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Soviet Montage

Historical Moment We are dealing with films made in the decade immediately after World War I (1914 1918) and prior to World War II (1939 1945). Two countries were dramatically affected by the event. For Russia, WWI was a catalyst for political revolution that transformed a country from feudal to communist. Germany suffered many losses in the war and as they had lost the war they were ordered to pay heavy reparations to the Allies (incl. UK). In addition to this, hyper-inflation meant Germany was struggling economically and people were living in extreme poverty. In both countries the hardships experienced by men on the frontline were mirrored by those at home poverty and starvation. Soviet Montage Editing is a much more pronounced feature than in German Expressionism. It explores the ways in which each shot gained intensified meaning from its relationship to the shots deliberately placed before and after it. For Eisenstein it is in the tension (or conflict) between shots that meaning is created. Montage cinema demands that audiences continuously search for the meanings created by the juxtaposition of two shots and can be seen as alternative to the dominant continuity editing style of Hollywood cinema. Putting shots A and B together does not result in AB but in the emergence of X or Y something new and larger than AB. This moved the theory of montage on from Kuleshov and Pudovkin who believed shots are like bricks in the way they construct a scene. Kuleshov and Pudovkin aimed at linkage rather than conflict. 4 types of montage: Intellectual: In this type of editing the audience is not passive as the play an active part in producing meaning from the film shots are placed in conflict with each other to produce new meanings (Eisenstein). Linkage: Individual shots are used to build up scenes. The shots are not in collision with each other, but are fragments or parts of a whole scene. (Kuleshov, Pudovkin). Hollywood: Used to show a quick succession of events over a period of time. The shots are intended to flow into each other rather than to be in conflict. Fast Cutting: or Accelerated Montage where editing is used to build suspense or tension e.g. tighter and tighter close-ups and shortening the shot length (Eisenstein).

Methods of montage
1. Metric - where the editing follows a specific number of frames (based purely on the physical nature of time), cutting to the next shot no matter what is happening within the image. This montage is used to elicit the most basal and emotional of reactions in the audience. o Example: Eisenstein's October. 2. Rhythmic - includes cutting based on time, but using the visual composition of the shots -- along with a change in the speed of the metric cuts -- to induce more complex meanings than what is possible with metric montage. Once sound was introduced, rhythmic montage also included audial elements (music, dialogue, sounds). o Example: The Battleship Potemkin's "Odessa steps" sequence. 3. Tonal - a tonal montage uses the emotional meaning of the shots -- not just manipulating the temporal length of the cuts or its rhythmical characteristics -- to elicit a reaction from the audience even more complex than from the metric or rhythmic montage. For example, a sleeping baby would emote calmness and relaxation. o Tonal example from Eisenstein's The Battleship Potemkin. This is the clip following the death of the revolutionary sailor Vakulinchuk, a martyr for sailors and workers. 4. Overtonal/Associational - the overtonal montage is the cumulation of metric, rhythmic, and tonal montage to synthesize its effect on the audience for an even more abstract and complicated effect. o Overtonal example from Pudovkin's Mother. In this clip, the men are workers walking towards a confrontation at their factory, and later in the movie, the protagonist uses ice as a means of escape. 5. Intellectual - uses shots which, combined, elicit an intellectual meaning. o Intellectual montage examples from Eisenstein's October and Strike. In Strike, a shot of striking workers being attacked cut with a shot of a bull being slaughtered creates a film metaphor suggesting that the workers are being treated like cattle. This meaning does not exist in the individual shots; it only arises when they are juxtaposed. o Some contemporary examples of intellectual montage: In The Godfather, during Michael's nephew's baptism, the priest performs the sacrament of baptism while we see killings ordered by Michael take place elsewhere. The murders thus "baptize" Michael into a life of crime. At the end of Apocalypse Now the execution of Colonel Kurtz is juxtaposed with the villagers' slaughter of a water buffalo. In Boogie Nights, Dirk Diggler announces at the conclusion of filming a pornographic scene that he can "do it again". There is then a quick cut to a champagne bottle uncorking at a post-shoot party, representing both ejaculation and Dirk's celebratory initiation into the world of porn.

