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Soviet Montage

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Everett’s statement ‘European cinema is not a monolith, but a series of expressions of different ways of questioning and portraying itself and the world’ (Everett, 5) demonstrates that the whole European cinema can hardly be defined since not only the gap between Central Europe and Western Europe but also the notable national identities create various form of aesthetic elements in cinema movement which reflects political, cultural and social circumstance of each nation.

Thus, European cinema can be regarded as national cinema representing state heritage as well as embodying the national historical moment.

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Forbes and Street state that the European cinema engages itself in the national issue with a range of expressions from reworking on typically Hollywood genres to repossessing the national history (Forbes & Street, 2000, p40). It is essential to lay stress on the national question since this is a vital component to both the content and the structure of the film.

Both the movement of Soviet montage and French New wave can be considered to be reaction to which involved young artists that were intricately connected to society.

With reference to two films, which are The Battleship Potemkin (Sergei Eisenstein, Russia, 1925) and Breathless (Jean Luc Goddard, France, 1960), this essay will attempt to examine how social and political upheaval which Soviet Union was enduring result in its aesthetic approaches, and technical aspects of Soviet Montage cinema and how the social and economic turbulence related to the innovative characteristics of French New Wave.

The Bolsheviks realized that force alone could not lead to the victory of revolution. The notice of the agitational impact of cinema highlights the relationship between art and politics during the early years of the Soviet regime. Artists closely linked to onstructivism, those who viewed the artistic production share similar pattern to a machine-put piece together to complete the form, most artists inherited the concept that art irrevocably performed a social function with a rational even technical pattern hailed the 1917 Revolution and actively supported its process. Though struggling under extraordinary hardship in the circumstance of famine, severe weather and brutality during the Civil War period of 1918-1921, the government still nationalized the film industries for propagandistic purpose.

According to Thompson and Bordwell, in the years following the October Revolution the state realized that cinema could be an effective tactic to agitation of the masses and for political propaganda since motion images can be an operative substitute for written form of depicting an impression of nation with the hope of reaching economic egalitarianism while the majority of the population was illiterate (Thompson & Bordwell, 2003, p. 120).

In 1928 Eisenstein wrote: ‘The first basic function of our films is to interpret the theses and decrees, to reveal them and make them infectious through a visual demonstration of their significance in the general cause of socialist construction’ (Eisenstein, in Taylor and Christie, 218). Taylor and Christie’s statement on Eisenstein’s perception that the key to fulfill a social and political function relies elaborately on the basis of ‘Kuleshov effect’, which indicates that the response of audience depended more on the editing style.

For instance, the juxtaposition of conflicting shots which appears to not spatially correspond to each other, however, by editing them together, the spectator could reach a new comprehension over created by the collaboration of two shots. In comparison to the classical Hollywood continuity editing which guides the audience through a series of sequence and trace the storyline in a logical way, montage tends to involve more audience participation into the film through the composition of a series of individual shots to evoke the emotional reaction as well as engage the audience in an active way to interpret the content of film.

The Battleship Potemkin which was produced at the time Soviet Union was pioneering a new form of social and economic order: socialism, can be an instance to illustrate the through both editing style and storyline. The narrative structure of The Battleship Potemkin appears to be within the traditional style. Being divided into five parts, it is arguably less expressive but as well emerged to be not too ntellectual for the illiterate masses as the montage editing appeared to be. Forbes and Street not that since filmmakers wanted to support socialism they represented history in an aggrandized way instead of to present the historical accuracy in order to consolidate and glorify the new political and social system (Forbes and Street, 2000, p. 55).

Considering the historical truth that the Soviet Union was devastated during the Civil War may lead to a negative influence on the citizens and arouse the challenge towards the new policies and socialist ideology, Eisenstein lays more emphasis on the influence of the spirit of Revolution which may stimulate the state population and build up an inspiring and positive image of the government, by deliberately depicting the myth of a successful 1905 Revolution while the truth could be argued as failure, thus manipulating the historical event to correspond with Communist preference.

The munity of sailors in history actually ended in failure and in reality the ship sank, but the film portrays it as a victorious and inspirational event, effectively re-writing history to fit in with the propagandistic purpose of the production. This can be considered to be as an expressive and comparatively efficient way of storytelling; The way that the film changes history emphasises the potential ability of a unified working class to achieve anything.

