What is the connotation of Hollywood

Comparison of New Hollywood Films to Classic Hollywood Films

Table of Contents

1 Introduction
1.1 Problem
1.2 Structure of the thesis

2. Definition of narration

3. Comparing the narration of Hollywood and New Hollywood films
3.1 Classic Hollywood films
3.1.1 Narrative structure in classic Hollywood
3.1.2 Figure constellations
3.1.3 Camera work, editing and scene equipment
3.2 New Hollywood
3.2.1 Narrative structure in New Hollywood
3.2.2 Figure constellations
3.2.3 Camera work, editing and scene equipment
3.3 Assessment of the similarities and differences in the narration

4. Summary

5. Bibliography

1 Introduction

1.1 Problem

In the present work a comparison is made between the narration in classic Hollywood films and the narration in New Hollywood films.

Towards the end of the 1960s to the mid-1970s, a “new” cinema emerged in the USA under the influence of film-economic and socio-political processes, which differed in numerous features from classic Hollywood cinema. This cinema, dubbed “New Hollywood”, was shaped by directors like Robert Altman, Martin Scorsese, Francis Ford Coppola, Sydney Pollack and John Cassavetes. The New Hollywood films differed from the classic Hollywood films in many ways. For example, the New Hollywood films took up other themes that appeared more contemporary, topical, more realistic, and aimed at younger audiences. This can mainly be traced back to socio-political upheavals during this time as well as to film economic developments (decline of the American studio film industry, competition from the medium of television, etc.).

While the innovation potential of New Hollywood is hardly doubted, the extent to which the films made changes in the narrative of the New Hollywood era is relatively controversial.

1.2 Structure of the thesis

After defining the term narration, a comparison is made between the narration of classic Hollywood films and the New Hollywood films. In this context, the classic Hollywood films are first examined, with a distinction being made between the narrative structure, the figure constellations and the complex of camera work, editing and scenery. The same procedure is then used for the films of the New Hollywood era. When analyzing the narrative of New Hollywood films, film examples are used to illustrate the narrative similarities and differences to classic Hollywood cinema. At the end of the thesis, an assessment is made of the extent to which there were differences in the narration between classic Hollywood cinema and New Hollywood.

2. Definition of narration

In the German-speaking world, the term “narration” is usually translated as “narration”. The narration has a beginning and an end, which are linked by a chain of causal events.[1]

Classical narration, which was mainly influenced by Aristotle, distinguishes between mimetic and diegetic narration. Mimetic narrations have an explicit narrative perspective. Diegetic narrations, on the other hand, are more focused on showing and seeing.[2]

3. Comparing the narration of Hollywood and New Hollywood films

3.1 Classic Hollywood films

3.1.1 Narrative structure in classic Hollywood

In the study "The Classical Hollywood Cinema: Film Style & Mode of Production to 1960" the American film scholar David Bordwell put forward the thesis that classic Hollywood cinema hardly changed between 1917 and 1960, despite all the specific styles of individual directors, studios and genres. According to Bordwell, classic Hollywood cinema is to be understood as the defining dominant feature of international narrative cinema.[3] It ties in with a system of narrative strategies that “are based on the 'realistic literature of the 19th century and subordinate all cinematic means of narration”.[4]

According to Bordwell, the classic Hollywood cinema does not have any fixed rules or even laws, but paradigmatic constellations of characteristics can be identified.[5] The classic Hollywood films, which should appeal to a wide audience, are characterized by the fact that there is a causal relationship between the events so that the plot makes sense.[6] The focus was on the general comprehensibility of what was presented and, ultimately, on the entertainment of the paying audience. The pursuit of clarity and logic as well as cause and effect in the course of action are characteristic of classic Hollywood cinema. Accordingly, the course of action is usually linear and the plot develops smoothly, with ease and without shocks or delays. Each shot and each sequence serve to continue the action.[7]

In the first ten to 20 minutes of the films, a clearly visible goal for the protagonist was established, which was intended to secure the interest and participation of the audience. According to David Bordwell, there are two standard variants of the narrative structure of a film in classic Hollywood cinema. The first standard variant is characterized by the fact that the hero wants to change the situation he finds himself in and add something new to it. In the second variant, the hero wants to restore an initial state that has gone out of order. A romantic love between a man and a woman is typical of both variants. In addition, both variants are characterized by two different levels of action that are pursued simultaneously. The first level is a problem of whatever kind, for example in the area of ​​business life or sports. The second level is some form of straight love.[8] Accordingly, the plot is often split into two parallel storylines, namely a socially relevant adventure and a heterosexual romance.[9] In classic Hollywood films, these two storylines are usually entangled with one another. Subordinate actions are also often closely linked.[10]

At the end of the film all problems, ambiguities and puzzles have been resolved. As a rule, social order is also restored if it is out of joint in the meantime.[11]

The narrative structure in classic Hollywood films often follows a three-act scheme. In the first act, the exposition, the main character is introduced. This figure is facing a problem or a crisis. Then an antagonist (often the "bad guy") appears who comes into conflict with the main character. The interests and goals of the characters come to light.[12] The problems and conflicts are often designed in such a way that there has been a rift between man and nature, man and society or man and God.[13] In the second act, which can be described as “development”, the conflict between the main character and the antagonist intensifies and approaches a climax.[14] Accordingly, in the second act there is “the journey, the danger, the challenge and above all the sacrifice, a more or less ritualized form of punishment”.[15] In the third act, the climax, the problem is finally resolved in a way that is positive or negative for the main character.[16] There is often a victory, redemption, confirmation of the sacrifice and a new or restored order.[17] It is characteristic that the tension is maintained until the end and the solution is plausible. Often a last moment of tension helps, in which it suddenly looks as if the protagonist or hero cannot achieve his goal in order to keep the audience interested until the end.[18]

