Western Hollywood dramaturgy has been extremely successful.
Many films play on expectations and turn this structure inside out, like Memento, where the main character's unique personality drives the storyline. But you can't exit the structure, the expectations from the audience. 'Once upon a time...'
European dramaturgy is centered around the character - needs, wants and desires combined with the concept of the auteur, creators with a god-given mission. Ingmar Bergman, François Truffaut...
Human stories reflect upon our reality, our culture, how we live together - stories manifesting and questioning values and moral systems.
Evil and villains, a hero forced to do terrible things for a good cause. Does the ends justify the means? Western judeo-christian values have a constant battle between evil and good.
No wonder, then, that the East Asian stories have a fundamentally different set-up - a different dramaturgy and underlying philosophy.
In East Eastern stories we find the four-part Ki-shō-ten-ketsu and Jo-ha-kyū, which roughly translates as "beginning, break, rapid"
I began to understand it all with the help of Mono no Aware. There is no direct Western translation; it is a feeling, a way of approaching life, with a reverence for the ephemeral. The pathos of things.
Not raised in a culture with a sensitivity to mono no aware we will have trouble absorbing the films, theater and literature. We look for the hero, the villain and the threat, but we rarely find anything so unequivocally simple in films.
Japan's Studio Ghibli somehow managed to bridge the Japanese storytelling so that 'Westerners' could embrace it. The result is a number of magnificent anime films; Castle in the sky, My neighbour Totoro, Princess Mononoke, Porco Rosso, Spirited Away...
I think we've had enough princesses and tough guys with automatic weapons. Another bank robbery, another love story with betrayal and forbidden passion, another evil organisation attempting to enslave humanity.
Now we're looking at new ways of telling the story, and I'm pretty sure that an approach around mono no aware offers a way forward. There are films that have already tried with great success; Bladerunner, The remains of the day, Amelie from Montmartre.
One of my absolute favourite films is Never let me go based on a short story by Japanese Kazuo Ishiguro and masterfully narrated as a film by screenwriter Alex Garland - who also wrote the screenplay for Ex Machina.