Non narrative film, sometimes referred to as experimental films or avant-garde films, is a cinema which does not use narrative storytelling (though it can still have a plot).

It may use other elements such as dialogue, but these are secondary to the images.

According to Roger Ebert: “The phrase ‘non-narrative film’ is probably the most useful way to describe what we call experimental films and avant-garde films”.

Non-narrative films are often more concerned with capturing reality, in some cases using documentary techniques.

Let’s take a look.

What Is Non-narrative film

What Is Non-narrative film?

There is no clear-cut definition of non-narrative film. The term basically describes all films which do not tell a story in the traditional sense.

Rather than having a plot, they focus on the moving image and its esthetic qualities.

The term can be used to describe any film or video work which does not have a plot, including experimental or avant-garde pieces, as well as many commercial works (music videos, commercials, etc.).

There are many different types of non-narrative films including documentaries that explore a subject without telling a story; abstract films which play with light, color, sound and image; and structural films which use repetition or other formal devices to explore an idea or concept.



What Is The Non-Narrative Film Movement

A non-narrative film is a type of film or movie with no story. There is no plot.

A non-narrative film is a film that does not tell a story. It breaks away from the traditional format of movies, documentaries and videos.

Non-narrative films are also referred to as experimental or avant-garde films.

Non-Narrative vs Narrative

There is a significant difference between narrative and non-narrative films. 

The narrative film comprises a series of events in chronological order, and most are structured around characters who take part in the circumstances.

The events are usually linked by cause and effect, and the main character often has a goal that he must achieve by the end of the movie.

In a narrative film, there is typically a beginning, middle and end that make sense to the viewer.

In a non-narrative film, there is no straightforward plot or storyline. 

There is no apparent cause and effect relationship between the images you see on the screen, nor is there a main character with an explicit goal.


The non-narrative film may contain images or scenes loosely related to one another, but they do not connect to tell a story.

Avant-garde filmmakers strive to challenge mainstream ideas about cinema and their own art form through this type of non-narrative work.

Titles of non-narrative films are usually taken from their subject matter; however, some have also been given creative titles by their creators.

In either case, they are usually descriptive of the film’s content rather than being artificially constructed and unrelated to the images on the screen.

What Is The Abstract Film Movement

The European avant-garde film movement of the 1920s and 1930s is known as the “abstract film movement.” 

The term “abstract” refers to a cluster of experimental films that are non-narrative, devoid of plot and often utterly abstract in nature.

These films either have no storyline at all or one that is so fragmented as to render it nearly incoherent. 

The movement also includes several films that feature abstract imagery but draw from recognisable subjects, such as landscapes or still life arrangements.

Toward the end of the 1920s, the rise of sound cinema in Europe signalled a dramatic shift for European filmmakers.

Many felt that the introduction of sound would destroy an art form that had previously relied on visual presentation rather than verbal storytelling.

As a result, many filmmakers began experimenting with techniques that would allow them to continue making movies without relying on dialogue. 

This experimentation led to the development of more abstract cinema styles, including German Expressionism and Surrealist filmmaking.

The Abstract film movement broke away from traditional narrative filmmaking, emphasising rhythm and camera work over story structure and dialogue. 

The emphasis on visuals allowed artists to create films with themes related to abstract art movements like Constructivism and Cubism.

Other forms of abstract cinema took.

What Is Cinéma Pur

Cinéma pur is a school of filmmaking that professes that the only elements necessary for the film are movement, colour, and sound. 

All other film elements—plot, dialogue and music—should be considered secondary or excluded from the filmmaking experience.

The French filmmaker Abel Gance was a pioneer of this style of filmmaking. 

Although he did not invent cinéma pur, he was primarily responsible for popularising it across Europe in the early 20th century.

Cinéma pur began to gain popularity in 1916 when Gance released his war movie “J’Accuse!” 

The film featured an extended 25-minute tracking shot through a burning battlefield and showed Gance’s ability to manipulate time within a movie.

Although he had already begun making films with this technique before “J’Accuse!” (most notably his 1914 movie “Nosferatu”), the war movie marked his first full-length feature filmed entirely without any editing whatsoever.

Cinéma pur is a French term meaning pure cinema. It refers to a particular style of filmmaking that favours the film itself over its subject matter and the visual aspects of cinema over dialogue.

The movement was started by Jean Epstein in the early 1900s. A cinéma-vérité, approchez-vous du filmmaking is an example of cinéma pur.

History Of The Non-Narrative Film Movement

The idea of the non-narrative film was born in the late 1960s when film critics and theorists Bill Nichols and Peter Lehman began to create a framework for defining non-narrative films.

Lehman and Nichols asserted that there are two types of film: narrative (or “story”) films and non-narrative films.

The difference between the two lies in how each film is constructed. Non-narrative films emphasise visual images rather than dialogue and story.

They tend to be more experimental and artistic than narrative films, which focus more on telling a story through a sequence of images. In addition to being practical, non-narrative films often incorporate avant-garde techniques.

Although the movement was born in America, it has had significant influence worldwide. American filmmakers such as Stan Brakhage and Maya Deren were not only among the first to create non-narrative films but also pioneered many of the techniques used by later artists who created this kind of work, including Jean Epstein and Man Ray.

Many modern filmmakers have also been heavily influenced by non-narrative filmmakers from all eras, including Andy Warhol and John Cassavetes.

Essential Filmmakers Of The Non-Narrative Film Movement

What is cinéma pur? Cinéma pur is a style of filmmaking that was created in the 1960s. 

The term, which is French for ‘pure cinema’, was coined by French film critics and theorists André Bazin and Alexandre Astruc.

They believed that cinema should be free from all manner of things that distract from the viewing experience – like the soundtrack, for example.

