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