Soviet Montage Theory

Soviet Montage Theory was invented in the 1920s by Soviet filmmakers, and since then it has become one of the most recognizable techniques commonly used all over the world. It had a great impact on the way of creating movies in the early years of cinema development. Soviet Montage was a new language in filmmaking as it refused the standards of continuity system, trying to express ideas by combining and contrasting the images and breaking time and space unity (Berrance, 2014, para. 1-2).

The history of the Soviet Montage begins after the Russian Revolution and the rise of Bolsheviks in the USSR. Soviet filmmakers were looking for a new language in cinema, which could also be used as a propaganda tool to spread the revolutionary ideas among the working class. “Filmmakers like Sergei Eisenstein and Dziga Vertov thought the continuity system was ‘bourgeois’ because it faked reality. They believed in Marxist ‘dialectic’ which was about the conflict between ideas. Eisenstein wanted to use cinema to stir emotions and inspire the audience to get behind the revolution” (Berrance, para. 4-5). Eisenstein claimed that everything captured by the camera is just a raw material which needs to be edited in order to become a film (Renée, 2014, para.1).

Soviet Montage Theory was inspired by the Kuleshov Effect. Lev Kuleshov was one of the early film theorists who made a very important discovery and brought a new perception of cinema. He discovered that the way audience responds to the images shown in the movie directly depends on the shots that go before and after, and placing them in a different order can change how people perceive the ideas (Berrance, 2014, para. 3).

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Kuleshov’s experiment

One of Kuleshov’s students, Sergei Eisenstein continued to develop his ideas. He approached to films in an intellectual way, and that’s how the Montage Theory was born. Eisenstein claimed that confines of time and space can be broken in order to effectively communicate the ideas. He created an innovative language that he used in his films including Battleship Potemkin (1925), making a great step in cinema development. Eisenstein used montage to evoke the emotional response from the audience, and he succeeded in it. Eisenstein approached to showing ideas dialectically, creating a conflict between two shots going after one another. The associations triggered by this conflict create a new synthesis idea in viewers’ minds. Eisenstein was mostly interested in intellectual, or ideological, montage, and contributed a lot to its development (FilmmakerIQ.com, 2014).

There is a lot more to study to understand the whole concept of the Soviet Montage. Dziga Vertov was another filmmaker who took part in the development of this theory, making the editing visible and even obvious to the viewer. Soviet Montage affected the way films are being made, and it is still used in modern movies. Soviet filmmakers contributed a lot to understanding the psychology of the film and made numerous extraordinary discoveries in this sphere.

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Battleship Potemkin (Sergei Eisenstein, USSR, 1925). Poster by the Stenberg brothers, 2012


References

Barrance, T. (2014, February 14). Soviet montage: how the Russian Revolution changed film. Retrieved October 21, 2017, from http://learnaboutfilm.com/soviet-montage/

Battleship Potemkin (Sergei Eisenstein, USSR, 1925). Poster by the Stenberg brothers [Online image]. (2012, October 26). Retrieved October, 21, 2017, from https://mubi.com/notebook/posts/movie-poster-of-the-week-battleship-potemkin-and-the-stenberg-brothers-at-auction

FilmmakerIQ.com. (2014). The History of Cutting – The Soviet Theory of Montage [Video file]. Retrieved October, 21, 2017, from https://vimeo.com/86462452

Kuleshov effect [Online image]. (2015, August 31). Retrieved October 31, 2017 from http://www.curatormagazine.com/michaeltoscano/kuleshovs-effect-the-man-behind-soviet-montage/

Renée, V. (2014, October 28). Video: The History of Editing, Eisenstein, & the Soviet Montage. Retrieved October 21, 2017, from http://nofilmschool.com/2014/02/video-the-history-of-editing-eisenstein-the-soviet-montage-explained

 

Conflict in Scriptwriting

A key to writing a successful story in general and particularly a screenplay is a great conflict which is the driving force of all the events taking place. First, let’s define this term in order to understand its importance. In storytelling, conflict “is the central struggle between characters or competing forces, such as man against nature, society, or himself” (Tucker, n.d., para. 1). In fact, a conflict can be represented in various forms, but it keeps being a vital part of a story. A protagonist tries to achieve his or her ultimate goal while different forces create obstacles to prevent the character from succeeding in it. By overcoming these obstacles this character develops —— in screenwriting, it is called character arc (Kram, 2016, para. 1-3).

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Conflict between Luke Skywalker and Darth Vader in Star Wars 

There are two main types of conflicts: internal and external ones. However, both of them can be present in one story. According to Michael Rabiger (n.d, para. 1), these are the combinations of forces that are commonly in storytelling:

  • Person vs. person, which is an external conflict.
  • Person vs. environmental or social institution, which is also an external conflict.
  • Person vs. a task he or she is supposed to complete, which includes both internal and external conflict.
  • Person vs. him- or herself (if the character suffers from a severe inner struggle), which is an internal conflict.

In fact, most of the films include internal and external conflicts at the same time. For example, such movies as The Silence of the Lambs, Whiplash, Moby Dick or Star Wars (Kram, 2016, para. 11-17).

