film.

Continuing the analysis without regards to the narrative theories shown above, one of the most noticeable features of Ed David’s style that occurs in both of my chosen films, is his use of framing and camera movement; most of the shots have slight movement as a result of the camera being held rather than being put on a tripod. This movement helps the audience connect with the films more as it makes it feel more personal and as if you were there. His use of framing also adds to his particular style; He often puts the main focus in the centre of the shot or creates a split screen using his surroundings:

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Another technique that Ed David uses regularly is Close Up shots and Extreme Close Up shots, especially paying attention to hands. Again, this makes his films feel a lot more personal because you feel a  lot closer to the characters; You see their lives as if you were there looking at the same things as the characters are. Examples of the use of this technique in my two chosen films:

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Overall, concerning the two short films “Falling Lessons: Erasure One” and “Flicker,” Ed David focuses on bringing the narrative to life and putting a lot of the focus on the actual characters. This helps to bring the audience closer to the storyline and the characters within it.


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