While the tension between cinematic and television storytelling may be explored from a variety of perspectives, I am going to focus on the particular experience of Twin Peaks: Fire Walk with Me (David Lynch, USA-France, 1992, 135 min), the cinematic extension of the cult multi-tiered narrative television series. Perceived mostly as an excessively celebrated television movie at the time of its release, more recently Fire Walk with Me has been reappraised, its aesthetic value and narrative connections with the TV show having been accurately reassessed on the occasion of the 2017 revival. In the light of David Lynch’s singular approach to screenwriting, the film may be considered an instance of a television-to-film transition that specifically questions the boundaries between television and cinema narrative strategies and structures. If the cinematic quality of the TV series has been widely praised, I wish to present the film as a work of serial narrative. In an attempt to highlight the aesthetic and narrative reiteration and continuity that it introduces, I will first reconnect Fire Walk with Me, and therefore the TV show, to an earlier and rather peculiar self-contained version of Twin Peaks, namely, the version of the series’ pilot known as The European Version with an Alternate End (1990) distributed on the international market as a TV movie. I will then add an analysis of The Missing Pieces (2014), the feature-length recollection of Fire Walk with Me’s outtakes (re)edited by David Lynch only a few years before Twin Peaks: The Return. My main contention is that both the episodic structure and the narrative strategy of Twin Peaks’ cinematic adaptation are conceived to intensify and extend within the feature film format the experience of a continuing story allowed by television.
Fargo (2014), the TV series created by Noah Hawley and executive-produced by the Coen brothers, constitutes both a prime example of a recent trend in US quality TV and a successful adaptation of a film text, the 1996 movie of the same title made by Joel and Ethan Coen. It is our understanding that the achievement of the TV series springs from a creative design that allows the viewer to recognize in it an unmistakable resemblance with its predecessor, while at the same time becoming an enjoyable narrative in its own right, as an autonomous text. Thus, fans of the film can take pleasure in the recurring thematic, tonal, aesthetic and narrative links that the series establishes with the movie, and at the same time be captivated by a brilliant new plot and characters. This article analyses the creative strategies deployed to frame the narrative and aesthetic resemblance between Fargo the series and Fargo the movie. It explores the cluster of intersections between the film and the TV show in relation to four categories: 1) The choice of a diegetic universe related to the original, which also frames the series within similar genre coordinates. Both productions present an investigative, thriller-ish plot that unfolds against the breath-taking snowy backdrops of Minnesota and Dakota, enabling us to view them under the paradoxical label of white noir. 2) The dramatic construction of the main characters in the series replicates the struggle between good and evil present in the film, through the choice of analogous roles: good, incarnated again in an ordinary police woman; and evil, in the hitman duo from Fargo and Lorne Malvo, a diabolical character who features only in the TV show. Moreover, the series extends the antiheroic, pathetic archetype that acts as a catalyst for the intrusion of evil in the plot. 3) Traces of certain narrative and visual echoes comprise the clearest mode of resemblance, although they are also used to drive the plot in new directions and to underscore the metaphorical meaning of the mise-en-scène. 4) And last but not least, the development of the expressive possibilities of the landscape, which ‒ in both film and TV series ‒ is portrayed as linked with the inner world and personality of the characters. The purpose of this analysis is to show how the creative choices made in the process of adapting Fargo as a series have established a dialogue, rich in nuance and intertextuality, with its cinematic predecessor. That the show has been classified as a free adaptation, a tribute or even a sequel to the film is no accident. The effect of this translation from one medium to another prompts a sense that the viewer is experiencing two different, autonomous texts (each production is shaped by its own plot) that nonetheless evince a mutual affinity as sure as it is subtle.
While its narrative construction is essentially two acts, the sitcom conforms to the principles of dramatic writing posited by Aristotle: a thematically unified mode of drama centered on a character whose actions and interactions produce a plot that is comic in nature. In the sitcom, an incident threatens the disruption of the status quo that is expelled and, more importantly, the relationships between characters, including their conflicts are unaltered – the narrative is closed. Film narratives, on the other hand, are commonly defined by the conflict between characters on a journey of self-discovery, resulting in some transformational change; the narrative enables transformation of either the character/s, the world, or both. Narrative theory explores the relationship between character actions, traits and story, and how together they enable the narrative structure. Such theoretical models are extended and applied by practitioners to establish frameworks, enabling plot through three-five acts. This article posits that the sitcom sits in the middle act of its film counterpart wherein the main character seeks to change yet is unable to due to some psychological blindness regarding his or her ‘situation’. Critically analysing character actions and motivations in the 1947 film and 1960s TV Series, The Ghost and Mrs Muir, this paper considers the nature of relationships that bind sitcom characters and the elements to be considered when adapting a film to sitcom.
