Thursday, 12 November 2009

Eisenstein's October Intellectual Montage

Октябрь [October], 1928, Eisenstein

This extract of the 1928 Soviet film by Russian film director, Eisenstein is an example of what he later goes to refer to as "intellectual montage". October was one of a series of films that portrayed the Soviet Revolutions that lead to Communist power.

-"the essence of cinema", quoted by Eisenstein in 'Montage of Cine-Attractions'. 1925
-and idea in motion

"From the process of production, a technical term has passed into linguistic currency, designating a mechanical assembly, a set of water conduits, or machine tools. The beautiful word of such constructions is 'montage'."
('How I became a Director', 1945 - FW 3, p. 243)

"What we need is science, not art. The word creation is useless. It should be replaced by labour. One does not create a work, one constructs it with finished parts, like a machine. Montage is a beautiful word: it describes the process of constructing with prepared fragments."
(Notebooks from 1919, cited by Shklovsky)

In effect, montage is the assembling together in a meaningful and intentional order of individual parts which already have a name, and meaning and purpose. The outcome is something new that only means something due to the relationship between the separate parts.
Eisenstein never defines what is meant with "fragment" but continually uses it as a notion defined by its context, its associations, causes or effects - like words or phrases with multiple meanings.

Intellectual Montage:
An idea is not represented with an image, but rather, through the relationship of two or more images, or even fragments - presumably coming from disperse sources.

These fragments are already charged with meaning and symbolism which he puts together to form a new meaning. Eisentein was interested in the symbolism of the images, but his films were not meant to be looked as just metaphors put together - as Metz observes there is a level of dramatic action.

Balazs, a critic of Eisenstein saw this intellectual montage as a form of "cine-language" or "film-writing", whereby the film becomes ideograms or essays in hieroglyphs. Balazs saw this as pointless, you might as well read it in writing and understand it better.

Intellectial montage may be best understood with a scene from Strike, another film in the same series as October.

....this is what i've taken so far from 'Montage Eisenstein' by Jaques Aumont. Correct me if i'm wrong. Eisenstein was a film maker and presumed theoriser, but his contradictions and lack of systematic methodology made it hard for him to get his ideas understood. Only one time did he explicitly depict montage as a method according to Aumont.

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