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Chapter 7

Cinema
Formal and Technical Qualities
• Films can take us to new worlds that are open to no other form of art
• Ability to fulfill the function of art as a social and political weapon
oExample: director James Cameron admitted he made Titanic
(1997) as a Marxist-Socialist critique of America
• They can not only entertain us but can create changes in our culture as
well
• Cinema – most familiar and most easily accessible art form
oYet all the elements are crafted out of 1) editing techniques, 2)
camera usage, 3) juxtaposition of images, and 4) structural rhythms
oBernard Shaw – “Details are important; they make comments.”
oNot easy to search details because entertainment elements draw our
attention away
• Cinema = aesthetic communication through the design of time and
three-dimensional space compressed into a two-dimensional image
• With film, we see only a series of still pictures running the length of
the strip
• Each of these pictures, or frames, is about 4/5 ins wide and 3/5 ins.
high
oWhile each frame seems to show exactly the same scene, the
position of the object differs slightly; film contains 16 frames per
foot
oWhen film runs on a projecting device and passes before a light
source at the rate of 24 frames per second, a magnifying lens
enlarges the frames
oProjected onto a screen, images appear to move; but, film does not
really move but only seems to due to an optical phenomenon called
persistence of vision – continuance of a visual image on the retina
for a brief time after the removal of the object
 Discovered by astronomer, Ptolemy in 2nd century C.E.
oProjector pulls the film between the light source and a lens; film
pauses long enough at each frame to let the eye take in the picture
oShutter on projector closes - retina retains the image - projection
mechanism pulls the film ahead to the next frame
oPerforations on the right-hand side of filmstrip enable teeth on the
gear of driving mechanism to grasp the film – moves it along frame
by frame + hold it steady in the gate (slot between light source and
magnifying lens)
oStop-and-go motion gives impression of continuous
movement
oIf the film did not pause at each frame, the eye would
receive a blurred image
• Motion picture originally served as device for recording and
depicting motion
• Filmmakers quickly discovered that the projector could also
record and present stories
Classifications
• 3 basic classifications of films:
1) Narrative
2) Documentary
3) Absolute or Avant-garde
Narrative
• Narrative – fictional film that tells a story
oUses rules of literary construction: exposition (introduces
characters) – complication (actions/decisions and conflicts) ending
in a climax – dénouement (resolution)
 Like theatre, uses actors under guidance of a director
oMany narrative films are genre films, made out of literary styles –
western; detective story; science fiction (example: Avatar); horror,
etc.
 These story elements are so familiar that audience knows the
outcome of the plot before it happens
• Film versions of popular novels/stories written for the screen
are part of the narrative-film form but the narrative presented
usually is material that will attract a large audience and assure
a profit
• In narrative film – narrative can be interpreted symbolically
oE.T.: The Extra-Terrestrial (1982) – story of fantasy that also
symbolizes the innocence and beauty of childhood
 E.T. says goodbye to friend, Elliott, & Elliott will outgrow
childhood but the memories will still remain
• Narrative films include elements from documentary and
absolute film
• Some times, the “narrative” exists to showcase movie stars
E.T. and Elliot
Documentary
• Documentary – attempts to record actuality using primarily either a
sociological or a journalistic approach
• Usually does not have professional actors and often shot as the event
occurs
• May use a narrative structure and some events may be ordered for
dramatic reasons, but its presentation gives illusion of reality
• Footage on television news & worldwide events like Olympics are
kinds of documentary films because they convey a sense of reality as
well as a recording of time and place
• Examples of documentary film: Leni Riefenstahl’s Olympia
(1938) and Triumph of the Will (1935) – commissioned by
Hitler and celebrated the Nazi party’s first convention at
Nuremberg in 1934
oHitler stages event to take full advantage of the cameras
oHer dazzling portrayal of Hitler as a charismatic leader of
a master race caused Allies to ban the film for several
years after the defeat of Nazi Germany in World War II
oAfter the war, Riefenstahl served 4 years in prison for her
contribution to Nazi propaganda
Leni Riefenstahl
Absolute (Avant-garde)
• Absolute (Avant-garde) – film that tells no story but exists solely as
movement or form and rarely exceeds twelve minutes in length
• Does not use narrative techniques but may use documentary
techniques
• Created neither in the camera nor on location
• Built piece by piece, on the editing table or through special effects and
multiple-printing techniques
• Not usually created for commercial intent but as an artistic experience
• Narrative & documentary films may have sections labeled absolute
• Example: Viking Eggeling’s Symphonie Diagonale (1924) –
8’35” in length
oExperiment to discover the basic principles of the
organization of time intervals in the film medium
oConsidered the best absolute film
The Production
Mise-en-Scène
• Mise-en-scène – how the visual materials are staged, framed,
and photographed
• In cinema, theatre, and dance – encompasses the entirety of
the visual space of the production but cinema is more
complicated
oAlso kinship with painting – filmmaker creates image
consisting of formal patterns & shapes presented on a flat
surface (like painting) and enclosed in a frame
Director
• Director of film serves the function of converting the mise-en-scène
from three-dimensional to two-dimensional space
• Film directors – great deal of control over final product – more than
theatre director where they interpret between the playwright and
actors/designers – rarely discuss a theatre director after a play
oDiscussion of film is done in terms of the director
• Mid-1950s – French journal Cahiers du Cinéma – auteur theory –
whoever controls the mise-en-scène is the true “author” of the film -
proponent of directorial dominance in film
Techniques of the Production
Editing
• Editing – the composition of a finished work from various shots and
soundtracks
• Greatest difference between film and the other arts is plasticity – the
quality of a film that enables it to be cut, spliced, and ordered
according to the desires of the filmmaker
o20 directors would come up with 20 different interpretations of the
same footage of the film due to own views and artistic ideas
• Editing process creates or builds the film and within that process are
many ways of joining shots and scenes to make the whole.
