Winter’s Bone: analyzing the narrative structure

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As we are learning in class, indie cinema has become an important part of mainstream American culture. Indie filmmakers are “revitalizing American cinema by creating sophisticated and challenging narratives that have provided a much needed alternative to an industry that at times has become less concerned with producing quality films than in orchestrating the next mega blockbuster.” (Murphy 2).  Part of what makes these films independent is their unconventional narrative structure. As Murphy details throughout the introduction of his book, writing a script fit for Hollywood production has become rather formulaic. Described by Field, Walter, and Seger, commercially successful scripts all have three acts: where act one establishes the premise of the story, act two (the longest act) develops the character through some sort of conflict, and act three resolves the conflict. There are also specific points throughout the script where events occur to keep it interesting, referred to by Field as “plot points”. Also most major Hollywood movies focus around a goal-driven protagonist.

In Winter’s Bone, I analyzed the narrative structure using the formulaic methods of Field, Walter, and Seger’s three part act as opposed to McKee’s more structural methods.

Because Winter’s Bone is an adapted screenplay based off of the book written by Daniel Woodrell, the narrative follows conventionally written scripts with different acts. I consider this narrative to have three major parts, with a goal-driven protagonist just as described by Field, Walter, and Seger. Though there are aesthetic differences such as the bleak setting and dynamic characters that swim through a haze of futility and moral deterioration that would distinguish this film as indie.

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As Murphy concludes at the end of his introduction, some screenplays contain elements of both classic Hollywood and art cinema. Murphy states, “in order to gain either financing or commercial distributions, independent films must walk a fine line between novelty and convention, which is why the successful ones contain elements of both.” (Murphy 24). So though Winter’s Bone is considered a popular independent film, it’s narrative structure has elements of a typical three act Hollywood drama.

 

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One thought on “Winter’s Bone: analyzing the narrative structure

  1. Good post! It’s really interesting how an indie movie can be practically the same structure-wise as a Hollywood movie, and just changing a single element can lead to such a different experience. That, I think, makes you realize just how rigorously formatted Hollywood movies are.

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