Montage provides sequences with a sense of rhythm and momentum which can increase or decrease the speed of the action. Eisenstein frequently increases his rate of edits prior to the climax of a scene. Eisenstein was also interested in tensions created between areas of the frame within the composition of single shots. For instance in Strike the tenement scenes are shot with several planes of action adding to the feel of chaos. Eisenstein sees filmmaking as a political act. He uses a series of approaches to film construction that challenge the expectations of the audience. He challenged the Hollywood standard dominating filmmaking around the world and in doing this he challenged the capitalist system which Hollywood embodies. Hollywood uses a narrative structure that focuses attention on the individual, looking at the psychology of the individual, creating heroes who resolve problematic situations in such a way as to restore chaos. The audience is encouraged to identify with the individual and the problems are solved. Q. How can the realist Hollywood narrative structure be seen to reinforce capitalism? In placing problems at an individual level, does not lead us to examine the problem at a societal level (governmental or economic etc.). It values the individual over the community. Problems seem miraculously resolved, and through identification with the hero, we can then see how our own problems are solved. The problems are often against capitalism (even if subtly) and in righting the problems we place capitalism back on top (e.g. films do not allow characters to get away with crime as this undermines the principles of capitalism). Q. OR are their examples of Hollywood films that challenge capitalist ideas? [However, according to Eisenstein this would be impossible as realist narratives focus on the individual as the locus for cause and effect and to challenge capitalist ideas you need to focus on the proletariat the disaffected masses]. Eisenstein emphasises the movement of social forces rather than the psychological make-up of individual characters. His films are built around the struggle between the workers and industrial forces of capitalism. Individual personalities are not foregrounded the whole social group is presented as a collective hero and the capitalists on mass are seen as the villain within the narrative structure. The audience is not able to identify with an individual and his/her struggle. Eisenstein uses a mixture of cinematic styles (see notes below) such as the documentary (observational), melodrama (influenced by D. W. Griffith), comedy / slapstick.

He applies his principle of montage of attractions to the editing. He creates visual jolts between each cut, shocking the viewer into new awareness. In most sequences this approach involves juxtaposing shots taking place in a scene or emphasising the importance of certain actions or events by fragmenting them into a number of shots taken from different viewpoints (at the time when this was shown it would have been unsettling for the audience todays audiences are used to these types of techniques.) In the slaughter scene, the cow is not to be found in the imagined scene itself, but is inserted as a form of commentary on the action. The visual metaphors at the same time destroy the illusion of reality, break us from the real scene and force us to think about what they might imply they work to create meaning above and beyond realism. Questions prior to viewing He includes a symbolic motif that runs through the film? Can you identify it and what is its purpose? How does he use the mise-en-scne to depict the differences between the proletariat and the industrialists? What are the differences? Eisenstein uses a mixture of cinematic styles can you identify any? When the people are running in their crowds, what is this a metaphor for and how does the camera help to heighten the metaphor? How does he use children within the film? How does he make us feel the power and dominance of the soldiers? Which image does he use to lead us toward the climactic moment of the dropping of the child? [horses high on the tenements, a man toppling from the balcony.] [Child being dropped from the tenement walkway the thematic concern with children and the use of their innocence emphasises the brutality of the Tsarist regime and also encourages to identify with the masses through the loveable representations and the effects of the violence on the children]. What is the effect of each shot in relation to the shot that precedes it and the shot that follows Do you agree on the potential meanings being created? Strike (Eisenstein, 1925) Set in Tsarist Russia in 1912. Made in support of the Bolshevik government that had come to power after the 1917 revolution. It is clearly made as propaganda and puts forward a Marxist message. Strike looks back to portray the brutality of pre-revolution days when any attempt by workers to defend their rights was violently put down by the police, secret service and army on the behalf of wealthy industrialists, aristocrats and

upper classes. It is a strongly political film with a definite ideological standpoint. It is a visual textbook a step-by-step guide for world revolution and Strike was the 5th of 7 lessons. 1. All Quiet at the Factory

Introduced to the factory chimneys and the industrialist boss. Eisenstein fuses together these two symbols to create the symbol for the word but. All is quiet at the factory and through the montage of imagery Eisenstein introduces conflict. But is hidden in every factory wheel. The wheel in itself is a device (see below). Still waters have deep water. Water is used throughout the film and the crowds move and are filmed like a metaphorical river. The factory is a familiar habitat to its workers. They climb around the factory jungle with ease. The low camera angle emphasises the height at which the workers are like natives in the factory structure. The use of many different camera angles would have been difficult for the viewing public at that time. It relates to the theory and art of Cubism trying to show multiple viewpoints at the same time. The workers conspire and the owners shadow, until the foreman senses something is wrong and tells the fat, cigar smoking boss Eisenstein making use of the stereotype of a fat cat industrialist boss in palatial offices compared to workers surroundings inequalities of capitalism.