This purity was also supposed to be reflected in the movie’s content.

Cinéma pur wasn’t about offering an entertaining narrative with thrills and spills. It was about being a purely visual medium, conveying emotions and ideas through images alone.

There were two prominent directors of this genre: Andy Warhol and Jean-Luc Godard.

While Warhol produced videos made up of abstract shots of moving objects, Godard used the video camera to create his own cinematic essays. 

These artists are still considered pioneers of cinéma pur today.

It’s difficult to describe this style using words alone because it’s more of a feeling than anything else.

 If you’re interested in watching some pure cinema, look no further than our list of the best cinéma pur movies below: What is cinéma pur? It’s a style of filmmaking.

But it’s more than that. Cinema Pur is not just a style; it’s a way of living life and seeing the world through a camera lens.

The word “cinéma” comes from the French language, meaning cinema and film.

 This name was chosen because the concept of “cinéma pur” was born in France, and this country has always been one of the main contributors to world film production.

Essential Films Of The Non-Narrative Film Movement

Another sub-genre of avant-garde films, non-narrative films present images, objects or actions and allow the audience to interpret them freely. 

Sometimes viewers are asked to make up their own stories about the film, and sometimes, they are left entirely free to do so.

Titles like “The Man With The Movie Camera” (1928), “Meshes Of The Afternoon” (1943), “Un Chien Andalou” (1929) and “Powers Of Ten” (1977) are some of the most famous films of this kind. “Un Chien Andalou” is a perfect example since it provides no context for the screen images, making little or no sense at first sight.

However, if you know about surrealism and its main ideas, these images may start to make sense. 

That is how avant-garde films work: they provoke the audience by showing things they’ve never seen before.

These films can be admired by anyone who likes experimental cinema, but they can also be appreciated by more mainstream audiences who want to see something different. 

These films are not just for hardcore fans of cinema as they require no knowledge of film history to fully enjoy them.

The following is a list of non-narrative films considered essential by notable critics or directors. It does not include documentary films or short films.

Importance Of The Non-Narrative Film Movement

Like literature, film is an art with a long history. The film is being used as an art to express the feelings and emotions of the people.

There was a time when fiction films were popular, but now, non-fiction films are gaining popularity.

Till the late 19th century, non-fiction films were known to be used in the experimental stages of filmmaking.

These kinds of films have been produced in many countries by many artists. Since then, it has been created in almost every part of the world with different themes, content and messages.

However some may think they are documentary movies, but they are not.

The Non-Narrative Film Movement played a considerable role in developing cinema as we know it today.

It is considered an essential movement during the 1920s and 1930s when abstract art gained popularity in France, America and other parts of Europe.

The period before this movement was dominated by a documentary type of films which were primarily about science and technology or educational purposes but gradually changed their direction by focusing on abstract visuals without any coherent storyline.

It was basically based on images instead of narration.

Non-Narrative Film Movement Theory

There are many different movements in the film. There is the French New Wave movement.

There is the Dogme 95 movement. These movements have one thing in common: they all took place after World War II, defying conventional film-making methods.

While some may be more obscure than others, all of them have been important to the evolution of film as a medium and have had a significant impact on society.

I chose to focus on the Non-Narrative Film Movement because it seems to me that it is not as well known as other movements, yet it has influenced our understanding of film today.

This movement did not get its name until later in its life cycle; it was initially called free form film making or avant-garde filmmaking. 

It also encompasses aspects of other movements such as Modernism, Fluxus, Structuralism, and Surrealism.

However, I am focusing on the Non-Narrative Film Movement (NNFM) movement. 

As a movement in its own right, the NNFM is far less well known than some other non-narrative film movements, such as the Dogme 95 or French New Wave movements mentioned above. The NNFM can be traced back to European Sur.

The End Of The Non-Narrative Film Movement

Some filmmakers are hesitant to move toward a new film movement, but I believe the non-narrative movement is here to stay. 

The indie film movement is growing, and it is what audiences want. There is no need for a new film movement to replace the non-narrative one.

Telling a story differently than what most people have been used to is actually a good thing. 

It forces people to be more creative and think outside of the box.

It allows for the possibility that audiences may be able to empathise with characters in ways they never have before. 

In this way, it does not reject narrative films; instead, it expands what film has to offer as a medium for storytelling.

The idea of the non-narrative film was first introduced by Michael Snow’s experimental film Wavelength (1967). 

It allowed viewers to explore their own interpretation of each scene in the movie by eliminating traditional plot structure and pulling them out of the comfort they had while viewing narrative films.

This was revolutionary at the time, and it still is today. One of the most critical components of Wavelength was its use of both sound and colour throughout each scene.

The sound would change depending on where you were on the screen and how loud it was based.

Non-Narrative Film Movement – Wrapping Up

If you’ve ever wondered what a non-narrative film is or why anyone would even want to make one, there’s something inherently wrong with the concept of the narrative. 

And I say that as someone who loves a good story and has two degrees in English.

Telling stories using only images and sound takes a lot of skill, but if you’re able to master it, you can create a truly unique cinematic experience. 

As an exercise in creativity, take an old story that you know the sound of — maybe something like your favourite fairy tale or nursery rhyme — and tell it using only images and sound.

Even if you don’t have any filmmaking experience, many resources are available to help you out, including free stock photos and free music from YouTube videos and other online sources. 

You can also use pre-existing video footage from online sources like Vimeo and YouTube or even your own footage if you’ve already got some clips on your hard drive.

Finally, try not to think about telling a story with words at all – instead, try to focus on telling your story visually through imagery.

 If you get stuck at any point during the process, just take a break and come back later – sometimes inspiration comes when you’re