In many films, conflict is expressed through the battle between what is right and what is wrong. “Stories devised on mythic, heroic or moralistic models usually frame conflict with the clear dichotomy of good versus evil” (Rabiger, n.d., para. 2). However, more realistic scenarios require creating three-dimensional characters with complex psychological motivation. When it comes to real life, it is usually difficult to define the right and the wrong ones. The same thing happens in realistic stories and screenplays, thus conflicts become more complicated (Rabiger, n.d., para. 3).

Why conflict is essential in storytelling? First, it drives the plot forward, provoking the protagonist to take action and overcome all the obstacles he or she faces on the way to achieving the goal (Tucker, n.d., para.3). Character needs motivation, otherwise the story just doesn’t make sense. Another important point is that conflict contributes to creating suspense and engaging the audience, allowing it to deeply immerse in the story. Finally, conflict drives the story towards resolution, which is expected by the audience from the beginning. Resolution is the final part of the transformation of the protagonist, and without conflict it would be impossible (Tuccillo, 2013, para. 7).

Conflict-vs-Resolution

Even though Conflict takes a bigger amount of screentime, its importance is equal to Resolution. Driving the story towards Resolution is one of the purposes of Conflict.

It is crucial to realize the importance of a conflict in scriptwriting as it is one of the key elements that can bring a story to success. Without conflict there is no drama, and vice versa.


References

Conflict vs Resolution [Online image]. (2013, June 24). Retrieved October 31, 2017 from http://nofilmschool.com/2013/06/conflict-resolution-put-characters-through-hell

Kram, W. (2017, August 02). Screenplay Writing: Conflicts & Obstacles. Retrieved October 17, 2017, from http://www.scriptmag.com/features/wendys-la4hire-great-screenplay-writing-conflicts-obstacles

Rabiger, M. (n.d.). Defining Conflict. Retrieved October 17, 2017, from http://www.masteringfilm.com/defining-conflict/

Tuccillo, D. (2013, July 24). Conflict vs. Resolution: The Importance of Putting Your Characters Through Hell in Your Screenplay. Retrieved October 17, 2017, from http://nofilmschool.com/2013/06/conflict-resolution-put-characters-through-hell

Tucker, K. (n.d.). Definition of Conflict in Literature. Retrieved October 17, 2017, from http://penandthepad.com/definition-conflict-literature-6503127.html

Star Wars [Online Image]. (2014, March 19). Retrieved October 17, 2017, from https://www.digitaltrends.com/movies/star-wars-episode-vii-set-30-years-return-jedi-filming-begin-may/

Documentary: What Is It?

The traditional perception of documentary film is quite common: it is a serious film that showcases real life as it is. However, this term does not have a clear definition, and it can hardly be limited by any confines due to a certain amount of differences between documentaries. Undoubtedly, documentary film cannot exactly represent the real life without manipulating it for a simple reason: they are made by people who have their own vision of the story they are telling. Filmmakers keep arguing about how to achieve truthfulness, which is supposed to be one of the key elements of a documentary, continuing to redefine this term (Aufderheide, 2007, p. 2). Bill Nichols defines documentary as a “representation of the world we already occupy”, pointing out that this includes an inevitable expressive factor hidden in every film. As long as documentaries are created by humans, they show the whole story from a particular point of view of a storyteller (2010, p. 13).

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Although the term “documentary” is broad, all the films related to it share some characteristics. “Characteristics documentaries have in common that are distinct from other film types (especially from the fiction films) can be thought of in terms of: (1) subjects; (2) purposes, viewpoints, or approaches; (3) forms; (4) production methods and techniques; and (5) the sort of experience the offer audiences” (Ellis & McLane, 2005, p.1). The subject of a documentary film is usually an actual up-to-date issue which concerns mostly concerns a public matter. Purposes and approaches are varied as they are individual depending on what the filmmaker wants to say about the chosen subject. However, the final goal is usually to inform and persuade people by interpreting actuality in the film (Ellis & McLane, 2005, p. 2). Although form is also variable, it is operated by such tools as sound, images, special effects, and pacing. By deciding upon how they can be used a filmmaker structures the story according to the meaning he puts in it (Aufderheide, 2007, p. 11). Production methods and techniques refer to the way of the shooting process, and the basic requirements are to use not actors but real people and shoot on real locations. Audience response usually depends on two aspects: visual experience and impact on viewers’ attitudes (Ellis & McLane, 2005, p. 3).

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Documentary filmmaking plays an important role in the modern society as it shapes public understanding of the world and our place in it. Patricia Aufderheide writes: “Documentary is an important reality-shaping communication, because of its claims to truth” (2007, p. 5). These films are telling the stories about something worth knowing and thinking about, and the art of making documentaries has a significant value in the contemporary culture. Their purpose is not only to entertain the audience but to give it a deeper understanding of an actual public issue, which is important for us as for the members of the society.


References

Aufderheide, P. (2007). Documentary Film: A Very Short Introduction. Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Ellis, J. C., & McLane, B. A. (2005). A New History of Documentary Film. London: A&C Black.

How To Deal With Ethical Challenges In Documentary Filmmaking [Online image]. (2014, September 23). Retrieved October 16, 2017 from https://www.nyfa.edu/student-resources/documentary-filmmaking-how-to-deal-ethical-challenges/

Nichols, B. (2010). Introduction to Documentary (2nd ed.). Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Suitedumonde-blogheader [Online image]. (2014, August 4). Retrieved October 31, 2017 from http://blog.nfb.ca/blog/2014/08/04/types-of-documentary-films/