Eisenstein had begun during the late 1920s into montage and cinematography in the other arts. Sergei Eisenstein is widely regarded as much by people who have not seen his films as by those who have, as one of the most important figures in the history of cinema. Historically, his reputation developed around four factors. First there were the films themselves, which were not only masterpieces but almost attracted controversy and indeed censorship, in their home country as well as abroad.
Secondly, in conjunction with the films, there were the theoretical writings, in particular those of the 1920s, which both rationalised his own practice and provided a possible model for cinema more widely. Thirdly, there was his dynamic personality and the effect he had on friends, acquaintances and pupils, both in itself and the way it carried the flag for the films and the theory. And fourthly, there was the high regard in which the Soviet Revolution and Revolutionary art were held by intellectuals of many kinds, not only socialist but apolitical and sometimes even fascist.
It seems that all the arts, throughout the centuries, tended towards cinema. Conversely, cinema helps us to understand methods. Montage and sequentiality are the two essential conditions of film as a medium and it became a grid for the apprehension of literature and most of all of painting and the graphic arts. Cinematography is first and foremost montage. Nevertheless, the principle of montage can be identified as the basic element of Japanese representational culture. The double movement was hard to perceive as Eisenstein, taking a shortcut, skips various steps.
Initially, he arrives at the pictogram through his search for an explanatory model for what he intends to do in his project as “intellectual cinema” and what strike him, particularly, is the pictogrammatic combinatory structure, notably, the possible formation of a sign for an abstract concept from the combination of two signs, whether iconic or not, that refers to a concrete object. For Eisenstein, film could create an image of both interior and exterior reality and it is this power of giving concrete expression to the inner workings of the human psyche that seems to have led his enthrallment to the works of many filmmakers.
The montage lists are technique prepared prior to shooting and entailed a careful concentration of pieces chosen for their capacity to express a developing line of thought, or emotion. The shaping of an image evolved through associational logic, whereby one sense image chased after another; but the development of inner rhythm of the work became an increasingly complex system of unity in diversity. Eisenstein’s montage lists provided a methodological model for Kracauer’s History: The Last Things Before the Last.
The montage lists composed by the Soviet filmmaker for the creation of interior monologue of protagonist Clyde Griffiths in An American Tragedy, the product of Eisenstein’s 1930s American visit led Kracauer to the insight that the multiplicity of factors and computations within any historical situation meant that any historical explanation must, by its very nature, be provisional. Eisenstein’s distinction between the depiction reality and creation of a global image is in way similar to that made by the Marxist aesthetician Gyorgy Lukacs, as well as other Marxist thinkers of the period.
Eisenstein believed that truth was always new and moreover, could and should be attained through imagistic means. What interests him is not the truth-bearing function but the fact that in order to achieve it in a work of art you have to proceed in an imagistic way that you have to produce images which by their nature metaphorical rather than literal. This truth is made to rise out of the material so that the choice of material and the calculation of the mindset of the viewer are equally part of the gauging of the effect of film.
Nowell-Smith notes that in Eisenstein’s thinking history onstrains the artist in the choice of his material and it is in his sense alone that history determines the shape of the work of art; ultimately, the metaphorical nature of Eisenstein’s work as, for example, in October and the imagistic nature of its conception outweigh the constraints of a Marxist aesthetic. David Bordwell mentioned the collection position Eisenstein’s use of aggressive depth and the axial cut in relation to Social Realism and in so doing also foregrounds the impact of Eisenstein’s aesthetic principles on the spectator’s relationship to the work of art.
He again inquire into Eisenstein’s filigree of shot design and cutting begins with a look at peculiar detail from Ivan the Terrible part one in which the shots caused Ivan to leap forward like a chess piece. He finds in this and in Eisenstein’s writings, the source of broader design possibilities for mise en scene and the seminal importance of such strategies for both Socialist Realism and the film art in general. The concern with wide-angle depth composition and axial cutting served the project of monumental mythologizing within Socialist Realism, but also fashioned a mechanism employed by later directors such as Orson Welles.