This then sets off a chain of events, where Eisenstein represents for us the chain of command the hierarchies of power over the workers. The mise-en-scne the spacious surroundings, comfortable chairs (thrones), suits and uniforms inform us that these characters are the bourgousie in positions of power and luxury. The

higher we go, the more comic and eccentric it becomes. Director to mill owner, to police, to the secret police (Gendarme) who set into place the secret agents. Eisenstein then provides the audience with a lesson on how spies disguise themselves in order so that we can seek them out. Eisenstein took the names of the spies from authentic secret police files. The use of the pet shop to showcase the taking of disguises is a way of Eisenstein being able to cut in the animal imagery associated with cunning. Owl blind observer typical disguise Bull Dog organ grinder with bear Monkey ice-vendor Fox Likening these men to animals and not men. The strike leader is shown as being suspicious of the ice-vendor. The criss/cross shapes of the beams and girders within the frame present a complex pattern of regularities from Cubism. The wheels, hoops, barrels are the visual motif of the film the regularity of the circular images create a sense of structure and unity. As the film does not offer coherence in terms of identification with individuals and the personal, psychological narrative, the film needs a coherent visual structure. The diving scenes show the grace, strength and ineptness of the workers. The spy is juxtaposed as hidden and disgraced. The meeting in the toilet scene is in the naturalism style everyday.

The wheel approaches as if it would knock us down but instead knocks down the foreman to show him a lesson. The lesson of organising a strike continues with the printing and distribution of the leaflet. 2. The Immediate Cause of the Strike In this section of the film there is more of a story. To trigger a strike you need a fuse. We dont know the thief and never find out who or what his motives were but the theft leads to the suicide of a worker (reproduction of a true event that led to a strike). Eisenstein uses conventional storytelling here taking advantage of established cinematic devices. He is not concerned with the story but with the effect on the audience and in this respect he was influenced by the

melodrama and how when we see people deeply humiliated we revolt (think of A Streetcar Named Desire for instance). The belts of the factory machine relate to the belt of suicide again Eisenstein is getting us to make connections and meanings that are larger than the sum of the individual shots. The martyrs face is lit from below an image we see at the end. Down tools some faster some slower a stream of people becomes a river. The camera closes in but cannot fight against the river and moves backwards. In addition to the melodrama we now have comedy in the form of circus foolery the see-saw, water, slapstick. Eisenstein likes to split the lines of action within a frame to show for instance conflict or unity. In this instance, the line of action splits into 2 where the young workers rush to speak to the old workers. There are now 3 lines of action with 3 streams of runners young, old and villagers, run to the oppressors. The engine of history needs no tracks. The crowd is a real crowd, come to hear Trotsky speak Eisenstein couldnt afford that many extras so he hides the camera so the people do not see it. This is why in this section the camera is stationary and there are far fewer shots of the crowd. Apparently Eisenstein had not yet grasped the concept, or technique, of showing a crowd with less actors by juxtaposing long shots of a crowd with medium- and close-up shots. The crowds are taken from longshots in Battleship Potemkin he uses less actors and close-ups. Eisenstein moves between the monumental and the comic in the mock execution of the factory foremen. 3. The Factory Stands Idle The image of the duckling soft, fluffy, young object is to influence the audiences mood to introduce scenes representing the joy of waking up. We see peaceful life but this is not to last.

The pigeons in the factories are no scared the factory is dormant. We see situational reversals kids at work while workers rest and images of happy family life. Eisenstein doesnt linger on scenes WHY? he doesnt want his film to slide into the realm of anecdotal mode of storytelling. He doesnt want to detract from his analytical movie and political message.

Parallel montage breakfast with workers breakfast with industrialist not shown to have any family unnatural.

Again we have more parallel montage where the meetings of the workers are juxtaposed against the meetings of the management - forests, trees are natural pillars, lively / unnatural, artificial pillars, smoking, lifeless. The same chairs and symmetry of their meetings is juxtaposed against the natural spontaneity. In the reading of the demands, the industrialists smoke like factory chimneys. The pop up table mocks and condemns their taste and lifestyle to which the rich are enslaved and proletariat immune (not so today!). Squeezing of fruit / squeezing by horses but horses refuse to squeeze as proletariat are sitting down.

4. The Strike is Protracted Rather than showing the hardship through one family (as Hollywood might) he gives us shots of lots of families situations. It is difficult to watch not because there isnt enough explanation - it is because there is too much. Q. How would Hollywood represent the hardship? What conventions would they use? Biomechanical style of acting a montage of exact gestures economic with maximum expression. Enables a lot of information to be given across in a short period of time. We are then given another lesson how to shake off a shadow. The transition where the picture comes to life with a wipe in and wipe out to the new scene adds interest and compensates for the lack of storyline and character identification. 5. Engineering a Massacre The dead cats prepare audience for next scene who will be association feel aversion to the characters. The aversion we feel for the dead cats will be projected on to the other things making them not likeable.

