'A narrative is a string of situations in cause-effect marriage occurring with time and space' (Bordwell and Thompson). Discuss with mention of Mildred Pierce or another film of your choice.
To know how this description of narrative relates to Mildred Pierce we must first notice the roots of narrative and the elements it includes. It is greatly accepted that by the 1930's and 40's the "classical Hollywood" narrative experienced advanced in cinematic representation. This really meant that films started to tell a tale and detected certain techniques, firstly to get the audience in and then to show the story factors through the storyline, characters, selection of storyline, narration as well as the film period and setting.
At the beginning of the film we visit a strategy used which is also known as in press res or "in the center of things". As the film starts we see a meeting, in this case the murder of the as-yet-unknown man. We do not see who dedicated the murder. Essentially we've seen an effect but do not yet really know what triggered it. We then continue to see the motion pictures exposition - that is, we live released to two of the primary individuals (Mildred and Wally) and their preliminary conversation and trip to the beach house boosts our goals by setting up a variety of possible triggers and ramifications of what we've already seen. This portion of the film might be referred to as the setup.
In narrative, characters in a film are used as agencies for cause - that is they cause what to happen and sign-up effects. Whenever we are presented to Mildred in the second sequence there are many components of the mise en landscape that lead the audience to believe things about the type. We see her dressed in a fur coat and jewellery signifying that she actually is rich, possible successful. We see her contemplating suicide and later we see her in dialogue with Wally. The dialogue shows that they are involved in some kind of business package. We also pick up cues that Mildred has been subject to some sort of change (when Wally remarks on her knocking again her drink she says she has "learned how to these last couple of months"). Already a narrative is starting to form and the narration has started to reveal clues which will help the audience build the storyline.
We might say that the true narrative of the film starts off soon after Mildred is taken to the police station and questioned. Here we see a dissolve to a flash-back world and her storyline is recounted. We begin to understand that Mildred is at the centre of the plot's causal string. The break down of her relationship necessitates her finding a job. In turn her success at the job leads her to want to start her own business and she goes on to buy a house. Through this offer she meets Berrigan and appears to be happy until he begins to take benefit of her riches.
As this cause-effect string unfolds our company is presented to other character types that are central to the story. What's important to note is that it is Mildred's want to supply the best for her family that drives this change. This could be considered as the excellent cause for the string of incidents and the eventual results thereof. This desire sets up an objective for Mildred to achieve.
It is clear from the outset that Mildred is the protagonist. Her name is uttered by the dying man in the beginning of the film and we see her as the first personality after that.
However, Mildred meets many who could be considered as antagonists as the storyplot unfolds. Initially Burt, her first man, refuses to divorce her. In practically every scene Wally is more enthusiastic about linking himself romantically with Mildred than aiding her achieve what she would like. Berrigan is associated romantically with Mildred but is keen to make use of her for her money. Even her girl Vida is purpose on undermining her mother by demanding increasingly more and usually patronising her for some reason. Ultimately we learn that it's her affair with Berrigan which leads to the murder. Thus we see many counter-forces to Mildred's desire, which again helps us interpret the storyplot and understand the factors before the murder.
It is also important to consider how we differentiate the story from the storyline in Mildred Pierce. In such a flash-back mode, our company is offered main plot lines. We see Mildred working in the restaurant and then going to buy her own place. Though this is presented as a brief collection and we don't see it on screen, the audience assumes that Mildred has worked there long enough to learn her trade and gain enough knowledge to open up her own place. Soon after the offer is authorized with Berrigan we see Mildred getting ready to open the restaurant. Again we've not seen the specific view of her heading there for the fist time, purchasing the equipment etc. Additionally we assume many of these events as part of the account. As an audience we are asked to create this report at various levels of the film. Next we see of the restaurant itself, a thriving and successful business full of customers, and again we expect that within the report the restaurant has been open up time and built a good trade and reputation even though we've not seen this in the story.
It is fair to say that within the number of the story the narration is fairly limited. As an audience we usually know less than the people do. At the beginning of the film we have no idea who's murdered or who dedicated the murder. What we do learn is the fact Mildred has been subject to some sort of change, but there are few examples of us as an audience knowing more than the type Mildred does indeed. Some storyline cues are inferred - when, for example, we see Vida with her fianc and Wally and we suspect that there is more to the design than meets the eye, but this is not explicit. We also observe that Berrigan and Vida begin to expand close but there is no clear depiction of any other thing more than that. An exception to the is, of course, that people know that Berrigan will be murdered at some point in the story.
The depth of the storyline could be summed up as relatively objective. We see the characters external behaviour which is usually always presented from Mildred's perspective. One might claim that the only real instances of mental subjectivity are the flashback sequences whenever we notice Mildred narrating. Thus giving us some insight directly into her thoughts and how she interprets the story but once inside the series the incidents are then usually shown objectively.
Our understanding of the emerging narrative is helped by our understanding of time. As the movie begins we see that it is night. We see the events before the start of the flash-back sequences and we are only returned to present time when Mildred is being questioned. We presume that the questioning is in today's day and we start to see the chronological order of the film through the flash-back sequences. To create sense of the story the audience rearranges these sequences into the logical or temporal order.
In other moments we are given indications of the length of time that has elapsed between happenings. In the beginning of the film we hear Mildred disclosed that it was 4 years ago that her account begins. We notice Mildred's voiceover in a restaurant collection recalling that she became a good waitress in 3 weeks. By the end of the film we also note that, when Mildred is released from questioning it is morning hours and a complete night has approved. We're able to measure the temporal duration and also understand the storyline duration.
The only picture that is repeated is the murder arena. This highlights its value and helps to cause the enigma-resolution pattern.
When we consider the use of space in the film we can remember that there are some themes. We often see Mildred in interior moments - at home as a housewife, in the restaurant, at the bar or the beach house. Of these, the beach house is most dominant. We see it in the beginning scene and then again a number of times throughout the story. The audience can appreciate the significance as we know that that was the where the murder occurred. A number of the key improvements also happen in Wally's club which again features at the start of the film and is returned to at phases throughout. Most of the screen duration targets Mildred however, many larger events happen off screen (we don't see Mildred's wedding for example).
We can say that in Mildred Pierce the narrative is described by individual heroes as causal brokers. We see that Mildred's desire sets up a goal on her behalf to attain. We see that her attempts to achieve it bring her into connection with the other character types and there are cause and effects to their conversation. We've seen that film is mainly objective - that the audience can make sense of the storyline through the cues offered in the story. We certainly see a resolution to both the original questions brought up by the murder also to Mildred's own goals - as Vida gets her comeuppance! For these reasons I would concur that Mildred Pierce shows what is thought as a "classical Hollywood narrative".
Bordwell and Thompson : Film Fine art: An Introduction (2001)
Cook and Bernik : The Theatre Book 2nd Release (1999)
Hayward : Movie theater Studies: The Key Concepts (2000)