Tuesday, 18 November 2008


Montage (from the French for "putting together") most often refers to collage including photomontage and sound collage. It is a technique in film editing that can refer to a montage sequence, a segment which uses rapid editing, special effects and music to present compressed narrative information.

Battleship Potempkin (1925) directed by Sergei Eisenstein.
One of the most famous uses of Montage in film history.

  • Re-watch up to 0:45. What atmosphere do the contrasting shots create? How does Eisenstein create a sense of foreboding alongside the overriding atmosphere?

In the beginning for the first 45 seconds Eisenstein demonstrated a series of shots showing the civilians welcoming back sailors. Although there is an obvious portrayal of excitement and happiness, even relief that overrides among the crowd, the audience develops a sense of uncertainty alongside.
This is created through Eisenstein’s theories of “montage”. Students of the Kuleshov School of filmmaking were experimenting with the effect of film editing on audiences, this was Eisenstein’s attempt to edit the film in such a way that when the edits were played back together it would convey a emotion of sympathy on the viewers. He was aiming to produce a film to get the greatest emotional response.

  • Watch the rest of the clip again. How dose Eisenstein create a contrast between the soldiers and the people? How and why dose our view of the people's feelings change?

Eisenstein creates a contrast between the soldiers and the people by cutting back and fourth from the scenes. For example it will cut from the soldiers marching with their guns down the steps to the panicked civilians running away in fear. Or it will cut from the soldiers in aiming positions and firing shots to the civilian that has just been wounded but the bullet as they fall to the floor dying. We now see the soldiers as ruthless monsters as we have just seen they shot a innocent mother and her wounded child. Our feelings for the people change to sorrow and unhappiness because Eisenstein cleverly contrasts the separate shots together to make us feel distressed and shocked.

  • Choose a minute in the film which you found particularly effective. Analyze shot by shot the contrasts and effects of the editing in your sequence. Prepare a 3 minute presentation detailing your analysis.

I found the Odessa Steps sequence the most effective scene in the film. In the minuet it shows the massacre of the civilians on the Odessa Steps. It shows the Tsar’s Cossacks marching down the seemingly endless flight of steps in sync to each other in a robotic like manner as they open fire at the stampeding crowd. Here Eisenstein successfully portrays the soldiers as cold-hearted murderers as they kill a mother and her young boy, and a mother who is pushing a baby in a pram. She is shot in the stomach and falls to the floor accidentally pushing the pram with the baby inside down into the crowd of fleeing people. The massacre on the steps includes the most dramatic effect and shot angles. My favorite shot was the boots of the Tsarist soldiers shown marching down the Odessa Steps. I also like the angle where both the mother and the injured young boy and the soldiers are included. The shadows of the soldiers dominate over the mother and her child appearing as the soldiers are bigger and have more power.

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