Additionally, in the contrast of Hollywood’s preference to focus on individual character, the Soviet cinema in Lenin’s time rejected to apply protagonist acting in isolation since it represents the social norms and the capitalism association to star system which is the antithesis of the policies of new Marxist regime. Soviet cinema at that time concentrates on the power and potential of a collective group and their intentions. It appears that Soviet montage filmmakers applied ‘typage’, which refers to non-professional actors who are chosen on basis of ‘type’.

As in Battleship Potemkin, the main character is presented as a group of sailors, who are dressed in identical uniforms. The absence of an individual protagonist and concentration on the collective Russian sailors who represent the working class allows the film to highlight the idea of class solidarity and unified action as well as to promote the Marxist ideology metaphorically. While Soviet montage cinema focus more on collective group of audience and applied innovative aesthetic editing which tended to have persuasive purpose that to engage the population in the olicies of new Soviet Regime, French New Wave, which also involved group filmmakers and intended to break the conventional elements of film to reach the consciousness of the spectator. Raymond Durgnat suggests that French New Wave is an ‘artistic movement’, is not a ‘substance’ around a definable ‘essence’, but a response to pressures and influences converging from many different ‘layers’ of reality-social, political, economic, ideological, artistic and personal (Durgnat, 1963).

It can be noted that the Post World War which could be regarded as the origins of the movement influenced on the auteurs thus determining the characteristic related to the mise en scene, editing style, narrative structure and the improvise of acting. Within the austere situation that being an occupied country during the Post World War, part of the French population collaborated with the Nazis while the others resisted the invasion and occupancy, directly leading to the internal intension within the nation and left frustrated memories to the citizens.

This created the evolvement of Existentialism, which is philosophy indicating philosophical thinking must be the experiences of the individual. Existentialism emphasizes on the individual, the experience of free choice, the absence of any rational comprehension of the universe and a sense of the absurdity in human life. The characters in French new wave films are often marginalized young man who behaves spontaneously. In the film Breathless, Michel, who appears to be an eccentric man can be a protagonist whom an existentialist seeks for to show the struggle that individuals go through in coexistence.

The financial restrictions which resulted from the Post War created distinctive characteristics attributed to the French New Wave cinema. After the occupation, a variety of pressures and influences converged to ravage a fragile institution. Perhaps the greatest of these threats came from within the industry itself. For years, films had been shot at the great studios surrounding Paris, and at the Liberation there were still fifteen studios in operation. Shooting in studios required enormous and elaborate sets, crowds of extra, complicated technologies of lighting and sufficient expertise in management to coordinate this vast division of labor.

After the film industry in France became financially delicate after the war, with the lack of intervention the government, New Wave filmmakers sought low-budget alternatives to the usual production methods. With shooting in natural location such as the beautiful Parisian landscapes and constantly jump cuts which is relatively dynamic, fulfilling the aim that provided the audience with a sense of being in the scene. The way the films were made reflected an interest in questioning cinema which were made to compete with Hollywood with entertaining appeal and intended to turn the audience away from the everyday reality.

The French New Wave directors strove to present an alternative to Hollywood, by consciously breaking its conventions, while at the same time paying homage to what they regarded as valuable in Hollywood cinema. In conclusion, the relatively different social and political context results in the general cinematic terms between two movements. The thematic terms in which different ways directors approach the working class were also distinctive generated from historical background.

Despite that both Soviet Montage and French New Wave filmmakers tried creative and original technique Russia Communists launched revolution against their royal opponents and pursued an egalitarian society thus Soviet Montage adopted typage in the film, presenting the whole social class as a collective protagonist and French New Wave filmmakers focus on individual and pursue tended to function as propaganda and promote the Bolshevik government by controlling the rhythm and affecting the viewer through method of montage.

It is essential to stress that the film aesthetics can be in service of emotionally engaging the audience, thus evoking their consideration about what the filmmakers intend to place. National background referring to historical event and political ferment are all potential themes for the film and with the deliberate aesthetic form, there is more likelihood for the director to reach his expectation of what the film should achieve.

Cite this Soviet Montage

Soviet Montage. (2016, Oct 22). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/soviet-montage/

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