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[Xmca-l] "Montage" as Unit of Analysis



Yes, that's all quite explicit in Eisenstein. He is in conflict with Vertov
over the "Unit of Analysis" in film. Vertov has written that it must not be
considered the frame, but rather the whole shot. Of course, if you are
analyzing film only in terms of motion, Vertov's right: the frame as a unit
of analysis doesn't contain the essential property of movement which the
analysis must explain, while the "shot" does, or at least apears to.

But Eisenstein is very unhappy with this analysis because for Eisenstein
film is only epiphenomenally about motion. For Eisenstein, it would be
truer to say that the film is about emotion--the logic of a film, according
to him, is the logic of feeling that we see in small children, where topics
are linked by subjectivity or by a very simple, prelinguistic objectivity.

So you can see why Eisenstein insists on the montage. You put together two
images, but you don't read them as temporally or sequentially related:
instead you see one as a projection of the other onto the plane of feeling.
So for example in October, you have the Mensheviks addressing the Duma, and
then an image of balaika playing; the idea is that the Mensheviks are
simply humming and strumming and not saying anything.

Eisenstein says that one of the sources for this idea of montage is the
Chinese character, where he correctly says that one component is usually
semantic and the other more phonetic in value. But he also says that silent
films, where you have a speaker AND THEN projection of the speakers deeds,
feelings, thoughts or words onto another shot, is another example of
montage.

Interestingly, Eisenstein initially opposes "lip synching"--that is, having
the sound track match the images (though he later changes his mind). He
wants to use the sound track as an additional channel of images instead
(e.g. a shot of Mensheviks addressing the Duma and the sounds of donkeys
braying in the background). The argument was that with simultaneous sound
tracking you get an experience that is not cinematic but theatrical.

(On the other side of the street, in the theatre, Brecht was introducing
Eisenstein one-word subtitles into theatre!)

David Kellogg
Macquarie University
.

 In the early thirties, the USSR sent him abroad to learn about making
sound films.