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Reel by reel: Jan Stanislav Kolár’s narrative poetics in the context of transition to feature-length format in Czech silent cinema

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This article examines the screenwriting practice in Czech silent cinema in the late 1910s and 1920s. It focuses on Jan Stanislav Kolár’s narrative poetics as a case study of specific storytelling choices within the transitional era from one- or two-reelers to the feature-length format in the context of local technological restrictions in exhibition ‐ inevitable breaks of changing film reels in single-projector cinemas. Poetological analysis of Kolár’s Řina (1926) with his other surviving scenarios and pictures shows that meant not only the necessity of adapting to these limitations, but also became a productive way of achieving particular effects on the audience. Semi-independent narrative acts, thrilling moments occurring at the end of the reel, or significant shifts in space and time between two reels were integral parts of his own original stories as well as adaptations of various novels. Nevertheless, the article outlines more general perspective in relation to film reels as structural narrative units and screenwriting practice among Czech filmmakers as well.

Keywords: Czech silent film; Jan Stanislav Kolár; film reels; narrative poetics; poetological analysis; screenwriting history

Document Type: Research Article

Affiliations: 0000000121940956Masaryk University, Brno

Publication date: September 1, 2019

More about this publication?
  • The Journal of Screenwriting aims to explore the nature of writing for the moving image in the broadest sense, highlighting current academic thinking around scriptwriting whilst also reflecting on this with a truly international perspective and outlook. The journal will encourage the investigation of a broad range of possible methodologies and approaches to studying the scriptwriting form, in particular: the history of the form, contextual analysis, the process of writing for the moving image, the relationship of scriptwriting to the production process and how the form can be considered in terms of culture and society. The journal also aims to encourage research in the field of screenwriting, the linking of scriptwriting practice to academic theory, and to support and promote conferences and networking events on this subject.
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