Posts Tagged ‘montage’

The Angel Who Drew Pictures ©

Angel Gamaliel once flew in the direction of Cairo and saw the great throng that weaved through the busy market place. ‘There must be some matter of great import and requires my careful attention,’ thought the angel. So he zoomed straight into the north-west minaret of the Mosque of Blessed virtues and saw a mule driver tagging behind the crowd. Becoming curious he flew towards him and whispered into his ears, ‘What, are you also with the crowd?’
The fellow shrugged his shoulder and without looking up said, ‘My mule just would not go any where that I had a mind to but follow the crowd. So I just followed.’ Poor Angel! He thought he never heard more sorry excuse from the mouth of a man.
That night the angel visited the mule driver while he was asleep. Angel knew he slept like a log too tired to think even a sweet dream. The angel drew a series of pictures and knew the mule driver would be well for it.
Next morning the fellow was all astir with excitement. He told his wife excitedly what befell him during the night. She had brought him tea and she was excited and asked what was it all about.
‘Is it some buried treasure, oh light of my eyes?’ He shook his head and said his dream was much more than that. He said the dream showed him what was wrong with the city. He said as clear as a bell and in clear stream of words a utopian state . It was modeled as Cairo. He exhorted his neighbors who had heard something curious and come to check. He said, ‘Heed the warning: The city must be saved from damnation and people should work for their livelihood. Blessed state is when each citizen has enough to fill his belly with food.’
Naturally those who heard were excited. One fellow who knew how to read and write told him thus, ‘O prophet recite what you have seen. I shall write it down so the city of Cairo shall be the most blessed city in the whole world.’ Thus the prophet of Perfect Understanding gave the inhabitants of Cairo their Word and they were so taken up with it. Naturally since from that day on not a day’s work was done. They spent reciting the words and learning by heart the Word. At last the Khedive sent reports to the Sultan of the change taking place under his suzerainty. Naturally one morning the prophet was called to answer the charges that he had incited people not to work any more. Angel Gamaliel came to hear of this and instantly he came down and sat on a parapet in the Palace courtyard where the Khedive was hearing the case. The Mule- Driver deposed before the governor the dream that he had. ‘It was a revelation, O master. I could not have gone against it.’ He narrated the series of images that had impressed into his mind’s eye as he was asleep.
The angel snorted to hear the images and exclaimed, ‘Poppycock! And as the mule driver ended his speech he said, ‘Nothing of the sort. I painted the blessed state of a man to have his own opinions and freedom of action. ’
When the prophet was reciting what the mule driver had told him the Angel stood up wearily, ‘I draw pictures in vain in the minds of man. He cannot obviously see the difference between images and words.’ Angel Gamaliel flew off feeling put out by his waste of effort.
Prophets are merely putting certain images in words and they shall never hit it off correctly. Think of great books when adapted for films need to be treated differently. Several descriptive passages need to be said in a montage of images. Why the difference? The film is a different medium where images have to serve in place of words. The Prophets speak truth and those who cannot understand the difference between their vision and their words read between the lines, neither true nor 100% false. Only way one can prove his meaning is in his actions.

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Notes made from Griffith to Eisenstein and Back-Peter A. Dart

Griffith and Eisenstein stand out in the history of modern motion picture as two giants, both were innovators who advanced the basic form and structure of motion pictures.Both came to films from theatre backgrounds.

Griffith’s influence on Eisenstein and V.I Pudovkin, Lev Kuleshov. But how much has Eisenstein influenced American film form?

Films of 1908 when Griffith began directing motion pictures films were crude: 10 minutes in length one reelers were made cheaply and sold cheaply to mass audience.In six years Griffith mastered the craft He realized Edvin S. Porter had only understood partially the basic storytelling . He shot one individual scene and edited, arranged in context of other shots. Griffith realized he could photograph each part of the scene with the final arrangement in mind, These details could then be arranged successively by which the audience could make their inferences. It involved them as well. In 1908 the scenes were shot as though film was like a stage play transferred into film. The close-up was unheard of. But Griffith began moving his camera for closer shots. He also tried extra shots of the surrounding locale for ‘atmosphere’. In case of dense action like a battle or a chase he used long shots or extremely wide angle shots. He began to move the camera while it shot a scene. Iris mask to block out extraneous details were also used by him. Selection of a scene arrangement of shots keeping in mind tempo pace rhythm and action added to the story telling new richness. Parallel cutting was the next innovation where two scenes one after the other giving an impression both were happening simultaneously. Emotional impact of two scenes was that the sum of parts were greater than the whole scene. Each scene resonated in the minds of the audience and gave emotional impact that was more than a straight story telling of Porter or other film makers before him.

Of his great films Intolerance(1916) had the greatest impact on Russian film makers.

