Non-Western story structures.

After todays class, I have been inspired to take a look not one, but two stories – one Western and one non-Western. I thought it would be interesting to take a look at how both of the stories differ from one another due to their act structure/form.

The first story is a Western film called: The perks of being a Wallflower (Stephen Chbosky, 2012). Interestingly enough, I would say that this film includes and revolves around both conflict (both internal and external) and transformation (positive). The film essentially follows the story of a young male freshman, Charlie, who drifts through life as an observer rather than actively engaging with the people and places around him. We journey into the story of his sexually abused childhood via a family member, and how such a series of events in his life have created a conflict in regards to the way in which Charlie interacts with places and people. However, we are also privileged to watch him develop and mature through the use of new friendships, a love interest and adventures that eventually build up a character who has transformed from the conflicted, scarred child into a more freeing young man: ready to fight for what he loves most.

Moments of high conflict in the film would be when Charlie faces the memories that haunt him from his abused childhood and when friendships are tested, tethered. The climax being when Charlie can no longer reason with his thoughts and potentially harms himself. What I enjoy about this film is how the diversity and unique attributes of his friends are manifested into the aiding of Chalires overall transformation.

The next story I chose to discuss is the Non-Western film: My neighbour Totoro (Hayao Miyazaki, 1988). Okay, if you don’t think that this film is simply adorable you must leave my presence! I picked this film because Studio Ghibli makes brilliant content and I couldn’t pass up the opportunity to watch it and call it for homework. This film follows the story of two young girls (Satsuki and Mei) who move to a new house in the countryside with their father. The girls discover that the home is occupied by dust sprites, and later encounter the forest spirits Totoro and Catbus. These spirits become important aspects of the children’s newfound daily adventures.

Kishōtenketsu is the apparent act structure used; there is an obvious absence of conflict. Instead, the story relies upon its cleaver use of involving either a problem that is solved through play, curiosity, problem solving skills. Elements of suspense and the occasional twist also spur the story onward, as well as keep the viewer entertained and therefore easily reeled into the life that the story provides. An example of suspense would be the fact that their mother is in hospital. We know she is recovering from a sort of illness; this is made suspenseful when the family receive a letter to call the hospital in regards to their mothers health. 

Both films allow for transformation to occur within their characters and their story worlds. In The perks of being a Wallflower, I mentioned that Charlie is transformed through the friends and choices he makes with them and in entering their world, he left the safety of his. Yet when Charlie returns to his original story world, he has been transformed into a young man who is far more confident; finally understanding what it means to be alive. In My Neighbour Totoro, each act provides a small series of problems for the characters to engage in, which transforms their personalities in positive ways; the girls see the ‘monster’ (dust sprites), decide to be brave and shout at it, follow it, laugh etc and they grow from their experiences. Although these films are quiet different form one another, its surprising to see some similarities through the way in which their characters are developed.

If you haven’t experienced either of these films, I would recommend both to anyone who is looking for an interesting, cute, heartfelt story!

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