The bums are proletariat but they are not a working class and do not count as a driving force of history the have relation to the means of production. The liquor store scene follows the rules of conventional storytelling. There are heroes and villains, cause and effect. The outcome of the revolution depends on the securing of communications (whistle at start, fire alarm now). Each scene of the water scene is a different cinematic style/genre. It begins like a comedy, but then enters a documentary style. From long- to mediumto close up-shots. The light changes and the framing gets tighter no depth of field. 6. Slaughter Use of the melodramatic child crossing over into no mans land to under horses hooves. Eisenstein is counting on the audiences parental instinct to respond. Again the constantly jumping camera angles would have been difficult for viewing public at that time cubist. The architecture defines the flow of the crowd, like the rock bed defines the flow of a river.

The action in the tenements take place on 2 levels, then 4, then 3, then at angles adding to the sense of chaos. The dropping of the baby is aimed to shock the audience we are not prepared for it. A man falls from the tenements and the horses look threatening, high up in peoples living spaces where we normally wouldnt associate horses but we are not prepared for this act. The shot that directly follows is that of a laughing capitalist heightening the sense of brutality.

The policemans angry gesture, mimics that of the slaughterer delivering us into the final scenes.

According to Eisenstein, the human mind cannot stay indifferent at the sight of real blood and will project emotional response on any shots that are inter cut. The cope angry gesture mimics that of the slaughterer. Questions Q. What is Marxism? Agree on a short definition of around 100 words. Q. What is communism and how does it relate to Marxism? Q. What is capitalism? Agree on a short definition of around 100 words. Q. What ideological standpoint does the film take? How does the film communicate this through the mise-en-scne, characterisation etc? Strike is put forward as an imperative a command. Eisensteins films were not shown in the UK. Q. Why do you think the films werent shown in the UK? What circumstances characterised the UK that would have influenced this decision? Q. How does Eisenstein use the mise-en-scne to highlight the differences between the classes? Contrast of wealth, space and grandeur to confined spaces and basic furnishings. SOVIET MONTAGE 1. Examine the relationship between Soviet cinema, theatre and the visual arts. 2. How successful do you think Soviet filmmakers were in combining mass entertainment and revolutionary politics? 3. For many Soviet filmmakers editing was the source of cinematic energy and impact. Did this mean that they neglected the impact of mise-en-scne and music? Nope for instance Eisenstein was the master of framing and was sensitive to the tensions that can be created within frames use of several lines of action, visual motifs to create coherence etc. Using locations and natural settings, props etc to drive the narrative and create meaning, as opposed to relying on sets. This is in keeping with the desire to show the masses in their natural state as opposed to depicting the psychological inner states of individual characters. 4. Trace the influence of Soviet cinema of the 1920s on subsequent filmmakers and film movements. Filmmakers Coppolas Apocalypse now slaughter of cow juxtaposed against the killing of ? -, however the killing of the cow in AN is diegetic though it has the same effect as the non-diegetic killing in Strike.

Goddards use of the jump cut and rapid editing techniques. Hitchcock uses accelerated montage to build tension in scenes leading to climax (e.g Psycho).

SOVIET MONTAGE AND GERMAN EXPRESSIONISM 1. Identify the general differences between German Expressionism and Soviet Montage. Soviet Montage relied heavily upon editing to convey meaning whereas German Expressionism relied upon dramatic sets designs and chiaroscuro lighting. There is a naturalism to Soviet Montage in its depiction of the masses, however, German Expressionist characters are highly stylised.

Identify the similarities e.g. on a thematic level. Lang and Eisenstein are aware of the tensions between the classes, however, how does each director approach the theme of class and does their approach reflect the different historical experiences of Germany and the Soviet Union. Soviet Montage doesnt focus the narrative on individuals as the locus for cause and effect, but instead the whole social group/class is presented as the collective hero. Thematically Lang and Eisenstein are concerned with social tensions between classes, however the way the movements approach the theme is different. Russia having experienced the communist revolution, had experience of political, social and economic revolution and thus experience of the power, and the significance of the power, of the masses, whereas Germany hadnt and was still essentially capitalist and as thus its films focussed upon the individual. Russia had had success in overthrowing capitalism and the Tsarist regime it identified the evil and disposed of it, and in a way, Eisenstein is being a little a smug in trying to teach the rest of world how to revolt. German Expressionism puts forward different ideas of class/power relations relating to their own historical circumstances. Weine depicts authority as evil and that which cannot be defeated. Lang - even when the working classes destroy the machines this does not bring about a destruction of the system itself and there is a reestablishment of order - asks Who holds the power? (Lang). Naturally there is a positive, optimistic air to Eisensteins films a positive view of the world. The director supported the revolution and although they suffered losses in WWI they had achieved something immense. On the other hand, Germany had lost the war, suffered many losses and were in economic ruin reason for unsure, questioning, sometimes negative, pessimistic view in German Expressionism.