Here’s a taster:
Stories have been a part of human culture since prehistoric man first drew pictorial representations on cave walls – signs of “the beginnings of the modern human soul”, as Werner Herzog eloquently expressed it in his acclaimed film Cave of Forgotten Dreams. The earliest stories served less as entertainment and more as instructive tales of faith and morality. Through ancient religious texts, we adopted beliefs, rituals, codes of behaviour, laws and ethics. The great philosopher Plato famously set out his theories about the nature of human existence through a series of allegorical tales, and in medieval times fables provided miniature lessons in morality. In those early days of literary development, our storytelling was bound up in the pictorial and the performative, passed down orally through generations.
It was only in recent centuries that ‘literature’ as we know it now began to emerge as a serious field. The term ‘culture’ itself was only coined in the 19th century, prior to which culture was to do with cultivating crops. The industrial revolution and technological advances made literature more widely available than ever before. By Victorian times even the lowest classes could access cheap novels or read novels serialised in the newspapers of the day. (Authors then were paid by the word, so we have the papers to thank for Dickens’ wordy prose!)
By the 20th century, film came along and spawned a lucrative industry based on popular storytelling accessible to all.
So what’s next? Many people would not readily associate gaming and social media with storytelling, but both have the potential to revolutionise the art of the story. Consider for example award-winning PS3 game Heavy Rain. Modelled on film noir, the game is a dramatic thriller following the story of the Origami Killer. Players’ decisions and actions throughout the gameplay directly affect the narrative, leading to a variety of alternative scenes and endings. Or there’s Rockstar’s latest effort, LA Noir, where players must read the facial expressions of characters and formulate hypotheses from various clues to solve the case of an LA serial killer in the 40s. Even advertising has cottoned on, most recently with BT creating a series of TV ads linking together to tell a love story, and viewers voting for their preferred ending on Facebook.
Interactivity, it seems, is the latest evolution in storytelling. But how can cinemas embrace the potential of audience interaction?
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Image by Bollesbiggestfan1 on Flickr under Creative Commons license.