Thinking about the best way to revise? Me too. I keep having too many competing ideas and I confuse myself, so… in order to keep it simple, I’ve started breaking things down into parts. Let me illustrate with reference to Jaws (which might just about be my favourite film of all time… this week…)
Jaws belongs to more than one genre*. There. I’ve said it.
It is a horror film (a ‘monster’ killing innocent victims), it is a buddy movie (Matt Hooper and Chief Brody… Quint isn’t really their ‘buddy’!), a mainstream movie (the narrative is plot driven… there aren’t too many ‘arty’ shots!), a road movie (OK, so the road is an ocean, the car is a boat, and the road signs are buoys, but they do go somewhere and come back changed… [plot spoiler alert] well, most of them do, anyway)… and so on. [What others could you add to this list?]
The point is, the film crosses several genres, and each genre contributes a part to the whole so (for example):
- the road movie (genre) helps give us a journey narrative arc/plot
- the road movie (genre) gives us the narrative point about Chief Brody hating the sea, then not hating it… (I’ll come back to this one in a minute)
- the horror film (genre) gives the film its need for a monster
- the horror film (genre) gives us the attack on a helpless woman (opening sequence)
- the horror film (genre) gives us monster p-o-v camera shots
- the mainstream movie (genre) gives us straightforward story-telling with the camera
- the buddy movie (genre) gives us the good natured banter between Hooper and Brody, e.g.:
Brody: I used to hate the water…
Hooper: I can’t imagine why.
And so on…
In short, expectations raised by the particular genres identified have contributed to, and influenced, the narrative structure, codes and conventions. (Think about it… if you go to see a romance, you expect there to be a happy ending where the boy finally gets the girl/boy of his or her dreams. In a monster movie, you expect the monster to be killed at the end. In a gangster movie, you expect the baddie to “get it” at the end…)
Similarly, the codes and conventions of the genre are used to inform the language (Oh… look at that man dressed in black in the shadows there… do you think he could possibly be up to no good?) and the representation (Yep, he looks like a bit of a hero there with his white hat and cowboy shirt and gun and holster and jeans and… oh yes, he’s also only John Wayne — the manliest man ever to be called Marion!)
Taken together the codes and conventions of any given genre help to define the genre… and let us know some of the things to expect when we go to see a film… Want to see aliens, cool technology and/or time travel? No problems, you need sci-fi.
Looking for some suspense, tension and/or excitement? Try a thriller.
Want music, romance and/or comedy? Got just the thing in this musical!
There is one really important point to remember about genre. By definition, genre means we have specific expectations as an audience when we view an example of a particular genre… but the real joy comes when we have those expectations played with. When instead of the expected, we get the unexpected, the curve ball, the surprise that plays on our expectations. Mel Brooks did this with devastating effect by casting Cleavon Little as the black sheriff in his brilliant faux-western movie Blazing Saddles.
Now… over to you. How would you apply these ideas/thoughts to Priscilla? (Especially as you revise for your prelim!)
*PS: If you follow no other links, follow this one on genre.