The Soviet Union Montage movement started in the 1920s and lasted till the early 1930s. During the period, many developments in the film industry took place that later shaped the way of producing films. Most experts in the film-making industry regard that time as an inspiration to modern producers. The period is characterized by the change in passing the message of a film to the audience. The concept meant new editing techniques and the usage of some of the recognizable elements in the modern film industry, such as music. The integration of music and fine editing led to the creation of a stronger connection between the films’ plot and the audience due to a more realistic nature of films. The pioneers of the concept were Dziga Vertov and Sergei Eisenstein. Many modern films follow the examples of the montage technique to ensure that the audience concentrates on the story instead of production aspects. The essay analyzes the motivation behind the Soviet Montage movement, its concepts, and their impacts on the modern filming. The analysis will show that the Soviet Montage concept was motivated by the desire of film-makers to deliver the intended message in an effective way. The analysis will also show that modern filmmakers also use these concepts in such areas as editing in order to improve the interaction between the audience and the film’s central idea.
The Idea behind the Concept
The new wave of editing films started when the film director Lev Kuleshov noticed that the expressions of actors did not deliver the intended messages of the films in an effective manner. For this reason, the director looked for other ways to communicate the message more efficiently. Kuleshov developed the method of juxtaposing the images. In effect, he initiated the idea of intercutting the shots of faces that had certain images related to them in order to arouse empathy in the audience. The new technique of editing was different from the traditional smooth editing approach. The other producers of that time saw that the new technique had more impacts in terms of communicating the message. For this reason, they adopted the technique in their production. Producers such as Sergei Eisenstein adopted the idea of Kuleshov, but they used a new method of engaging the audience. Eisenstein applied the concept of cutting between images in a random manner to ensure that the audience could interpret the idea of a film. For this reason, Eisenstein’s films did not follow the traditional way of focusing on a single main character. The producer ensured that his films had a hero as a unifying character.
The Editing Perspective
The directors mentioned above, among others, highlighted the influence that editing could have on the attitude of the viewer. Before the revolution in the filmmaking industry, most of the films had lengthy scenes that concentrated on the performance of actors. Therefore, most of the producers did not regard the concept of analytical editing highly. However, the new generation of producers adopted the new technique of fast cutting and using close frames. One of the main characteristics of the period was the fact that producers did not agree on a single approach that could be termed as the montage concept. They had their own opinions, and each had a favored way of editing. For example, Pudovkin believed that the only to cause an emotional reaction in the audience was to ensure that the shots formed a sequence. However, other producers, such as Eisenstein, had a contradicting opinion. Eisenstein believed that for the editing to be effective, there was no need for the shots to form a sequence. It is worth noting that at that time, most of the producers followed Eisenstein’s approach. Further, other producers, such as Vertov, came up with the new ways of production by using the element of cinema-eye recording as a way of enhancing realism.
During the period, there were various films that used the new montage ideas. The film “Oktyabr” by Eisenstein, for example, depicted the intercutting technique. The film has a scene depicting a military officer and his wife that interplays with the other scene that depicts a church service. Another example is the movie “Strike” by Eisenstein, in which a scene of a police officer in a riot jumps to a scene of a butcher at work. The portrayal of the two scenes makes the viewer think about the relationship between the two environments. The main force behind the new approach in the Russian film industry was the social concept, rather than the psychological aspect. For this reason, it was common to see films with more than one main character. For instance, most of Eisenstein’s films portrayed social groupings that formed a collective hero. The continued disregard for individual characters ensured that producers avoided the use of the same popular actors in favor of the less popular ones. Another concept in the editing front was the application of the rhythmic montage. The concept meant the combination of the period of a shot and the context of a scene. The technique involved matching an activity with a shot of the surroundings. The montage generation also focused on the concepts of the tone to ensure that the aspects of lighting, projection of the shadows, and colors fitted the scenes of films.
