Fact and fiction in Jackie (2016): Revisiting a biopic with Paul Ricoeur | Intellect Skip to content
Volume 9, Issue 2
  • ISSN: 1759-7137
  • E-ISSN: 1759-7145



The film Jackie (2016) by Chilean filmmaker Pablo Larraín and American screenwriter Noah Oppenheim provides an excellent basis to reflect on biopics and this genre’s capacity to reconstruct and present historical figures. This article is grounded in Paul Ricoeur’s reflections on narrativity, time and history, which have given rise to a new branch of film and screenwriting studies that regards films as poetic narrations, that is, condensed representations of slices of life. Drawing on Ricoeur’s notion of narration and his concept of the relationship between story and history, I explore how Jackie, the fictional character, allows us to get to know part of the historical figure, Jacqueline Kennedy’s, personal life. This reflection may be of particular interest to screenwriters now that biopics are experiencing a revival as an auteur genre. In the first section, I describe some features of biopics and examine whether and how Jackie fits into this category of film genre. In the second, I outline the theoretical foundations of Ricoeur’s story/history duality. In the third part, acting on Ricoeur’s suggestion for an analytical approach, followed by a synthetic or global reading of the story that leads to the identification of the inner force that unifies the fictional narrative, I analyse the rhetorical and visual mechanisms used in Jackie, paying special attention to the timeline and the point of view of the narrator. An overview of the main character’s motivations both in the film script and the film version, and of the way in which the ending is presented, finally makes it possible to see where story and history come together. Ricoeur’s reflection on human actions and how they are represented in narrative works sheds light on the foundations of screenwriting studies. Similarly, so does Juan José García-Noblejas, when he suggests that the unifying object of a screenplay is ‘human action’. Thus, this article is a transdisciplinary reflection on the biopic genre through the analysis of a recent film, with Ricoeur’s practical philosophy as the starting point.


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