Thursday, 8 March 2012

Unique Characteristics of Soviet Montage

Unlike Montage where by a combination series of short shots are edited into a sequence to condense space, time, and information, Soviet Montage on the other hand is a style of filmmaking that is evolved to immerse the audience in a story and disguise technique was turned upside down in order to create the opposite emotional effect to bring the audience to the edge of their seat, and in the case of the Odessa Steps sequence, to push the viewer towards a feeling of vertigo. In a simpler form, Soviet Montage combination series of short shots are edited into a sequence to create symbolic meaning.

One main characteristic of Soviet Montage films is the downplaying of individual characters in the centre of attention whereby single characters are shown as members of different social classes and are representing a general type or class imitating Marxist Concept which believe more on society rather than individual .For Instance, in Eisenstein's Strike there is only one character named individually in the entire film. This proves the theory portraying collectivism rather individualism to propagate how united are the people against whatever political climate in Russia.

The central aspect of Soviet Montage style was the area of editing. Cuts should stimulate the spectator. In opposition to continuity editing Montage cutting often created either overlapping or elliptical temporal relations. Elliptical cutting creates the opposite effect. A part of an action is left out, so the event takes less time than it would in reality. Elliptical editing was often used in the form of the jump cut. For instance, in Strike, Eisenstein cuts from a police officer to a butcher who kills an animal in the form of a jump cut. This is to indicate the butcher not being part of the story but should be able to create or make the viewer think about the relation and come to a conclusion as if the workers were slaughtered like animals in reality.

5 Methods of Montage:
1.      Metric Montage – The editing work is done according to a specific number of frames, follows by cutting to the subsequent shot regardless of the event within the image. This is done to draw out the fundamental response of the audience.

2.      Rhythmic Montage – this is done through cutting based on continuity, producing visual continuity from edit to edit. A very fine example of Rhythmic montage is from II Buono, il Brutto, il Cattivo where the protagonist and the two other antagonists face each other in a three-way duel.

3.      Tonal Montage – This uses the emotional meaning of the shots, to emphasize a response from the audience in a more complicated manner than Metric or Rhythmic Montage. For instance, a sleeping baby would express his or her calmness and relaxation. The prime example for this montage method from Eisenstein’s The Battleship Potemkin, where audience can witness the death of a revolutionary sailor Vakulinchuk.

4.      Overtonal Montage – it is a collection of Metric, Rhythmic and Tonal Montage to create its effect on the audience for a more complex effect. It is best shown in a film called Pudovkin’s Mother, where the men are seen as workers walking towards a protestation at their own factory and later in movie, the protagonist uses ice to escape.

5.      Intellectual Montage – it is used as a bridge to connect and create meaning completely outside the depiction, unlike continuity editing, where images are created in a smooth space or time. In general, ‘intellectual montage’ is when the image is not represented by a particular idea. Basically, it uses shots which, combined, emphasize an intellectual meaning. The effect is shown through conflict such as juxtapose shots that have no direct relationship. The best example for Intellectual Montage is from a film called Strike. 

In this film, cut of shots include striking workers being assaulted and a bull being butchered. This is done as metaphor to show how workers are being treated like cattle. The butcher is here a nondiegetic element. Anything that is part of the film story world is diegetic. A nondiegetic element exists outside the story world. There is no connection between the slaughters of the animal. The use of such nondiegetic shots was a total direct portrayal of Eisenstein's theory on intellectual montage creating effects through conflict such as the juxtaposing of shots that have no direct connection as all.

It is also shown in a film called The Godfather, where killing scene was shown during the baptism of Michael’s nephew. The whole scene was to show the murder “baptize” Michael into a life of crime. Another example is from a film called Apocalypse Now, juxtaposing shot was used in the execution of Colonel Kurtz. 

Another example of contemporary films adopting intellectual montage would be  In     Boogie Nights, Dirk Diggler announces at the conclusion of filming a pornographic scene that he can "do it again". There is then a quick cut to a champagne bottle uncorking at a post-shoot party. This particular scene represents both ejaculation and Dirk's celebratory initiation into the world of porn.

In a nutshell, Souviet Montage involves editing as a much more pronounced feature than in German Expressionism. It explores the ways in which each shot gained intensified meaning from its relationship to the shots deliberately placed before and after it. For Eisenstein it is in the tension (or conflict) between shots that meaning is created. Montage cinema demands that audiences continuously search for the meanings created by the juxtaposition of two shots and can be seen as alternative to the dominant continuity editing style of Hollywood cinema. Putting shots A and B together does not result in AB but in the emergence of X or Y – something new and larger than AB. This moved the theory of montage on from Kuleshov and Pudovkin who believed shots are like bricks in the way they construct a scene. Kuleshov and Pudovkin aimed at linkage rather than conflict


  1. Bravo, I have gain a lot of information about Soviet Montage through your article. But do you have any clear example for the 5 methods of montage? thx

  2. I like the way that you explain your examples by providing the video. It makes me more easier to understand about the examples. But, can you explain me the main characteristics of Soviet Montage?

  3. Discussion of the characteristics of the style is well executed. You have attempted to make a good discussion of the characteristics of soviet montage and provided some analysis. Do take note of your language.

  4. I love the way you highlight about the Soviet Montage methods. Visual aids is there, example is there, and you have focus on your article. Good Job! :)

  5. You did a good film analysis on soviet montage. You may elaborate more on the example of the 5 methods of montage such as provide the scene shot or video of each method from the examples you mentioned. This could help the readers to get a clearer picture on the 5 methods of montage. Thanks.

  6. I very clear about the Intellectual Montage, but the other four type of soviet montage, I still not clear about it. Can you give me more explanation like explain the Intellectual Montage or you can explain by show the picture to us. Yes, you do well explain in the intellectual montage, but since this is post is about the characteristic, can explain more detail on characteristic rather than just focus on the one type of soviet montage.

  7. Hi there.this is from

    it is a great effort to have a few contemporary films in explaining more about soviet montage. Good job.

  8. The editing part is the most distinctive characteristic, however, I have a doubt about their camerawork. How does the camerawork enhance the narrative? As the research I've done, compare to other film movements, Soviet really do have awkwardness in their framing. For example, thebdecentered framings and utilise dramatic angles. =)

    1. the decentered framings
      # typo error, sorry.