Thursday, March 8, 2012

Soviet Montage- Narrative| Characteristics | Style

Montage is the technique of selecting, editing, and piecing together separate sections of film or video to form a continuous whole, which a series of short shots are edited into a sequence to condense space, time, and information.

Sergei Eisenstein, sees montage as developmental and revolutionary; opposite ideas giving birth to something new. As the picture above shows a perfect picture of how Montage works.  Film A is arranged and put together with Film B (another section of film) to form the continuous film C. Montage stresses on the importance of the director (auteur) and work in post-production, rather than transcript writing and the screen. 


Montages are separated into 5 categories;
(a)   Metric Montage.
(b)   Rhythmic Montage.
(c)   Tonal Montage.
(d)   Overtonal/Associational Montage.
(e)   Intellectual 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. Offering quick jumps which make you try to focus more on the actual clip. The most common use of this technique is in suspense thriller.
* Metric montage example from Eisenstein's October.*


    2. Rhythmic - includes cutting based on time, but using the visual composition of the shots .Mostly seen when used to show a solemn or slower moving scene .It induces more complex meanings than what is possible with metric montage. Once sound was introduced, rhythmic montage also included audial elements (music, dialogue, sounds).
* Rhythmic montage example from The Battleship Potemkin's "Odessa steps" Sequence.*

3.       Tonal - a tonal montage uses the emotional meaning of the shots this is always used to show an overbearing emotion. The most effective way to grab the attention of an audience is to tug at their heart strings, and that is what this type of montage does.For example, a sleeping baby would emote calmness and relaxation.

* Tonal example from Eisenstein's The Battleship Potemkin, death of the revolutionary sailor *

4.       Overtonal/Associational - the overtonal montage is basically the artsy version of metric, rhythmic, and tonal montage to synthesize its effect on the audience for an even more abstract and complicated effect. It provides the audience an extreme look.

* Overtonal example from Pudovkin's Mother. 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 – usage of metaphor to define the meaning of each shots. This technique is used to deepen the meaning of a scene. A way  to shows things from a few different perspectives.

Intellectual montage is montage not of generally physiological overtonal sounds, but of sounds and
overtones of an intellectual sort: i.e., conflict-juxtaposition of accompanying intellectual affects. It went further and became Eisenstein's proudest "Invention".

Influenced by Porter’s theory that that one can view two unrelated shots and deduce that the two are actually related specifics of cinema were contained in the organization of the cinematic material (which meant separate shots and scenes), in the joining and alternation of scenes among themselves, in other words, in montage.”

 Eisenstein called his montage work ‘the intellectual montage.” Conventional Narrative filmmaking, according to Eisenstein, tended to “direct emotions,” whereas his intellectual montage, “suggests and opportunity to direct the whole thought process as well.

Soviet filmmakers followed a "dialetic" approach to film editing. Essentially, this 'dialectic' refers to the "thesis plus antithesis equals new response" theory. In other words, when you place a shot (thesis) next to a different unrelated shot (antithesis), you end up with a response from the audience that is different from a response from viewing either of those shots alone.

A great effect that montage editors use was developed by Kuleshov. The Kuleshov effect refers to matching the eyeline of different characters, in different shots, to help the viewer connect the shots in terms of space and time.

1) Shot of a car going right (thesis)
2) Shot of a little boy going left (antithesis)
3) A bike wheel lying on the ground, spinning, and a pair of untied shoes next to it.

What story do you think is being told here? That the little boy got hit by the car?

All of the above shots could have ben taken on different days, on different locations, and the different actors may have never even seen each other. But somehow, it is within our nature to relate the different shots, because they are next to each other, and create a story. This is intellectual montage.


  1. first of all, the link u put at the end, its show error. (just a reminder)
    anyway, the entire article look very short, simple and east to understand. Visual aids is sufficient with each one of the point you mention above.
    Nothing else to comment. :)

  2. The content is concise and the use of video examples helps a lot in explaining the types of montages. =)

  3. However, to further discuss the technique used in Soviet Montage, in the "Man with a Movie Camera" film, they extensively experiment the usage of special effects such as split-screen, superimpositions and etc. I hope to understand more on these techniques as Soviet Montage had large contribution in contemporary films particularly on these techniques.

  4. - Language issue
    - You are listing down your points. Be more organized, and guide your readers to the various sections that you are writing.
    - Be more adventurous and meticulous, if you may, by using other examples besides those by Eisenstein.