Narrative Image

The main purpose of a trailer is to make people want to see a film. But how does it go about this? John Ellis in his book Visible Fictions suggests that a trailer presents a narrative image of the film. Basically, the trailer is giving us an idea of the film. Ellis argues that the narrative image of a film is "decidedly less than the whole film – it is the promise [of the film] and the film is the performance and realisation of that promise".

The trailer, along with other marketing materials, suggests the pleasures the film offers. If we are going to find a film pleasurable then it will need to offer something new, but at the same time it will build on our knowledge and experience of other films. It will play on the knowledge that we already have about films. It will use our awareness of genre, of certain stars and what they promise, of particular brands. Even franchise films series such as Spiderman or the adaptation from Marvel comics will promise something new; something which builds on and develops our understanding of previous films in the franchise.

Watch these trailers then discuss the points below.

My Cousin Rachel
Warner Bros
  • What mystery do the trailers suggest?
  • How do these trailers build on audiences’ experience of films in a similar genre or with the same stars?
  • What do the trailers suggest that is new?


Read these notes and complete the task to develop further your understanding of the concept of narrative image.