Each industry has its own way of crafting stories for TV. Different organizational models in the task of breaking down stories; the influence of titles which have been successful in a particular market; the unique viewing attitudes of a domestic audience… all these factors make screenwriters adopt a combination of writing techniques peculiar to each country. Even if the US writing school has imposed itself as a universal standard – the “orthodoxy” – deviations from its lessons – slight or significant, depending on the case – define the originality of an industry’s storytelling. In this perspective, I am going to consider the Italian school of screenwriting for TV, in order to highlight what is unique to it in comparison to the North American narrative method. For this purpose, I will focus on two cases of international remakes. I will compare Red Band Society (Fox, 2014), the unsuccessful US version of the Catalan series Polseres Vermelles, to Braccialetti Rossi (Rai 1, 2014-2017), the successful Italian version of the same medical teen-drama. My analysis will show that differences in the degree of thematization and in the level of drama characters have to face within each episode are key elements to define the Italian school of writing for TV.
Pippi Longstocking is a great classic of children’s literature. Written in 1945 by the Swedish writer Astrid Lindgren, the novel was published in Italy only in 1958, described as a “permissive and anti-authoritarian book for children”. In fact, while the book soon became a great favourite with young readers, teachers and parents in Sweden, in countries with a different view of parental authority, like Italy, Pippi was naturally perceived as a challenge. Nevertheless, the novel became very famous worldwide and has been adapted several times. One of the most popular adaptations is the Swedish TV series of 1969, which continues to be broadcast worldwide today. The series was directed by Olle Hellbom and starred Inger Nillson as Pippi Longstocking. The present article aims to highlight the dramaturgical construction of this adaptation, from Sweden to Italy, where it was distributed in 1970. The Italian distribution represents an interesting case, as the Italian national broadcaster, RAI, expanded the original thirteen episodes into twenty- one. The eight additional episodes were drawn from two Swedish movies featuring the same cast (Pippi in the South Sea and Pippi on the run, 1970). The fact that Italy decided to broadcast the original TV series while making very important changes in the structure is quite significant, not only dramaturgically, but also from the standpoint of content and ideology. Within the narrative framework of children’s literature, and considering the different contributions made to narrative adaptation processes, my objective is to compare the first thirteen episodes with the following eight, thus underlining the evolution from one country (Sweden) to another (Italy), keeping in mind the original novel and its quite different cultural and historical context. This will show how the choice of adding eight episodes – that are in fact compiled from two different movies – not only changes the dramaturgy of the series but also influences the construction of the characters and, consequently, the idea of childhood expressed in the work.
This article works on the confluence of time travel and identity in stories, under the perspective of Paul Ricoeur’s understanding of the concept of “interior time”, that he takes from Augustine. The study deals with the first season of the German TV series Dark (Netflix, 2017). The “time travel” topic has been frequent in the movies, as also its development in plots of duality of lives or in films that affect the own identity. In Dark, however, the time travel arises in the confluence between freedom and identity, which provides an especially profound narrative analysis. Our identity is marked by the time, so we are (identity) what we live (time) as consequence of our decisions (free will). The in-depth study of Ricoeur makes it possible to see Dark as a good example of what happens in any narration in which the verisimilitude of the story is founded on the coherence between the actions of the characters in the present and the identity that they have acquired as a result of the decisions of the past. This study is of use to screenwriters as it shows in a specific case how the consistency of the plot depends on its capability to structure itself in a way that mirrors the conformation of human identity in terms of actions undertaken in the past and decisions made with a view to the future.
We analyze what some of the main screenwriting experts say about the inciting incident (also called inciting event, catalyst, big hook, among other terms) underlining the limitations of the various approaches and trying to arrive at a new view of the topic, which can apply to both cinema and television. At the end, a last twist takes us to question the necessity of the concept, suggesting that it can be applied only to some kind of movies and even for them it may be superfluous.
We are now in an era where fictional television storytelling is a dominant and commanding screen form, which has perhaps finally evaded its historical position as secondary to cinema. There has been a significant influx of long-form fictional content to the small screen internationally since HBO series such as Sex and The City, Six Feet Under and The Sopranos heralded a shift in the television world order. Yet critics and scholars have been grappling with the terms through which they discuss the intricacies of this long form craft, shifting between notions of contemporary, complex and the more subjective; quality. This article will examine Jason Mittell’s poetics of “complex television” (2015), and reconsider his observations of post-1990s television to focus on the practice of screenwriting and the concerns of the writer/creator. Underpinning this deconstruction of Mittell’s complex poetics will be an exploration of the conventional structures at the core of contemporary long-form television series via a case study of The Leftovers (2014-2017). This case study will be used to investigate how archetypal story structures are functioning in the long-form narratives of contemporary television which will question Mittell’s notion of narrative complexity.