The Scientific Aspect
During the same period, many producers aimed at understanding their profession in a scientific manner. The major trait of the producers in the Soviet Union was that they all opposed the traditional ways of production. Most of the producers aimed at developing a theoretical view of their profession. They started borrowing new concepts from international filmmakers. For instance, Kuleshov, though conservative in nature, borrowed some emotional and clarity effects from the American producers. He also dedicated his efforts to developing a logical film structure by connecting various shots. For instance, he explained the idea behind his film “Art of Cinema”. He said that the main concern of the production department was the organization of the material in an effort to create the right impression. The creation of the film was a result of continuous observation of the structures of other productions. The sole purpose of the technique was to raise the awareness of the viewers in terms of conceptions.
Further, Dziga Vertov started to include modernity and different activities to make the films more lifelike. For instance, his film “Man with a Movie Camera” showed such events as dancing, swimming, and other activities that depicted the life in the city. The producer also used close-ups and shots of high angles with predetermined patterns to make the message of the film more clear. Moreover, the images in the film appear to be in a pile-up, with split screen, thus introducing diversity. The combination of these different aspects is aimed at attracting the curious part of the audience in order to relate the scenes with the idea of the film.
Moreover, Eisenstein also aimed at understanding the scientific concept of producing movies by adopting his unique technique of showing a collection of exciting scenes to stimulate the emotions of the audience. He later developed the idea by using special elements in his films in order to form a unique impression from his works. This method stimulated the viewers to express emotional and intellectual responses. Eisenstein thought that the montage concept did not have boundaries, and it was more than just editing. Eisenstein’s works show that he was more proactive than other producers, such as Kuleshov, who employed more conservative approaches. Despite the difference in approaches, the montage producers of that time shaped the modern ways of producing films.
The Montage Concept in the Contemporary Films
By 1930, the concept of montage filming was declining. The earlier decade had seen various films using the concepts of the Soviet Montage movement. The main cause of the decline was the Soviet Union’s administration discouraging the montage style. The producers faced criticism due to their use of formality and approaches that only a few people could understand. Some producers carried on with the montage approach beyond the 1930s. However, the government’s encouragement to use simple and understandable techniques of producing movies led to the weakening of the movement’s influence. During the period, only a few movies went into production, but they had a lasting effect on the modern types of films. For instance, the 1982 film “Koyaanisqatsi” by Geoffrey Reggio applied some ideas of the popular montage producers of the Soviet Montage period. For example, the film borrowed Vertov’s use of fun scenes to make an impression on the audience. Reggio did that by using the environmental sceneries and slow motion techniques to show the concepts of life. Moreover, the producer used the intellectual concept of montage to compare the people on an escalator with sausages.
Another film produced after the Soviet Montage period, “The Good, The Bad and the Ugly” uses the ideas of the montage concept to come up with original scenes. The scenes, involving wide shots and close up shots, constantly change in the movie. Moreover, the film also uses the concept of accelerated editing, leading to the intensity of its story. Other modern films apply the montage concepts to show the romantic relations between couples. A good example is the 2008 film titled “The Curious Case of Benjamin Button” that shows how Benjamin and Daisy, the main characters of the movie, live together. The film has a sequence of montage showing the adventures of the couple and their living experiences. Another film using the montage concepts is the “Spider-Man” by Sam Raimi. The film uses the intellectual montage method when showing the shadow of a spider, the DNA, and showing that the main character suffered from pain after a bite from a spider.
In conclusion, the idea behind the adoption of the montage concept during the Soviet Union Montage movement was to make an impression on the viewers and enhance their analysis of the scenes. The disregard of the traditional lengthy shooting helped producers to create scenes that communicated the message in a more effective way. The central theme of the montage movement was the adoption of a social rather than a psychological feature of production. For this reason, many producers favored more than one main character in one film. Popular producers such as Vertov, Kuleshov, and Eisenstein founded the montage movement. Although the producers did not agree on all the aspects of the movement, they all abandoned the traditional ways of production. The major difference between the producers of that period was that some were more conservative, like Kuleshov, while others were more daring, like Eisenstein. The montage concept introduced a new level of editing, writing, and the use of a scientific touch to come up with interesting films. Although the period of the montage movement saw very few films being produced, the concept left a lasting impact on the film production field. In the modern production, many films still use the montage concepts to attract the attention of the viewers. Some of the concepts the modern producers have adopted include the intellectual montage approach and the scientific concept. In effect, many more films will continue to adopt these concepts.