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Narrative Analysis Research Paper

Martin Scorsese’s “After Hours” (1985) movie may not be a familiar work to a wide audience. The work of the famous filmmaker was not accepted at once and experienced a number of either neutral or negative commentaries from the side of the cinema critics. Nevertheless, as the years went by, the movie gained popularity and is considered to be one of the best Scorsese’s movies and even an exemplary dark comedy film. The use of time, space, dialogues, and also allusions to the work of Kafka have contributed to the specific narration of the “After Hours” that appears to be hard to relate at first. Talking about the movie under consideration, one should note that the ambiguous and often ominous events contribute to a classic and dreamlike Kafka-esque narrative of the “After Hours” by Scorsese.

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First and foremost, one should understand the term “narrative.” In theory, the narrative is referred to as “a chain of events linked by cause and effect and occurring in time and space” (Bordwell & Thompson 73). In other words, it can be seen as a story, however, on the cinematic world, the narrative has some more layers of meaning that should be viewed from different perspectives. It is worthy to mention that any narration starts with a certain event or situation that progresses due to a number of changes. Such changes happen in accordance with the cause-effect scheme and result in a new situation (Bordwell & Thompson 73). All in all, there are several such changes that bring the viewer to the narrative’s ending. Importantly, the choice of techniques used for telling a story has a vivid effect on the way the viewers comprehend the internal and external meaning of the movie. Naturally, the audience would rely on the concepts of temporal order, space, cause-effect, and stability while trying to interpret both the internal and external meanings of the film.

The openings and closings play an important role in the narration and it becomes clear while analyzing the plot. At first glance, the “After Hours” movie seems to be an ordinary one in terms of the beginning of the narration. Through the camera lens, the audience watches numerous word processors and understands that it is the workplace of the main character. Besides, it becomes clear that the man is not really excited about what he does for his living, the next scene is shot n the restaurant. The close-up shot reveals the title of the book read by Paul that is the “Tropic of Cancer.” At this point, the woman named Marcy enters the narrative and they are having a conversation. The further arrangement of the meeting would, eventually, become a starting point of the entire story. Nevertheless, right after the beginning, the absurd part of the narration begins as well. Starting from the moment Paul meets Marcy and comes to her apartment, the narration becomes more complicated with every new situation as the night progresses. What is more, the development of the plot also reveals a tight connection of the “After Hours” plot with the Franz Kafka’s “The Trial.”

Time and space are the relevant factors of the narrative. The filmmakers tend to “use narrative form to manipulate time” (Bordwell & Thompson 79). The entire story in the “After Hours,” literally, lasts for a night. It is interesting that Paul looks at his wristwatch from time to time. As the main character does this, he also facilitates the feeling of panic and fast shifts in the situations as it seems that too many things happen during a short period of time. The time frame of Scorsese’s movie is rather a limited one. As it has already been mentioned before, the narration embraces the events of a single night. The story starts with a bored Paul who seems to not listen to his coworkers as he tells him about the future plans. The ending of the movie brought the key character back to the doors of his workplace. Interestingly, the movie ended up the same way the entire story developed – suddenly and grotesquely. The work by Scorsese was not approved by a number of critics as the “After Hours” was considered to be a “pointless” film that failed to suggests the “deeply drawn, realistic characters” in the “accurate…night’s odyssey” (Faber 200). However, it is Kafka like a version of reality that makes the movie so special.

In the “After Hours,” the filmmaker entwines the lines that refer to the writings of Kafka. The main character faces the first absurd situation when he comes to a metro station and finds out that he would not be able to come home as the price for the tickets is higher at night than during the daytime. It is important to note that Paul is not able to get home even later in the movie. The only time he actually gets to his office is the episode where the two men kidnap him and he accidentally rolls out of the car. Going back to the allusions, the audience might reminisce the phrase from Kafka’s “Before the Law.”

