Soviet Montage

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RTitle: Trace some of the relationships between film aesthetics and the social / political / economic contexts in which they are located.

Name: Winter Dong YAN
Candidate no: 109057
Module title: Issues in Film Studies: European Film Cultures Tutor: Emilia Chi-Jung Cheng
Date: 11th Dec 2012
Words count: 1749

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. 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 constructivism, 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...
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