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Barthes's Narrative Codes.

A Prezi about narrative codes and British horror films (WJEC FM2: British Film Topics)
by

Richard Watts

on 11 September 2014

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Transcript of Barthes's Narrative Codes.

Semic Codes The way in which objects, characters, and settings take on particular meanings. Hermeneutic or Enigma Codes The function of these codes is to ask a question or delay an answer to a question.

"Narratives 'capture' their audiences by making them want to know what is going to happen next" (Lacey, p.72)

Enigma codes, confusingly, can set AND solve puzzles in the story.

It is the delay between the question being asked and the answer being revealed is what drives the audience to keep 'reading' the text. Roland Barthes: Narrative Codes Who was Roland Barthes? Symbolic codes These codes signify Levi-Strauss's "binary oppositions".

Binary oppositions are themes, ideas, objects, settings or anything at all which are opposites (antitheses) of each other.

The most common oppositions are good/evil and male/female. Proairetic Codes Also called 'action codes' these are signs that tell us something is about to happen. They are 'shorthand' ways of advancing the narrative.

For example, a cop putting bullets in his gun, and tightening his holster tell us he is going to 'get his man' without saying it or showing his journey to the final showdown.

"the codes of behaviour that we understand, not in relation to action in the real world, but from experience of other narratives." (Lacey) Cultural Codes These codes refer to the a world outside the narrative of the text. They might not refer to reality itself, but to other stories, works of art or fictions from the real world – if we don't know the text being referenced, we won't understand the code.

28 Days Later challenges our cultural understanding of the 'zombie' sub-genre by introducing a twist: instead of the slow, stupid zombies we have come to expect from 'classic' the genre (e.g. Night of the Living Dead (Romero, 1968)), Boyle surprises audiences by creating fast, strong and agile monsters. by watts@mascalls Narrative Codes in Horror Films Lived: 1915-1980 Barthes was interested in semiotics (the meaning of signs) and the structures that underpin our understanding of the world (Structuralism).

We are going to explore his ideas about the narrative structures. Barthes argued that all stories shared common structures - they were organised in similar ways and followed similar patterns.

These shared structures help us to understand how stories will progress, and help us keep track of who the characters are, and the roles they will play. Key ideas: Barthes identified FIVE narrative codes 1. Hermeneutic, or 'enigma' codes

2. Semic Codes

3. Symbolic Codes

4. Proairetic, or 'action' codes

5. Cultural, or referential codes What are 'narrative structures'? VIT = Very Important Theorist 28 Days Later How are enigma codes being used in this scene? How about now? Remember: Enigma codes create AND resolve questions. Why do zombies look like this?

What does this costume mean? iconography How do horror films use semic codes in generic ways?

How are they like horror films? how do you know this is a horror film? semic codes in 28 Days Later Identify some generic semic codes in 28 Days Later (the Church Scene)

Watch the sequence two or three times, and take notes. Then produce an analysis of the semic codes.

Write-up your analysis in the first section of the case study sheets. fR35h
8R4iNz what other common 'binary oppositions' can you think of? Symbolic codes in Horror Make a list of the common binary oppositions you might expect to find in the horror genre. these are cinematic conventions. Action in the real world is very different. Horror films often use action codes very cleverly. It is often scarier to let an audience's imagination fill in the blanks. Horror directors might use action codes to imply horrific things happening, but leave the audience to imagine the terrible details. One of Horror's most iconic murders, from Alfred Hitchcock's "Psycho", showed virtually nothing on screen. Its violence was cleverly constructed from action codes. What would horror films be like if they didn't use action codes? Intertextuality = a reference to one text by another.
You see lots of this in The Simpsons, for example. Check Your Understanding: Genre Why is genre important for audiences? Audiences are experts of genre! They use their understanding of genres to build expectations about a film they haven't seen yet. This might be based on knowledge of the star associated with that genre (e.g. I like most Will Smith movies, so I will go and see Seven Pounds); or it might be based on an understanding of the conventions of genre: "that looks like a horror film, and I like scary movies". For Producers? Producers use genre as a 'winning formula' that will help to ensure the commercial success of a film they have invested in. Action films have been successful in the past, so it is safer to invest in something that follows a proven successful formula, than take a risk on a unknown genre. This is why the same films get recycled over and over.

Genre also helps producers to 'construct' an audience for their film. Because audiences use genre to choose films, producers can rely on those audiences coming back again in the future. By appealing to 'horror fans', producers can be sure they get the right people coming to see their movie, which will make it more successful.
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