Which films follow a five-act structure?
The narrative and cross-series pattern in series. The dramaturgical narrative of "Criminal Minds"
Table of Contents
2.1 The placement of the kernels
2.2 The division of files
2.3 The cliffhanger episode
2.4 The identification of a pattern
Series can basically be divided into two different categories: The episodic series (series) and the sequel series (serial). While the storylines in the sequel series are structured across multiple episodes, the episodic series follows a consistent, narrative pattern in its individual episodes, through which the conflict introduced at the beginning is always resolved at the end of each episode (Ruchatz 2012, 81). This creates a loose connection between the episodes, which can also be received in a different order or with omissions without difficulty (Ruchatz 2012, 81).
Although every episode of the first season of Criminal Minds (USA 2005/2006) deals with its own criminal case, with the help of this work a narrative, cross-series pattern is to be identified. With regard to the dramaturgy of the film, it was found that "[two] films with different plot [...] can have the same dramaturgy, so [sic!] The dramaturgy must be independent of the content" (Eder 1999, 11). This conclusion is then transferred to series, which means that the individual episodes can show a consistent pattern in the dramaturgical narrative style despite individual and independent criminal cases and variations in content.
The first season of the series Criminal Minds (USA 2005/2006) was exemplarily examined in the previous blog entries by selecting a few episodes for narrative patterns, which are now to be analyzed and compared in this final text. With the help of the 'Scene Function Model' designed by Porter, Larson, Harthcock and Nellis (2002), which was developed on the basis of the theoretical classification by Seymour Chatman (1978), the scenes of the selected episodes could be divided into kernels and satellites. Then the episodes were put into the four acts proposed by Michael Newman (2006) set-up, complication, development and resolution structured.
In order to examine the first season for the consistent pattern typical of episode series, the following thesis should be set up as a starting point for the analysis: "Despite variations in the individual episodes of the first season of Criminal Minds, there is a consistent dramaturgical narrative that is achieved through the division into acts and the placement of kernels at strategically important points".
In the following, the results of the blog entries will be compared and analyzed for the individual episodes. First, the placement of the kernels and then the file division are considered. Since the last episode of the first season acts as a cliffhanger, it differs from the other episodes in its dramaturgical structure and is therefore examined individually. Finally, there is a conclusion of the individual analysis steps to describe the general pattern for the first season.
2.1 The placement of the kernels
In the selected episodes of the first season, the scenes were first examined for kernels and satellites. Scenes can be identified as kernels that actively drive the storyline and without whose existence the storyline would make little sense. Scenes that can be assigned to the satellite category serve to decorate the plot and are not necessary for its progress. Therefore, for the analysis of the dramaturgy, the main focus of this work will be on the kernels. Basically, all six kernel functions could be identified in the same order in the selected episodes.
For the first three and a half minutes of each episode, the disturbance Function identified. This kernel introduces viewers to the conflict of the current episode. In this scene the victims are introduced and their everyday life is interrupted. The characteristic beginning of the episodes shapes the expectations of the audience and provides orientation (Eder 1999, 58). After just a few minutes, the genre “crime series” is cleared up and tension is built up.
The scenes that the obstacle Function can be attributed to fall into the second quarter of the episodes. Here comes the idea of opposing violence. This introduction can take various forms, such as the kidnapper's first phone call to the Davenport family (Broken Mirror 2005) or the murder of Lila's agent (Somebody’s Watching 2006). In both cases, the presence and danger of the perpetrator are emphasized. Here it can already be stated that the episodes of the series Criminal Minds (USA 2005/2006) show variations in content. The obstacle Scenes are not structured identically in terms of content and yet the introduction of opposing violence can basically be identified.
The complication For the selected episodes, scenes are in the third quarter of the individual episodes. In these scenes, mostly new ways of looking at the existing conflicts were introduced, which goes hand in hand with a new course in the investigation. A clear example can be found in the provocation of the perpetrator by Gideon (Broken Mirror 2005). The kidnapper threatens to kill Cheryl again and although Gideon and his team have left the perpetrator to dominate in previous conversations, Gideon now provokes him until Cheryl's alleged death.
There are also the confrontation Scenes in the third quarter of the episodes. Here the hero confronts the obstacle: the audience and the B.A.U. team are shown who the perpetrator is. This happens either through an interrogation or a conversation between the team and the perpetrator (Extreme Aggressor 2005, Blood Hungry 2005), through the first appearance of the perpetrator (Broken Mirror 2005) or through the compilation of individual pieces of evidence to finally lead to the perpetrator (Somebody's Watching 2006) .