According to film scholar Robert McKee, it is the moral order of the real world that gives a 3-act film its substance and its entertainment value. Because the film recipients like to see the moral and ethical decisions of a character who is in a pressure situation in order to use their reactions as a model for their own decisions in real life.[19]

Even if, of course, not all classic Hollywood films have a happy end, this type of plot end is characteristic of most films.[20] In his essay "Happily ever after, part two", David Bordwell emphasizes that the happy ending is one of the few connotations that has always been used to characterize Hollywood cinema, even in an international context. The most consistent expression of this stereotype of classic narration was evident in American film between 1920 and 1960.[21] In particular, the happy ending had to be in harmony with the dominant moral concepts, be plausible for the viewer in the classical narration and bring the viewer closer to a kind of unity of the narration. This unity with a happy ending primarily had the function of conveying a kind of security to the audience. In the second place, the unity produces a real conclusion, in a sense an end without ifs or buts. The latter function can be described with the following statement: "Les gens heureux n’ont plus d’histoire".[22] This means that after the end nothing happens and there is nothing more to tell. The film recipients are freed from disturbing things and can come to rest. This aspect was relevant not least from an economic point of view, because if the audience wanted more of this peace and quiet, they had to go to the cinema again. The happy ending in classic Hollywood cinema, which mainly had the function of distraction, enabled viewers to create a kind of counter-world that was more simply structured than their everyday world. The films from this period were primarily intended to offer the viewer a program that contrasts with everyday life: "The recipient [comes] to [...] enjoy the fact that all the calculations in the cinema work out and that they can think and feel in utopian categories with regard to solving problems" .[23]

With regard to the narrative perspective, it should be noted that the authorial narrative situation tends to be preferred in classic Hollywood films. This narrative style is characterized by the fact that there is an omniscient narrator whose presence goes unnoticed and who reveals relevant information. The narrator uses the possibilities of the inside and outside perspective to present the story. The authorial narrative situation is supplemented with the perspectives of individual characters, for example in the form of subjective point-of-view shots. Basically, the narrative attitude in classic Hollywood cinema is hidden behind the action in order not to distract the audience from the entertaining course of the story.[24]

3.1.2 Figure constellations

Following the example of Aristotle’s drama, obstacles stand in the way of the protagonist in the course of the action, often in the form of one or more opponents. The main character can only achieve its ultimate goal when the conflicts of polar forces that arise are resolved.[25]

The characters in classic Hollywood films serve as so-called causal agents and are accordingly causally motivated. By making (or not making) decisions and wanting to realize wishes and goals, the characters drive the story forward. Typically, the characters are the starting point for the plot.[26] The focus is on the motives for action and the special characteristics of the characters. The characters of the protagonists are primarily psychologically motivated. The characters are made up of age, gender, occupation, ethnicity, outward appearance, etc. The individual traits of the protagonists are expressed through gestures, facial expressions, preferences and tics. The psychological motivation of the characters is more complex than in action films, especially in dramas and romantically oriented comedies, since the actions relate very strongly to the characters. There is a wide scope for characterizing the protagonists. In genres such as action and adventure films, the development of complex characters for the characters is often avoided, as the focus in these genres is on action and special effects and the characters and the plot are laid out more flat. For this reason, the characters in these films often have stereotypical properties so that viewers can understand the protagonists more quickly.[27]


[1] See Kern (2009), p.17

[2] See Köhler (2009), p.12

[3] See Leonhard (2001), p.1120

[4] Leonhard (2001), 1120

[5] See Dammann (2007), p. 330

[6] See Straub (2009), on the Internet at: http://www.suite101.de/content/erzaehlprinzip-eines-klassischen-hollywoodfilms-a64750

[7] See Dammann (2007), p. 331

[8] See Straub (2009), on the Internet at: http://www.suite101.de/content/erzaehlprinzip-eines-klassischen-hollywoodfilms-a64750

[9] See Leonhard (2001), p.1120

[10] See Straub (2009), on the Internet at: http://www.suite101.de/content/erzaehlprinzip-eines-klassischen-hollywoodfilms-a64750

[11] See Dammann (2007), p. 331

[12] See Schatz (1983), p.48

[13] See Schneider (2002), p.56

[14] See Schatz (1983), p.48

[15] Schneider (2002), 56

[16] See Schatz (1983), p.48

[17] See Schneider (2002), p.56

[18] See IFPI Austria (2010), p.12

[19] See Schneider (2002), p.56

[20] See Straub (2009), on the Internet at: http://www.suite101.de/content/erzaehlprinzip-eines-klassischen-hollywoodfilms-a64750

[21] See Christians (2002), p, 37

[22] Nacache (1995), p. 104

[23] Wuss (1993), p. 420

[24] See Dammann (2007), p. 335

[25] See Dammann (2007), p. 331

[26] See Dammann (2007), p. 331

[27] See Straub (2009), on the Internet at: http://www.suite101.de/content/erzaehlprinzip-eines-klassischen-hollywoodfilms-a64750

End of the reading sample from 21 pages