Film and video montage

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The Kuleshov effect

In the beginning of the last century, a Soviet filmmaker and educator named Lev Kuleshov showed in a famous experiment that the juxtaposition of two shots can create an implicit meaning that is not actually present within the shots individually. This meaning is created in the mind of the viewer and is known as The Kuleshov Effext.

Soviet montage

Sergei Eisenstein was a Soviet filmmaker who, along with other filmmakers of his era, extended the ideas of Kuleshov and pioneered the use of montage, which he called 'the nerve of cinema'. Film theorists often attribute several types of montage to Eisenstein.

You can easily find examples of each of these montage techniques on the World Wide Web.


Metric montage

Metric montage - where a sequence of shots are displayed, with each shot lasting exactly the same amount of time, regardless of the content of the shot. Several sequences with different paces can build up an an emotional effect, such as the building of a feeling of urgency, purpose, or expectation.

Rhythmic montage

Rhythmic montage - includes cutting based on continuity, creating visual continuity from edit to edit. Rhythmic montage seeks an editorial and compositional relationship in which movement within the shot dictates the tempo of editing. The action within the shot can either take place in a way similar to how the shot is filmed, or in a movement that is contrary to how the shot is filmed, thereby creating a feeling of tension. A classic example is how the soldiers march down the steps on the left side of each shot, while the people run away to the right in the famous Odessa steps scene in Eisenstein's Battleship Potempkin.

Tonal montage

Tonal montage - where the focus is on the emotional content of the action within the scene, rather than on any given shot's metric timing or rhythm. For example, the pairing of shots of a mother dying interspersed with shots of her baby sitting calmly in a baby carriage in Battleship Potemkin play with the raw emotions of the audience.

Overtonal / associational montage

Overtonal montage - using combinations of metric, rhythmic, and tonal montage to synthesize an even more abstract and strong overall effect on the audience. This is likened to the effect of overtones in music.

Intellectual montage

Intellectual montage - a technique where shots from the main narrative are juxtaposed next to shots of unrelated scenes rich in cultural, symbolic, and political history from outside the main narrative in order to show an associative meaning between the two. For example, in the film Apocalypse Now, the scene where the character named Klutz is being executed are mixed with shots of water buffalo being slaughtered, thereby suggesting that the solider is like an animal being driven to its own destruction. You can easily find this clip online. Another example of extreme obviousness is this excerpt of a sexually-suggestive scene from the comedy film, Naked Gun 2 and 1/2.

Vertical montage

Vertical montage - where each shot in a sequence shows the same event or action. For example, a scene of a car driving composed of a shot of a car on a highway followed by a close-up of the car, then a close up on the wheel spinning and then back again to another shot of the full car on the road.

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