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Montage Theories of Soviet Cinema Presentation by Chris Schloemp Sources:

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1 Montage Theories of Soviet Cinema Presentation by Chris Schloemp Sources:

2 Soviet Cinema in the 1920s Vibrant film culture in the period following the Russian Revolution Influential developments in film theory Several films stand as landmarks in the history of world cinema

3 Development of Formalism Dominant film theory of the silent era Applied to a range of arts, including literature and painting Holds that a work’s meaning exists primarily in its form or language, rather than its content or subject

4 The Pioneer: Lev Kuleshov Re-edited existing film stock to develop ideas of film grammar Formed workshops in 1920 at the State Film School Central belief: the viewer’s response in cinema depends less on the individual shot and more on the editing or montage

5 The Kuleshov Effect Famous experiment with shot juxtapositions First shot: c/u of actor with neutral expression, then joined this shot to: –c/u of a bowl of soup –c/u of a coffin with a corpse –c/u of a little girl playing Test audiences praised the actor’s versatility in showing hunger, sorrow, and pride, even though the shot of the actor remained the same each time

6 Dziga Vertov Enthusiastic about film’s potential as educational and propagandistic tool Since Russian society was composed of illiterate workers and peasants, they needed a different medium of instruction Believed that ideal medium was the documentary film

7 “Art is not a mirror which reflects the historical struggle, but a weapon of that struggle” --Dziga Vertov

8 Kino-Pravda Vertov’s primary theory: “film-truth” Fiction films, acted films as opiates, that prevented a necessary confrontation with reality Filmmaker sees beneath the surface chaos to reveal the underlying connections to the institutions of power Filmmaker as poet, as fuser of images

9 Sergei Eisenstein Strike (1924) Battleship Potemkin (1925) October (1927) The General Line (1928)

10 Theory of Intellectual Montage Film constructed as a series of colliding shocks or “attractions” Montage as a dialectical process (from Hegel: thesis vs. antithesis = synthesis) Meaning created by juxtaposition of shots, not the content of individual images Shocks created for ideological purpose

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12 Example of Montage Strike (1924) Nature of the slaughter perpetrated by the Cossack army is conveyed by juxtaposing: –scenes of advancing soldiers –a bull being slaughtered –ink being spilled over a street-map of the city being attacked

13 Sound and the Rhythm of Editing Sound and vision could be treated independently or used in concert Shots in film and phrases of music could be timed together to increase the impact of a key shot Rhythm of music can accent the rhythm of editing, of montage

14 Acting as Typage Eisenstein, like other Soviet filmmakers of his time, was not interested in using professional actors Asked amateurs to draw on their experiences of their own lives Typage: when people in films represent archetypes due to their resemblance to universal groups in society

15 V.I. Pudovkin Mother (1926) The End of St. Petersburg (1927)

16 Relational Editing Different style of montage Seamless, without drawing attention to itself Used solely to support the film’s narrative Also known as linkage editing Similar to the editing style developed by D.W. Griffith in the US

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18 Dovzhenko and the Use of Tableaux Arsenal (1929) & Earth (1930) Series of tableaux: a linkage of still photographs Slow pace and solemn atmosphere Long shots of archetypal figures, often in silhouette

19 Film as Propaganda All Soviet filmmakers worked under a unique set of social conditions after the Revolution of 1917 Cinema regarded as educational tool to promote the ideals of communism Overtly political films: images used to illustrate history in textbooks Limited to one basic storyline: triumph of the people over bourgeois oppression

20 Influences from Pavlov and Freud Sought fusion of art and science Pavlov’s theories about conditioned reflexes to stimuli (the famous salivating dogs) very influential on montage theory Controlled series of shocks could produce predictable response Freud’s theories of the unconscious also helped influence the use of symbols in Soviet films

21 Lasting Impact Soviet cinema continues to inspire filmmakers today Emphasis on the process of film rather than the content of narratives seen in the work of 1960s film-makers Some contemporary filmmakers see the opportunities of using non-diegetic elements in montage sequences


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