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Soviet montage theory

An approach to understanding and creating cinema that relies heavily upon editing (montage is French for "assembly" or "editing").

Soviet montage theory is an approach to understanding and creating cinema that relies heavily upon editing (montage is French for "assembly" or "editing"). It is the principal contribution of soviet film theorists to global cinema and brought formalism to bear on filmmaking.

Although Soviet filmmakers in the 1920s disagreed about how exactly to view montage, Sergei Eisenstein marked a note of accord in "A Dialectic Approach to Film Form" when he noted that montage is "the nerve of cinema", and that "to determine the nature of montage is to solve the specific problem of cinema". Its influence is far-reaching commercially, academically, and politically. Alfred Hitchcock cites editing (and montage indirectly) as the lynchpin of worthwhile filmmaking. In fact, montage is demonstrated in the majority of narrative fiction films available today. Post-Soviet film theories relied extensively on montage's redirection of film analysis toward language, a literal grammar of film. A semiotic understanding of film, for example, is indebted to and in contrast with Sergei Eisenstein's wanton transposition of language "in ways that are altogether new." While several Soviet filmmakers, such as Lev Kuleshov, Dziga Vertov, Esfir Shub, and Vsevolod Pudovkin put forth explanations of what constitutes the montage effect, Eisenstein's view that "montage is an idea that arises from the collision of independent shots" wherein "each sequential element is perceived not next to the other, but on top of the other" has become most widely accepted.

The production of films—how and under what conditions they are made—was of crucial importance to Soviet leadership and filmmakers. Films that focused on individuals rather than masses were deemed counterrevolutionary, but not exclusively so. The collectivization of filmmaking was central to the programmatic realization of the Communist state. Kino-Eye forged a film and newsreel collective that sought the dismantling of bourgeois notions of artistry above the needs of the people. Labor, movement, the machinery of life, and every day of Soviet citizens coalesced in the content, form, and productive character of the Kino-eye repertoire.

The bulk of influence, beginning from the October 1917 Revolution until the late 1950s (oftentimes referred to as the Stalin era), brought a cinematic language to the fore and provided the groundwork for contemporary editing and documentary techniques, as well as providing a starting point for more advanced theories.

Key Terms

approach
assembly
cinema
filmmaking
formalism
global cinema
montage
principal contribution soviet film theorists
soviet filmmakers
soviet montage theory

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Soviet montage theory
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Last modified on June 8 2020
Content adapted from Wikipedia
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