In pulling the spectator into the depths of the screen, these spatial devices bind the spectator and the spectacle in a tighter unity thus serving to facilitate Eisenstein’s dream of efficacy. For the Soviet artist, Eisenstein, the director aimed at using all available means to attack the spectators, not in the service of reaction which is superficial, but rather to strike a hammer blow on the psyche. There is the sense that what is at stake is an interior dynamic relationship between the purveyor of an idea and the recipient whose very psyche is the prey.
Eisenstein sought to define that control of the material and the principle of the generation of an idea by using examples of the circus, the music hall and the kabuki. The Attraction in its first formulation in 1923 contained the cornerstone of Eisenstein’s idea of total theatre which was to become total cinema. Eisenstein’s posthumous work, Nonindifferent Nature (1987), set out most clearly his aesthetic credo which is that art, and particular cinema as the greatest of all arts, can enact change.
Cinema has this capacity because it can rearrange reality and combine that reality with the artist’s own subjective consciousness or dream in a way that no other art form can do. In its formal structure, cinema can act as a means of empowerment through a narrative re-construction of the past as memories and recollection. Through movement, time becomes immanent in the sense that through montage, it is conceived as pure duration or process akin to that dream reality which is a world onto itself.
And that time of cinema, aesthetically conceived through the Golden Mean, is the great spiral through which the past and the present can give way to revolutionary future. In the sense applied by Gilles Deleuze, the movement image of early film, in particular the montage of Eisenstein is conceived as a system of fragments which leap to a new dimension and thereby create a map of duration and transformation. It is important to state that the cinema dor Eisenstein was montage. Montage went far beyond the mere splicing of shots and replicated an organic and a perceptual process.
Montage exists not only in time but in space, and not only in the object but crucially in the perception of it. Montage as a principle is not limited to cinema: it is found in literature, in theatre, in music, in painting, and even in architecture. But it is in cinema that it finds its highest expression. Not only that, but it is through montage that cinema becomes the first art forms to transcend the dichotomy pose by Lessing in his Laocoon between the sphere of painting which spatial, and that of poetry which is temporal.
Cinema’s ability to transcend the dichotomy between the spatial and the temporal arts derives from its innate propulsion of synthesis. As a synthesis of all the arts, it represents the final stage of artistic perception in which that yearning for harmony at the root human consciousness could find expression. This essentially modernist conception of art contains a peculiarly contemporary idea. Polyphonic montage, where voices are in constant dialogue with each other, is more than vaguely evocative of the work Bahktin who coincidentally, was writing at very moment in revolution Russia.
Peculiarly, Bahktin’s language at its most seductive was cinematic. Art for Eisenstein originates not simply in perception but also in the capacity memory and mind to make images. He went to great lengths to explore this in Film Sense. Memory operates through associative images formed assembling sense matter brought together the mind’s propensity to leap to a conclusion. Behind Eisenstein’s anecdotes, in particular in Film Sense, there is a hidden nuance, every perception operates differently.
Eisenstein’s ideas on cinema place among the arts in fact take us back to beyond Kant to the 18th century and Gottlob Ephraim Lessing and his Laocoon. Not that Eisenstein wishes to hark back uncritically to a pre-Kantian aesthetic, on the contrary, his intentions is to supersede it and in particular demonstrate that the cinema is means by which Lessing’s categories are supersede in practice. But it is important for Eisenstein that Lessing is in the frame and the status. About his theoretical writings, something similar needs to be said but less straightforwardly.
Indeed these writings, although written in a strange disconcerting style, are in many ways closer to our present world than films or revolutionary context which produced them. While connected to the now irrecoverable silent aesthetic, Eisenstein’s writings are in no way confined by it. From the mid-1920s onwards they show a mind racing ahead of itself, always able to see the potential in advance of the actual. Both October and The General Line can be looked upon as instances of theoretical programmes which the resulting film quite enacted.
Although Eisenstein’s writings of the period have been ransacked in the search for a rational for so-called Soviet montage, they are too idiosyncratic for that. They are both too specific and too general, referring sometimes to tropes unique to Eisenstein himself and sometimes to principles wider than any cinematic form. Also while not immune to political pressure, they were much less harmed by them than were the films. In the 1920s they served as an expression for Eisenstein beliefs about revolutionary art in general as well as just cinema.
