The Five Act Structure, Broken and Rebuilt by David Fincher

Categories Learn, Improve, Discover

Fincher’s The Girl with a Dragon Tattoo is one of my favourite films. It’s a story structure twister, and has the most emotionally satisfying ending I’ve seen from his films.┬áBut it defies the conventional Three Act structure, a cornerstone of screenplays but not of novels and short stories. These prose-based stories have more free-form approaches to structure and tackle more direct and indirect narrative questions than a film may. But many good books still follow a Five Act structure of some kind, but perhaps not what’s been studied to death in film and theatre school.

What often happens in books does not always translate well onto screen. It’s why we often find ourselves dissatisfied with film adaptations of our favourite books. We find them lacking in depth, detail and emotional resolution when compared to the books we’ve invested in. But the film adaptations are, for the most part, still entertaining.

Does a Three Act Structure, or it’s expanded yet still conventional Five Act counterpart, rob us of depth but still satisfy our need to be told stories? Michael from Lessons from the Screenplay frames this with Marvel vs. Fincherism. While the last post dealt with conventional film structure (whether in Three or conventional Five Acts), LFTS now deals with a Five Act Structure that I believe frames many interesting novels, both modern and classic.

A deeper and fractal theory-based Five Act Structure that defines Fincher’s The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo.