Reflective Response: Eisenstein’s Montage and Goodfellas
Eisenstein defines montage as a conflict between the meanings of two subsequent images that creates an entirely new meaning when viewed consecutively. For example, in his The Battleship Potemkin, Eisenstein most famously meshes the shots of Russian soldiers gunning down revolutionary rioters, and a baby in a carriage falling down the steps of a building. These two images have their own entities, but viewed one after the other, their meaning is something greater: the cost of innocence – true goodness –during wartime or conflict. In this analysis, I will apply Eisenstein’s definition of montage to the Martin Scorsese film Goodfellas, and how Scorsese’s use of montage – the conflict of images – conveys new or ironic meaning, and how this use redefines the context in which the conflicting images are viewed.
In Goodfellas, Karen Hill is occasionally a narrator – this deviation from her husband Henry’s narration is supposed to give the audience a dose of normality into the chaos that is mob life. In the beginning of the film, we do see Karen’s normality and how she is repulsed by Henry and his attitude. However, as she is more deeply immersed in Henry’s world, she is the one that is profoundly affected by her environment. Karen begins to talk about family and how everyone Henry knew was very close. This narration is accompanied by Henry and Tommy hijacking a cargo truck. In a normal situation, Karen’s narration could probably be followed by a comfy scene in which her new Italian family was sharing a meal with each other. Instead the image is one of morbidity: Tommy and Henry (and the rest of the crime family, by extension) are close because they share in their sociopathic nature (albeit varying degrees); this is expressed through their insane laughter after they rob the truck. Karen then admits that being saturated in Henry’s environment made everything normal.
This over-saturation plays into a theme that...
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