Establishing a Narrative Beyond an Interplay Between Disruption and Containment

As phrased by Tom Gunning, Donald Crafton wrote that a narrative is a combination of disruption and containment, disruption referring to changes to an initial equilibrium and containment referring to action intended to re-establish that equilibrium. However, a film can present itself as narrative even when it does not entail an interplay of disruption and containment. Particularly, I wish to illustrate that a long tradition of multi-shot films has established a way to create a sense of a narrative through cinematography and editing, regardless of the action that unfolds within a scene.

An example of such a film is the Frog Ritual, a video created and posted by @tootymcnooty on TikTok . Unlike one-shot gags of early cinema, Frog Ritual is a multi-shot comic sequence that can draw on formal conventions of narrative cinema to create a sense of a narrative. It starts with a wide-angle shot of a circle of frogs rotating around a bonfire, consistent with conventional narrative openings that are intended to provide a sense of space. It progresses into an alternation of less distant low-angle shots and close-ups, which create a sense of narrative escalation; the low-angle shots make the rotation appear faster and the close-ups show highly emotionally engaged expressions of frogs, both of which intensifies our perception of the frog ritual. A musical key change accompanies the following ascent of a frog that appears in the bonfire, and the video ends with a zooming-in close-up of the ascended frog.

The entirety of the action that unfolds in the video seems unitary and according to plan. Since no setting is established beyond the ritual and the illogical mystical quality of the ritual prevents us from inferring future events, it might be indeterminable whether the whole sequence qualifies as disruption or containment, but the undisrupted progression of action makes it clear that there is no interplay between the two. Additionally, a narrative is implied through the progression of shots on two levels: one on the level of the sequence and one beyond it. On the level of the sequence, the video progresses from a narrative beginning, to escalated action, and to an end, while on the level beyond the sequence the video progresses to an incident that incites rising action and implies a continuation of events. This implication is clear with the zoom-in into the frog’s expression of intent.

 

 

Bibliography

Gunning, Tom. “ Response to ‘Pie and Chase’”. In Classical Hollywood Comedy, edited by Kristine Brunovska Karnick and Henry Jenkins, 363-365, New York: Routledge, 1995.

Filmography

Frog Ritual. Youtube. Reposted from @tootymcnooty on TikTok by Coco Butter. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=tpFwCc2cq1U

One comment

  1. Profoun analysis of profound content! I am intrigued by your description of the video as narrative-based – to me, it fits the description of Gunning’s ‘comic view’ better. I certainly agree camera angles and close-ups intensify the impact of the content, and bring about filmmaker’s manipulation in presenting the view; however, I fail to see psychological action and plot development that are integral parts of the narrative form. I would be interested in hearing how you compare this video to the concept of a comic view video, especially in relation to multiple shots. Would you say the presence of multiple shots and a level of manipulation involved necessarily make a film narrative? Are all films depicting what could be part of a narrative by default narrative films?

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