Then during the dark years of the mid-1930s when he was unable to make films, and even for a while prevented from teaching, he threw himself into writing – not in the polemical journalistic mode he has practiced in the revolutionary years, but in a more discursive manner. These discursive writings of the 1930s, although less known than the jauntier polemics of earlier years, undoubtedly confirms Eisenstein’s status as the foremost aesthetician of the twentieth century.
In montage, the conflict or configuration of voices generates overtone which are the means of releasing psychic energy, adding of bringing to the surface of inner feelings, desire and thoughts of a character. The dances of oppositions set in play contrapuntal montage are in themselves implicated in a dialogic relation that triggers a series of configurations that constitute a free play of association. This dialogic relation, centred around the notion of the selfdeveloping idea, is one step in a project which aimed at, above all else, the enthrallment of the spectator.
But, and herein lies the root of Eisenstein’s reputation as it has survived for the 12st century, this self-development of an idea leads in the communist rhetoric of his writings, to the realization of an ideological purpose. In overtonal montage, the emotional resonance of the work is graphed in the tenor or rhythmic reverberations of landscape sequences. These mimic the calligraphic symbolism of Japanese and Chinese poetry in the creation of visual music.
An essential feature in this visual fegue, is that of a repetition or chiming which creates a visual poetry and enunciates the rhythm that gradually builds up an emotionally infuse filmic line, which is also the specific image being sought by the producer. Montage for Eisenstein was, and remains today, a dangerous tool. it allows the reconstruction of fragments of reality (or their deconstruction or disjunction) so that powerful narratives may be created in the service liberation or enslavement.
Sergei Eisenstein is a wholly unique figure in cinema history. He was a filmmaker and a theoretician of cinema who made films and wrote voluminously about their structure and the nature of cinema. Both his filmmaking and his writing (which fills several volumes) have been tremendously influential. Frustrated by the creative limitations of his work in the theater, Eisenstein turned to cinema and in 1925 completed his first feature, Stachka (Strike ), which depicted the plight of oppressed workers.
Eisenstein’s next two films are the ones by which he remains best known, Bronenosets Potyomkin ( Battleship Potemkin, 1925) and Oktyabr (Ten Days That Shook the World and October, 1927), each depicting political rebellion against czarist rule. Eisenstein believed that editing was the foundation of film art. For Eisenstein, meaning in cinema lay not in the individual shot but only in the relationships among shots established by editing.
Translating a Marxist political perspective into the language of cinema, Eisenstein referred to his editing as “dialectical montage” because it aimed to expose the essential contradictions of existence and the political order. Because conflict was essential to the political praxis of Marxism, the idea of conflict furnished the logic of Eisenstein’s shot changes, which gives his silent films a rough, jagged quality. His shots do not combine smoothly, as in the continuity editing of D. W. Griffith and Hollywood cinema, but clash and bang together.
Thus, his montages were eminently suited to depictions of violence, as in Strike , Potemkin, and Ten Days . In his essays Eisenstein enumerated the numerous types of conflict that he found essential to cinema. These included conflicts among graphic elements in a composition and between shots, and conflict of time and space created in the editing process and by filming with different camera speeds. As a political filmmaker, Eisenstein was interested in guiding the viewer’s emotions and thought processes.
Thus, his metric and rhythmic montages were supplemented with what he called “tonal” and “intellectual” montage, in which he aimed for subtle emotional effects and to convey more abstract ideas. Ten Days represents Eisenstein’s most extensive explorations of intellectual montage, as he creates a series of visual metaphors to characterize the political figures involved in the October Revolution, such as shots that compare Alexander Kerensky with a peacock.
Stalin’s consolidation of power in the 1930s accompanied cultural and artistic repression, which forced Eisenstein, now criticized as a formalist, to recant the radical montage style of his silent films. Thus his last films, Alexander Nevsky, 1938 and Ivan the Terrible Part One, 1944 and Two 1958 lack the aggressive, visionary editing of his work in the silent period. Although he completed only seven features, these contain some of the most famous sequences ever committed to film, such as the massacre on the Odessa steps in Potemkin.
