Soviet Cinema

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Soviet Cinema and the Art of Montage
Paul Karpenko
CINE 261

A certain kind of inspiration must be born of a time in which one's country is heading into a brave new world. Nothing should ever be as it was and the future is as expansive as all of Russia itself. In the time of revolution - the late teens and early twenties - Soviet cinema established itself as a unique entity in the mass of national cinemas. Its innovation was stepping away from common narrative structure and adapting what has come to be called "Soviet Montage". This new theory of editing was invented by Sergei Eisenstein and then adopted by a slew of other Russian filmmakers. Eisenstein, however, was the one who realized its potential and first put it to work to make the people in the audience think whatever he wanted them to think.

Educated as an engineer, Eisenstein enlisted in the Red Army at 19. After building bridges and digging trenches, he got into designing propaganda posters and it was the idealism of propaganda that would serve as the focal point of Eisenstein’s montage work. Lenin himself stated “The cinema is for us the most important of the arts.” Only cinema requires no education to consume and can be easily deigned to subvert. And subversion (though not for unpopular causes) was the aim of Soviet montage. Eisenstein developed the system of a Thesis, met with an Anti-Thesis, producing a Synthesis. This operation of montage was established according to the Marxist dialectic: “Human history and experience [is a] perpetual conflict in which a force (thesis) collides with a counterforce (anti-thesis) to produce from their collision a wholly new phenomenon (synthesis) which is not the sum of the two forces but something greater than and different from them both.”[1]

The idea of juxtaposing one shot with another came to Eisenstein from the Japanese language in which a word followed by another often means something completely different from either of the two words...
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