A Brief Look at the History of Storytelling
People have told stories since the dawn of time, and arguably storytelling is one of the oldest traditions in our civilization, perhaps as old as hunting. As the time passed, we started to develop structures that allowed us to mold stories into shapes that are easy to narrate and comprehend.
For hundreds of years, writers and playwrights tried to summarize the human experience and preserve the memory of love, hate, betrayal, failure or success. In the early twentieth century, filmmakers were strongly influenced by classical storytelling techniques frequently used in classic literature and theater, but the new medium demanded new ways of narration, simply because it imposed its own limitations.
Silent era movies and first talkies all have a similar structure that involves a hero of a story that goes through a number of challenging situations until finally, he or she, but it is almost always a he, manages to overcome the hardships and enjoy the fruits of victory. As the cinematic medium developed different styles of cinematic storytelling developed, leading up to 2018, when the seventh art searches for new ways to tell stories in order to continue its growth.
The Current State of Things
Luis Buñuel's and Salvador Dali's 'Un Chien Andalou', represents one of the first attempts to tell visual stories in a non-linear way since the film didn't have a clear structure of the beginning, middle and the end. Instead, the duo attempted to narrate the story of The Andalusian Dog, through a series of surrealistic and dream-like images, that communicated symbolical messages to the audience.
Some thirty years later, Akira Kurosawa's Rashomon explored the idea of a story being told from four different perspectives. Within the next few decades, avant-garde authors such Jean-Luc Goddard, Alan Resnais, Federico Fellini and even Andrei Tarkovsky all made attempts to revolutionize cinema by utilizing non-linear and unorthodox methods of presenting a story to the spectator. Goddard went as far to say: 'I agree that a film should have a beginning, a middle and an end but not necessarily in that order.'
Where Do We Go From Here?
During the 1990's moviemakers like David Lynch, Richard Linklater, Quentin Tarantino, to mention just a few, challenged the classical movie structure with masterpieces such as ' Slacker', 'Lost Highway' or ' Reservoir Dogs' that enjoy the cult status today. However, these attempts have failed to accomplish much more than to make non-linear storytelling techniques acceptable to wider audiences, but they failed to transform the rigid structure frequently seen in Hollywood's blockbuster movies.
In recent years, Terrence Malick's work has shown some hints of where the cinematic arts should aim to go in the next twenty years, but his work is only a drop in the sea of uniformly told movies of superheroes fighting their nemesis, and overcoming great hardships just to embrace the love of their life. Rocky theme song playing in the background.
The linear structure of cinematic stories is always predictable, because we, the audience, always know that the hero of the story cannot lose, so the question remains, if and when big studios are going to recognize that their storytelling has become sloppy.
author Roxanne Sancto
Roxanne Sancto is a freelance writer specializing in pop culture, often with a feminist twist. She adopts a new pet every time she goes out on a walk. www.roxannesancto.com