Specifically, there are two direct quotes taken from the writer’s work. These two appear in the episode with the punk-rock club titled Berlin. The security bouncer at the entry of the club does not let Paul come in and tells that he would be able to come in later as “is possible, but not now,” and also adds that he will take his money so that Paul can feel as if he has not “left anything untried” (Faber 200). The quotes are taken from the “Before the Law,” however there is also the episode with the metro station worker mentioned before. In the scene, Paul finds out that his money is not enough to get on the train, and it is a less obvious reference to the same text by Franz Kafka as well. The link between the literary masterpiece and the film by Scorsese uncovers the grotesque and rather frustrating atmosphere that reminds of the stories by Kafka so much.

It is worthy to mention that the script is very exquisite as it borders between a comedy and a tragedy even when everything turns extremely Kafka-esque. Paul is an ordinary man who faces the hand of bureaucracy and loses any hope to get home. For instance, in the episode where Paul runs away from the group of people who misperceive him for a burglar. As he hides from the angry crowd, he eyewitnesses the violent murder and says “I’ll probably get blamed for that.” such moments keep the “After Hours” a dark comedy. Even when the scenes seem to be funny, Paul may react in a very paranoiac way as in the scene where he tries to remember the phone number at the truck driver’s place. In her “Kafka on the Screen: Martin Scorsese’s After Hours,” Marion Faber claims that the movie’s “characters talk past each other: language is often more a means of miscommunication that of communication” (203). Thus, the script functions as a facilitator using the language to reveal the plot and characters. The quotes also uncover the external meaning of the movie when one starts to build a link between Kafka’s ideas and the events experienced by Paul. External meaning is more general and touches upon some big ideas. In case of the “After Hours,” these are concerned with the power of bureaucracy, as well as with the fact that one should be careful with own desires as these may lead one to the unexpected points of destination.

The dreamlike narrative used by the filmmaker is the thing that makes the “After Hours” a dark comedy that seems to be hard to relate to. In other words, the audience may find it hard to engage in the story on a realistic level. At this point, one should think about the taxi ride when Paul goes to Marcy’s place for the first time. It was a deep night and Paul was not in a rush, however, the driver was driving at top speed so that Paul even lost all his money. The appropriate shooting and camera position also helped to almost experience the hell drive together with the main character. Faber further explains that the ‘hectic cab ride into SoHo is a ride into the underworld” (203) that demonstrates the metaphysical level of the film.

Here, it should also be said that this drive has got a deeper meaning, according to the film director himself. In Scorsese’s commentary to the movie, he “ makes reference to the cab driver being the ferryman Charon who transports souls between the realm of the living and the dead” (Saporito). For sure, such a connection should be view after a close look analysis in the context of the entire movie. This allusion used by the filmmaker for the narration may be interpreted as a metaphor for the “old” bored and tired Paul who was “killed” during the hectic ride to be able to experience the crazy, exciting experiences. After all, when the main character returns to the point of departure, to his previous life, he simply cannot resign himself. Therefore, the predictable and logical world where Paul lives seems to be not that comfortable anymore for him. Scorsese even makes a sly move – he deletes Paul from the end credits as if he disappears.

The movie “After Hours” by Martin Scorsese suggest a dreamlike narrative that is achieved with the help of the allusions and also the masterful use of language. The filmmaker shot the movie that perfectly works on a metaphorical level. For sure, it is important that one considers the entire film based on the commentaries of the film director as one may not be acquainted with the Greek mythology or literary heritage of Kafka. Some may find the narration entertaining, while others capture something ominous in the events of the movie. Nevertheless, both positions fit the description as the “After Hours” is a dark comedy with a dreamlike narrative that includes the direct quotes from the absurd “The Trial” novel.

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Works Cited
Bordwell, David, and Thompson, Kristen. Narrative As Formal System. 2004.
Faber, Marion. Kafka on the Screen: Martin Scorsese’s “After Hours.” Die Unterrichtspraxis / Teaching German, v., 19, No. 2, 1986.
Saporito, Jeff. In “After Hours,” What Is The Meaning of Paul Disappearing During the End Credits. Screen Prism. Web. 27 Oct., 2015,