Plot and Story
Plot and story appear in different dimensions in narratives. In narrative films, story refers to the account that film narrates. It also refers to events that the audience infers and assumes to have taken place in the film. In narratives, the story appears in chronological order with a duration and frequency. The Story differs from the plot because the plot presents specific events in a narrative. The plot appears as the imaginary construction by the viewer regarding the events in the film. The Plot also involves a chronological order and duration.
The narrative’s plot presents Richard Hannay as a visitor in London. He attends the “Mr. Memory” music show on a Friday night. At the show, Hannay runs into Annabella Smith, who at the time has secret agents chasing her (Hitchock, 1935). He sympathizes with Annabella and agrees to hide her in his flat. Events turn as Annabella is murdered on the same night. He perceives that the authorities may accuse him of murder, which makes him plot to break a spy ring. He has to break the spy ring to prove his innocence.
The story of the narrative presents the entire occurrence of events. The film presents the opening at the music hall where a faceless man buys a ticket for the performance. The performance begins with an introduction of Wylie Watson as Mr. Memory. The master of the theatres ceremony asks the audience to test Mr. Memory with any fact from history or geography. This forms the show as Mr. Memory can remember all the facts. The audience engages Mr. Memory with different questions during the show. Hannay also engages Mr. Memory with a question (Hitchock, 1935). A commotion occurs during the show, which prompts a pre-mature end to the show. During the commotion, Hannay meets Annabella who introduces herself as Smith. After engaging in a short talk, the two decide to go back to Hannay’s flat. At the flat, Annabelle acts strangely by requesting Hannay not to pick the phone though it rings twice. While interacting with Annabella, Hannay learns that she is a spy and has two men tracking her to kill her. During the night, Annabella dies mysteriously as she staggers towards Hannay’s bed. Before her last breath, she warns Hannay that the agents would come to kill him. Hannay decides to run after the spies who killed the woman. He decides to run to Scotland to seek help in fighting the spies. He tags along Pamela, a woman he met on his way to Scotland. The plot and story in this narrative relate in the sense that the plot directly presents the events that led to Annabelle’s death and Hannay’s mission to clear his name. In essence, the story develops from the plot because each event in the film revolves around Annabelle’s death and Hannay trying to clear his name.
Opening and Closing Scene
The opening scene creates an insight that explains to the viewers what to expect from the film. The opening scene mainly acts as a simple review of the film. During the commotion at the theatre, Hannay finds himself holding Annabella who appears frightened. Viewers develop an expectation that Hannay would rescue or help Annabella in some way. It also develops the character of Annabella as a troubled individual. She appears frightened and seeks refuge at Hannay’s flat. The move by Hannay to help Annabella develops his character as a helpful person (Hitchock, 1935). Annabelle’s death creates an expectation that the same spies would also murder Hannay. This develops an expectation that Hannay will try to save his life.
Furthermore, the opening scene develops an enigma because the killers do not appear. This creates suspense that makes the viewer develop the interest of watching the film. It draws the audience’s attention to the film as a viewer seeks to find out who killed Annabella (Hitchock, 1935). The enigma in the film develops an expectation in the viewers and develops Hannay’s character further. The opening scene also develops enigma as Annabella appears frightened, but does not disclose immediately what frightens her. The viewers seek to understand why Annabella appears frightened. The opening scene accomplishes the goals of enigma as the killers appear later in the film.
The closing scene shows character transformation for both Hannay and Annabella. Hannay transforms from a foreigner on tour to London to an individual trying to clear his name from the murder. The character of Hannay has transformed from a boring holiday in London to an adventure in solving the mystery and death of Annabella. Annabelle’s character also transforms a living character to a dead character. Her character dies in the film, which develops an enigma to find out her killers.