Montage was the result.Montage of parallel scenes progressing where each detail of a scene though unrelated in its progression acquired a depth of its own:dynamic juxtaposition of these parts made them greater than single scene. Emotional, ideological and artistic power arising out of montage was the gift of Soviet film makers.’The school of Griffith before all else is a school of tempo. However he didn’t have the strength to compete with the young Soviet school of montage in the field of expression and of relentlessly affective rhythm.” Sergei Eisenstein

please refer pen portraits#46 for DW Griffith


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 Director: Grigori Aleksandrov

Starring: Aleksandr Antonov, Vladimir Barsky


Bronenosec  Potjomkin -Sergei Eisenstein’s revolutionary sophomore feature has so long stood as a textbook example of montage editing and with it the Russian film- maker changed the shape of cinema into a new direction. ( Previously the accent was on staging best exemplified by Weiner’s The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and the Russian master gave in its place a purely cinematic idiom of montage.)  Another feature of this film is that thin and treacherous line that often trips up a film maker who is bent on making a propaganda film. It is to the credit of Eisenstein that he didn’t fall a victim. Eisenstein of course was working under the dictates of the party bosses and had to keep true to the Marxian ideology from their position. What made it a celluloid epic despite of their interference?

In order to understand this conundrum we have to grasp the fundamentals of film. (First of all let me make it clear as with music  knowledge of grammar is unnecessary in order to enjoy film).

A film is synthesis of several arts. In visual terms a film maker might make a political statement from any historical event. In the Battleship of Potemkin, Eisenstein is narrating a crucial event of the 1905 revolution. He can play with time as in the famous  scene on the steps of St. Petersburg. The action itself, the people running up the steps into the guns of the Tsarist soldiers actually takes place in a few minutes. The detail shots of falling bodies, feet, faces, guns are all props to give an illusion of time in the viewer’s mind. If with time he can also shift points of view back and forth. The art of film being such there is no place for dogmatic statements. It is cerebral experience as well as vicarious. It was the genius of Eisenstein that he could fine tune his control on his viewer by means of montage. Like a wizard he made the experience of the protagonist as that of you and me. Montage makes it possible to shift from objective to subjective and vice versa. Thus the Russian master didn’t narrate history of the revolution as it happened but in the context of a few characters that figure in the film. Lo and behold their situation has for the moment become yours and you have become part of the experience of the protagonist!

In order to reinforce that a film maker could create the right mood as in the case of the corpse of the murdered sailor. How can a viewer be not affected by the environment,- and the rising misty dawn over the hapless sailor simply puts the viewer receptive to what is to follow. Eisenstein portrays the revolt in microcosm with a dramatization of the real-life mutiny aboard the battleship Potemkin. His genius transcended politics and created a timeless classic.

 The story tells a familiar party-line message of the oppressed working class (in this case the enlisted sailors) banding together to overthrow their oppressors (the ship’s officers), led by proto-revolutionary Vakulinchuk. When he dies in the shipboard struggle the crew lays his body to rest on the pier, a moody, moving scene where the citizens of Odessa slowly emerge from the fog to pay their respects. As the crowd grows Eisenstein turns the tenor from mourning a fallen comrade to celebrating the collective achievement. The government responds by sending soldiers and ships to deal with the mutinous crew and the supportive townspeople, which climaxes in the justly famous (and often imitated and parodied) Odessa Steps massacre. Eisenstein edits carefully orchestrated motions within the frame to create broad swaths of movement, shots of varying length to build the rhythm, close-ups for perspective and shock effect, and symbolic imagery for commentary, all to create one of the most cinematically exciting sequences in film history. Eisenstein’s film is Marxist propaganda to be sure, but as I said earlier polemics do not stand a chance against a creative genius who is in control of his medium. Naturally it is the secret of this masterpiece.

(ack:Sean Axmaker)

Similar Movies

         October  (1927, Grigory Alexandrov, Sergei Eisenstein)

         Arsenal  (1929, Alexander Dovzhenko)

         Storm over Asia  (1928, Vsevolod Pudovkin)

         Strike  (1924, Sergei Eisenstein)

         Tabu  (1931, Robert Flaherty, F.W. Murnau)

Movies with the Same Personnel

         Alexander Nevsky  (1938, Sergei Eisenstein)

         Qué Viva México  (1932, Grigory Alexandrov, Sergei Eisenstein)

         Vesna  (1947, Grigory Alexandrov)

         Strike  (1924, Sergei Eisenstein)

         October  (1927, Grigory Alexandrov, Sergei Eisenstein)

         Ivan the Terrible, Part 1  (1944, Sergei Eisenstein)

         Ivan the Terrible: Part 2  (1946, Sergei Eisenstein)

         Our Daily Bread  (1934, King Vidor)

Other Related Movies

 is featured in:           Seeds of Freedom  (1943, Hans Burger)

 is related to:           Reds  (1981, Warren Beatty)

           Black Sea Mutiny  (1931, Arnold Kordyum)

 has been re-edited into:           Seeds of Freedom  (1943, Hans Burger)

 is related to:           Blue Moon  (2002, Andrea Maria Dusl)

           Sergei Eisenstein: Mexican Fantasy  (1998, Oleg Kovalov






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