Together, Eisenstein’s films and essays represent the supreme expression of the capabilities and power of montage in the cinema. While it is extremely doubtful that Kuleshov’s experiment worked exactly as he claimed (for one thing, it is likely that the actor’s face actually contained an ambiguous expression since Kuleshov had taken the footage from an existing film), the Soviet filmmakers of the 1920s followed Kuleshov’s lead in fashioning a much more aggressive method of editing than what they had found in the films of Griffith.
Eisenstein believed that editing or montage was the essence of cinema, and beginning with his first film, Strike , 1925 and continuing most famously with Battleship Potemkin, 1925, he created an editing style that he called “dialectical montage” that was abrupt and jagged and did not aim for the smooth continuity of Griffith-style cutting. The massacre of townspeople on the Odessa Steps in Potemkin exemplifies the principles of dialectical montage and is possibly the most famous montage in the history of cinema.
The jaggedness of Eisenstein’s editing in this sequence captures the emotional and physical violence of he massacre, but he also aimed to use editing to suggest ideas, a style he termed “intellectual montage. ” The massacre sequence concludes with three shots of statues of stone lions edited to look like a single lion rising up and roaring, embodying the idea of the wrath of the people and the voice of the revolution. Although Eisenstein’s sound films, Alexander Nevsky, and Ivan the Terrible Part One and Two do not exhibit the radical editing of his silent films, Eisenstein’s approach to montage—the extreme way he would fracture the action into tiny, brief shots-proved to be tremendously influential.
The gun battles in Peckinpah’s The Wild Bunch, edited by Lou Lombardo, was quite consciously based on Eisenstein, and the hyperactive editing of much contemporary film, with edit points only a few frames apart, is part of Eisenstein’s legacy. The dominant style of editing practiced during the classical Hollywood period, from the 1930s to the 1950s, was quite different from Soviet-style montage. It is sometimes called “invisible editing” because the edit points are so recessive and so determined by the imperative of seamless continuity.
Hollywood-style editing carefully matches inserts and close-ups to the physical relations of characters and objects as seen in a scene’s master shot, and follows the 180-degree rule (keeping camera setups on one side of the line of action) so that the right-left coordinates of screen geography remain consistent across shot changes. Cut points typically follow the flow of dialogue, and shot-reverse shot editing uses the eye-line match to connect characters that are otherwise shown separately in close-ups.
This style of editing assured the utmost clarity about the geography of the screen world and the communication of essential story information. For these reasons, it is sometimes called “point-of-view” editing or “continuity editing. ” That it became the standard editing style of the Hollywood system is evident in the fact that it can be found in films across genres, directors, and studios. In the late 1950s and early 1960s, films of the French New Wave introduced a more aggressive editing style than was typical of the Hollywood studios.
A bout de souffle, directed by Jean-Luc Godard (b. 1930), used jump cuts that left out parts of the action to produce discontinuities between shots, and American directors a decade later assimilated this approach in pictures such as Bonnie and Clyde (1967) and Easy Rider (1969). As a result, by the 1970s the highly regulated point-of-view editing used in classical Hollywood began to break down as an industry standard, and the cutting style of American films became more eclectic, exhibiting a mixture of classical continuity and more abrupt, collage-like editing styles.
At present, the film, working with visual images, has a powerful effect on a person and has rightfully taken one of the first places among the arts. It is known that the basic (and only) means that has brought the cinema to such a powerfully effective strength is montage. The affirmation of montage, as the chief means of effect, has become the indisputable axiom on which the worldwide culture of the cinema has been built.
The success of Soviet films on the world’s screens is due, to a significant degree, to those methods of montage which they first revealed and consolidated. Therefore, for the further development of the cinema, the important moments will be only those that strengthen and broaden the montage methods of affecting the spectator. Examining each new discovery from this viewpoint, it is easy to show the insignificance of the color and the stereoscopic film in comparison with the vast significance of sound.
Sound recording is a two-edged invention, and it is most probable that its use will proceed along the line of least resistance, i. e. , along the line of satisfying simple curiosity. In the first place there will be commercial exploitation of the most salable merchandise, talking films. Those in which sound recording will proceed on a naturalistic level, exactly corresponding with the movement on the screen, and providing a certain “illusion” of talking people, of audible objects,