The Soviet filmmakers who emerged in the aftermath of the 1917 October revolution in Russia were part of an artistic avantgarde committed to innovation and experimentation and the creation of new artistic practices. Directors Sergei Eisenstein and V. I. Podovkin were part of the formalist tradition in film history. These Russian directors believed that editing was the foundation of film art and they set out to shatter the illusionistic storytelling and seamless continuity cultivated by Classical Hollywood. The pattern of editing established by Hollywood pioneer D.W. Griffith (1915) in his films The Birth of A Nation (1915) and Intolerance (1919) taught these filmmakers how different shots sizes and camera angles could be combined together in the editing suite with powerful narrative force. The Soviet filmmakers wished to harness the power of cinema as a tool of education and propaganda and they therefore wished to go much further than simply entertaining audiences with spectacle and historical romance.
The medium of film could be used to shock, excite and disturb a cinema audience. In the three films he made in the 1920s about the revolutionary struggle of the Russian masses – Strike, Battlleship Potemkin and October Eisenstein pushed the boundaries of this new medium with his radical approach to film editing (known as montage). In the Odessa Steps sequence of Battlleship Potemkin (1925), the director created one of the most influential sequences in cinema history. Battlleship Potemkin and Eisenstein’s theory of montage has inspired directors such as Alfred Hitchcock (Psycho) Stephen Spielberg (Schindler’s List), Martin Scorsese (Raging Bull) and Brian De Palma (The Untouchables).
As Marilyn Fabe explains: “Eisenstein held that proper film continuity should not proceed smoothly, but through a series of shocks. Whenever possible, he tried to create some kind of visual conflict or discontinuity between two...