Narrative perspective, or point-of-view (POV), is an essential element of fiction writing. It is also a difficult concept for some beginning students to get their minds wrapped around. As a way to introduce variations in narrative perspective, I use film clips to demonstrate how POV can effect the narrative. This method comes with some pedagogical risk, though, as narrative perspective in fiction writing is not exactly the same as that of cinema. In fact, in most cases and strictly speaking in terms of fiction-writing POV, the narrative perspective of film is third-person dramatic/objective (with the exception of internal monologue and some experimental ventures). We see the action unfold the way an audience member in a play would. In terms of cinematic terminology, though, the POV of a film can be either omniscient or subjective (meaning able to wander and know everything about all the characters or to be limited to just one character). To complicate things still further with film terminology, objective or subjective POV is not to be confused with the POV-shot, a subjective shot made from the vantage point of one of the characters. Ok, having already overthought it, I ask my students to try not to–over-think it, that is.
The point of using film clips to introduce narrative perspective (or POV) in fiction writing is simply to help students understand that the story changes when the perspective changes. We dig into the particulars of each specific POV a little later. So, for what it’s worth, here’s what I use to introduce the concept. Maybe it will be of help to someone…
Click image to open slides with POV film examples.
Answer key: Shawshank Redemption: first-person minor; Rear Window: third-person limited; Full Metal Jacket; third-person dramatic/objective; Mash “POV” episode: second-person; Notes from Underground: first-person unreliable narrator