In the latest edition of DOX Magazine there’s an interesting essay by Swedish filmmaker PeÅ Holmquist. He feels that he always has to answer all but ONE question to commissioning editors and other people whom he wants to invest in or buy his films: what is the film’s STORY? And Holmquist is tired of it. And rightfully so, I might add. Well, of course I could tease him by asking what the hell he had expected from a BBC slot called “Storyville”, with the crucial word up there in the name, but I would rather tease the one who chose the name, because why would you name your TV slot after a part of New Orleans?
But never mind, the thing in question is why commissioning editors are so interested in “story”, even in documentaries? The answer is probably that they are interested in stories because they think that their audience is. And most likely they are right. And most likely, even us who fight against the numbing reign of story and the dramaturgical "quasi-fascism" enjoy to be told a good story now and again.

It seems that some of the latest research in bio-cultural film theory - as presented by Prof. Grodal of University of Copenhagen and as far as I understand it - suggests that the evolvement of the human brain is actually based on storytelling. Something like if you wanted to be the most skilled hunter you had to be able to make little stories in your head: “Wow, that mammoth is really fast, but when it turns around that corner, I will be able to make this shortcut here and BAM!… dinner for 46”. Or just being able to imagine what a sable tooth tiger would do to you and your upper thigh was actually a necessity to survive. Hence this ability to make (and appreciate, I guess) stories, man grew older and smarter. Also, story driven films should be a really good way to evoke emotions and actions. Grodal’s writing on for instance the so-called PECMA-flow is quite interesting.
According to these theories, films that have a strong narrative seem to have the strongest emotional impact on audiences. So there you have it, PeÅ: We not only want story – we need story to be able to survive!

But wait a minute. Is it true? ? I may have misunderstood everything about these theories, but I have cut my intake of mammoth considerably and I imagine that our imagination is even better now and maybe not even necessarily a lifesaver. We now have the surplus to enjoy, aesthetically, pieces of music, nature, football, literature, food and films without being afraid of dying every other minute and thus we may not need STORY all the bloody time. In films (yes, even documentaries) there are other things to appreciate, but if you omit story you will have to put something instead to evoke interest. Something that fascinates; something that tickles your intellect or you stomach, something that nurtures your mind or your guts; something that is a feast on your eyes or ears. It can be a great number of things, but the thing is that it is quite difficult to describe and therefore we so often resolve to the well-trotted path of straight storytelling because we then don’t have to make an extra effort on the other stuff. And that is a shame, as Holmquist also points out.


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