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Soviet Concept Of Film Essay, Research Paper

In Notes of a Film Director by Sergei Eisenstein, the author states that the Soviet Union and other progressive peoples sought international cooperation and that cinema should belong to everyone. He said that cinema should be used for the achievement of universal peace, solidarity and unity. In his utopian view, Soviet cinema was to champion the highest ideals, “… ascending in spite and in defiance of all those who would drag all the nations of the world back into the chaos of strife and enslavement.” His idea was to “move from the I to the they to the Soviet revolutionary we.” To achieve this end, Eisenstein advanced the development of cinema into a unique art form. “Eisenstein formulated a completely modernist theory of editing based on the psychology of perception and the Marxist historical dialectic, which made it possible for the cinema to communicate on its own terms for the first time, without borrowing either matter or form from other media.” He learned from Meyerhold “the possibility of mixing rigorous systemization and spontaneous improvements.”

Eisenstein said that “units of impression combined into one whole” could be used to introduce “a new level of tension” that would produce “emotional saturation” with “a total emotional effect different from the sum of its parts.” He also said that “montage (a technique for producing meaning) is a necessary part of every work of cinema art.” He used a variety of techniques in the composition of Battleship Potemkin. One example is the use of “double repetition” in parts II and V where the sailors shout, “Brothers!” when about to be fired upon. By changing the way in which the events are viewed he changed the mood and the rhythm yet preserved the unity of the events. Eisenstein continued with the revolutionary idea by using “caesura” which is a dead stop and reversal of the film’ s action. He suddenly shifted the scene from the ship’s mutiny to the Odessa steps. By using “strong explosive actions and constant qualitative changes,” Eisenstein was able to arouse emotion in the audience. He purposefully tried to change the social outlook. He employed chaotic movement, rhythm, close-ups of human figures and increase of tempo, sudden directional shifts, to tell the story “through images.” The montage synthesized the theme through juxtaposition of two montage pieces. Through these editing techniques he wanted to leave a lasting vivid impression of the Soviet revolution and thereby to create unity with people all over the world.

One of the most important contributions to film theory was Eisenstein’s dialectical montage. This is a collision of a force (thesis) with a counter force (antithesis) to produce something entirely new (synthesis). It is used in throughout the Battleship Potemkin story. (See Figure 1) He also used other types of montage including metric-tempo of cutting, rhythmic-movement within the frame, tonal-quality of light, overtonal-emotional and/or psychological, intellectual (dialectical)-psychological and emotional experience. In order to convert viewers to the Soviet system, he used the montage process to draw out time suggesting a greater magnitude. He also employed “typage” in which actors represented types rather than individuals. Eisenstein defined montage as a series of impressions that arise from the collision of independent shots (ABC=x). The result of combining the series is greater and different from the combined shots.

The entire process of the composition revised the scenes and developed the dramatic structures through shooting on location. Eisenstein’s use of these elements is a result of his interest in “synecdoche” (a part represents the whole or vice versa). The Odessa steps massacre scene was a representation of all the tsarist atrocities in 1905. Also, Eisenstein stated that the mutiny represents “the character and spirit of the time (in) an attempt to grasp its dynamics, rhythm.” In Battleship Potemkin, massacre is followed by advancement of the revolutionary cause. There are at least four formal factors that contribute to pathos and to tendentiousness. 1) The location is limited except for cross cutting between the Odessa steps and the sailors on the ship. This heightened the dramatic impact. 2) Historical events in 1905 are condensed into three days of drama. The structure of the narrative develops a rising revolutionary consciousness and action. 3) There are camera movements within a boundary and a long shot frame of the deck in which the sailors’ revolt occurs. This is where montage returns. 4) Abrupt cuts are used to develop a style of conflict and tension, and to preserve clarity. Consistent use of the cut in the montage sequences emphasizes the properties of orientation and juxtaposition between shots. Fades are reserved to make the conclusions of each part and the transition to the next. Eisenstein admits to pacing sequences to build melodrama. “The action is slowed down and tension is ’screwed tighter’.” He also uses a montage of insertions such as the undercut shots during the firing squad scene in which the sailors refused to fire and mutinied instead. Eisenstein defines this montage as “The new psychologism, the apogee of the psycho-effect elicited from the object.” Eisenstein used “peripeteia” as a plot device in which he reverses the mood and motion of the film. Peripeteia is a device of sudden reversal in circumstance, an emotional key perfected in Battleship Potemkin.

Manipulation of spatial relations was also used in Battleship Potemkin to heighten pathos, as for example, the use of film to create pathos in the audience through montage, as when an officer slashes a woman across her face putting her eye out. The juxtaposition of montage shots causes the audience to feel shock during Battleship Potemkin. Brutality is used to cause shifts in the emotions of the audience. The use of close-up for the shock effect was just as important as montage to the film construction. The close-up of rotten maggoty meat symbolized the oppression of the sailors and also of the mass of exploited classes. The caesura, the emphatic shift of the film’s action, where the film is divided near mid-point, is when the moment of defeat turns into collective victory. Close-ups are synecdoche such as “the surgeon’s pince-nez was made to symbolize their owner: helplessly struggling in seaweeds after sailors threw him overboard,” the ability of consciousness to reconstruct (mentally and emotionally) a part from a whole.” The treatment of an event is primarily determined by the author’s attitudes…. Composition… is the means of expressing the author’s attitude and influence on the spectators.”

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