The crisis and resolution Functions could be located in almost all episodes in the same scene in the last quarter of the episode. The crisis corresponds to the peak of tension, as the decisive confrontation between the perpetrator and the B.A.U. team takes place in these scenes. The outcome of the crisis The scene is uncertain at first, most of the time the victim is in mortal danger (Broken Mirror 2005, Extreme Aggressor 2005). The resolution describes the resolution of the conflict, i.e. the criminal case. The balance was restored, the victims were freed and the perpetrators captured. In all episodes, it was possible to identify a compression of the kernel scenes at the end of the episode. This increased occurrence of action-relevant scenes underlines the build-up of tension up to the climax, as kernels actively drive the action forward and thus create dynamics.
In the previous blog entries, the dramaturgy was illustrated by analyzing the kernels. The summary of these graphics (see Figure 1) illustrates the similarity of the dramaturgical narrative style despite the different content. Due to the cliffhanger situation, the last episode of the first season was omitted from this consideration, as the episode ends with the peak of tension and therefore does not offer a suitable basis for comparison. In the remaining episodes it becomes clear that the tension starts with a low voltage rise and then increases linearly up to the tension peak. The linear narration that can be seen here supports the build-up of tension over the entire episode. The audience is “excited about the progress of the plot at any moment” (Eder 1999, 77). After the peak of the tension, the tension drops again, with drops of different steepness becoming visible here. Despite slight variations, the tension at the end of each episode is through the resolution -Function completely resolved.
2.2 The division of files
In order to examine the structure of the episodes, the episodes were divided into four acts set-up, complication, development and resolution classified according to Michael Newman (2006). While the three-act structure is often used in feature films, the four-act structure has prevailed in most US series (Eschke and Bohne 2010). Since an act is defined as a "series of sequences that culminate in a climax scene that causes a significant change and is stronger in its effect than any preceding sequence or scene" (McKee 2001, 51), the four-act structure leads to an increasing narrative tempo with strong dynamics (Eschke and Bohne 2010). The distances to a new major turnaround, the Actbreak are significantly shorter than in the three-act structure. In the present series Criminal Minds (USA 2005/2006) keep these short gaps between the Actbreaks to the even tension build-up over the entire episode. As Actbreak Scenes include Eddie's attempted suicide in his cell (Blood Hungry 2005), Cheryl's loud argument with the kidnapper on the phone (Broken Mirror 2005), the murder of Leila's agents (Somebody's Watching 2006) or the transfer of the suspected perpetrator in the car (Extreme Aggressor 2005). The usual three-act scheme Beginning, middle and end according to Aristotle (“Poetics” quoted from Eder 1999, 28) can, however, also be applied to the four-act structure typical of US series. The set up Nude embodies that here Beginning, the complication and the development Act form the center and the resolution Act that End.
The kernel function disturbance falls in all episodes in the set up Act that introduces the audience to the circumstances of the conflict (Thompson 1999, 32). This first act takes up the first quarter of the episodes with a length of seven and a half to twelve minutes. In the following complication Act let the obstacle Locate scenes. Here the plot takes a new course and the hero changes his tactics in order to achieve his goal (Thompson 1999, 32). The complication With a length of eight to sixteen and a half minutes, act takes up about the second quarter of the episodes. The complication Function is in the present episodes in development To find the act. This act is mainly characterized by tension and uncertainty and illustrates the protagonist's struggle to achieve his goals (Thompson 1999, 32). With a length of nine and a half to ten and a half minutes, this act takes up the third quarter of the episodes. In the episode “Extreme Aggressor” (2005) there is a slight variation, because in addition to the complication Function can also be used in the following confrontation Identify function in this act. In the remaining episodes unite confrontation, crisis and resolution in the resolution Act, which is mainly through the build-up of tension up to the peak of tension, the crisis Scene, can be characterized. In addition, the case is resolved in this last act, which is four and a half to eleven minutes long and is the shortest act in the present episodes. Despite slight temporal variations, the acts each take up about a quarter of the episode. This phenomenon is typical of prime-time serials (PTS) like Criminal Minds (USA 2005/2006), because “PTS organizes the hour into four acts of roughly equal length” (Newman 2006, 21).
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