The viewers’ expectations develop in the conclusion as Hannay returns from Scotland with a solution. The viewers expect that Hannay who now collaborates with Pamela will manage to clear his name from the murder and find out the secret formula. The agents have planned to smuggle the secret formula from England. The conclusion resolves the expectations as Hannay manages to learn the secret formula from Mr. Memory. Learning the secret formula for Hannay means that he can enjoy the freedom. The secret formula enables Hannay to prove his innocence to Pamela and the authorities regarding Annabelle’s death (Hitchock, 1935). Hannay also manages to end his boring holiday by moving in with Pamela. Hannay`s character transforms from a free man to a fugitive throughout the film. However, Hannay eventually becomes free towards the conclusion. This resolves the expectations that Hannay would enjoy freedom once again after proving his innocence to Pamela and the authorities in London. It also resolves the expectation that Hannay would return to his Flat once more.
Range and Depth of information
The film presents a restricted narration of the events. The viewers do have full information regarding the events in the film. For example, the viewer does not know about the spies that chase Annabella. In addition, the viewers have no information regarding who killed Annabella until later in the film. The viewers also do not know whether Hannay will manage to prove his innocence. The viewers also have no information regarding Mr. Memory`s involvement in the Secret. The viewer and the character have a similar range of information in the narrative. For example, the viewer does not know about the secret formula. Hannay as well does not know about the secret formula until later in the film. Throughout the film, the viewer is restricted to what Hannay knows about Annabelle’s death.
The film has a restricted range throughout the plot. The film has a varying range between the characters knowledge and the viewers’ knowledge. For example, Hannay knows that he would find assistance in Scotland (Hitchock, 1935). The viewers do not know whom Hannay intends to meet in Scotland. The film has an objective continuum. In terms of objective continuum, the film presents Hannay and Annabella as their true selves. The viewer has knowledge about them in their real identities. However, the viewers have knowledge according to the cameras deception. The objectivity in the film creates suspense, which draws the viewer to the film. Viewers also do not know much about Mr. Memory’s character. They do not know that Mr. Memory has a role in the secret formula. They also do not know that his character would reappear in the film. A viewer perceives that his role only lies in the first scene at his theatre performance.
Withholding information in the narrative has served the purpose of minimizing the range of information available to the viewer. It has also managed to create curiosity and suspense in the film. For instance, the viewers get curious to see the faces of the spies who killed Annabella. The viewers also want to know who will smuggle the secret formula from England. These scenes create curiosity due to the little information available to the viewer.
In narrative films, causality occurs when one event in the film leads to the other. In this film, causality occurs in a number of scenes. Hannay had a lead way ahead of the spies and managed to reach Scotland before they did. His lead move caused the spies to plot to kill him. However, earlier, the spies did not kill Hannay because they would frame him for the death of Annabella. At the point he arrived in Scotland, he knew too much about the spies and he posed a threat to their operation. Their plot to kill Hannay led him to move faster and reveal the truth before they go to him (Hitchock, 1935).
In another scene at the theatre, Mr. Memory felt a compulsion to tell Hannay the secret formula because he did not want the audience to find him inadequate of his praises. When Hannay asked about the secret formula, he ensured that he found Mr. Memory in a vulnerable situation where he did not want to let his fans down at the theatre. Mr. Memory revealed the secret formula to Hannay (Hitchock, 1935). That action led to the death of Mr. Memory as the spies too had attended the performance. Immediately Mr. Memory revealed the formula to Hannay, the spies shot him.
The police begin searching for the culprit who killed Annabella; they launched a manhunt that went on nationwide. Hannay knew that the authorities would catch him. For this reason, he befriended Pamela who helped him to escape to Scotland. He makes a romantic approach towards Pamela, which makes her like him. In consequence, she agrees to help him escape by designing a plan to flee to Scotland. However, on their way, Pamela asks Hannay to make her believe him. He needs to prove his innocence in the murder. While in Scotland, they learn about the secret formula. They return to England so that Hannay can prove his innocence to Pamela. For this reason, he has to go to the theatre and engage Mr. Memory to find some answers. Through this film, one can learn the basic elements and organization of the narratives.
Bordwell, D., & Thompson, K. 1997. Film art: an introduction (5th ed.). New York: The McGraw-Hill Companies.
Hitchock, A. (Director). 1935. The 39 steps [Motion picture]. Britain: Reel Images.