• Basic techniques of editing:
oCutting – joining together shots during the editing process
 Jump cut – technique of editing that breaks the continuity of
time by moving forward from one part of the action to another –
separated by interval of time, location, or camera position
Used for shock effect or call attention to a detail
 Form cut – cuts from one image to another – different object
that has a similar shape or contour
Used to make smoother transition from one shot to another
Example: D. W. Griffith’s silent film, Intolerance (1916) –
camera shows front area of the battering ram as it advances
toward Babylon’s gate. Scene cuts to a view of a circular
shield, placed in the framing of the shot in exactly same
position as the battering ram
 Montage- editing technique in cinema that includes a
rapid succession of images, or a compression or
elongation of time
Lets filmmaker depict complex ideas or draw a
metaphor visually
Russian film director, Sergei Eisenstein in Battleship
Potemkin – shot of a Russian army officer walking
out of the room with his back to the camera and his
hands crossed behind him. Director cuts to a
peacock strutting away from the camera and
spreading its tail. These 2 images are juxtaposed and
audience makes the association that the officer is as
proud as a peacock
Camera Viewpoint
• Camera position and viewpoint- different effects on the viewer and
how they perceive the scene that is shot
• Camera angle – specific location at which the movie camera is placed
to take a shot
• Shot - what the camera records over a particular period of time and
forms the basic unit of filmmaking
oMaster shot – single shot of an entire piece of action, taken to
facilitate the assembly of the component shots of which the scene
will finally be composed
oLong shot – places the camera a considerable distance
from the subject
oMedium shot – moves nearer to the subject
oClose-up – even nearer
 Two-shot - close-up of two people
 Bridging shot – one inserted in the editing of a scene to
cover a brief break in continuity
• Important aspect of any shot – framing – amount of open
space within the frames
oTightly framed - closer the shot = more confined the
figures seem
 Jane Anderson (b. 1954) – The Prize Winner of
Defiance, Ohio (2005) – suggest nurturing intimacy in
her film based on true story about an Ohio housewife in
the 1950s
oLoosely framed – longer the shot = suggests freedom
• Closed-form films – shot acts like the proscenium arch in a
theatre; all information in the shot is composed & self-
contained
• Open-form films – frame is de-emphasized, suggesting a
temporary masking; dramatic action tends to lead the camera
- sense that the camera follows the actors and creates fluidity
of movement
oGillian Armstrong (b. 1950) director of Mrs. Soffel (1984)
– added a greater sense of realism to her historical film
• Objective or subjective viewpoint
oObjective viewpoint – camera viewpoint that is roughly
analogous to the third-person narrative in literature
 Filmmaker lets audience watch the action through the
eyes of a spectator
oSubjective viewpoint – scene unfolds as if the audience
were actually participating in it; analogous to the first-
person narrative in literature
 See the action from the filmmaker’s perspective
Cutting Within the Frame
• Cutting Within the Frame – avoids editing process; created by actor
movement, camera movement or a combination of the two
• Lets the scene progress smoothly & used often in television
• Example: John Ford’s (1894-1973) Stagecoach (1939)- coach & passengers
have just passed through hostile territory without being attacked; the driver
expresses relief. Ford cuts to a long shot of the coach moving across the
desert and pans (follows), as it moves from right to left on the screen. This
movement of the camera reveals in the foreground, and in close-up, the face
of a hostile warrior watching the stagecoach. Ford has moved smoothly
from a long shot to a close-up without needing the editing process & also
established spatial relationship
• Scene from Ridley Scott’s (b. 1937) Gladiator – Scott cuts
back and forth from Russell Crowe to the tiger & other
gladiator to create suspense; when he combines them all in
one shot, however, he produces maximum sense of danger
Dissolves
• Dissolves – a transition device where a scene fades out into black and
the next scene fades in
• Lap dissolve – occurs when the fade-out and the fade-in occur
simultaneously and the scene momentarily overlaps
• Wipe – form of optical transition in which an invisible line moves
across the screen, eliminating one shot and revealing the next (the way
a windshield wiper moves across the windshield of a car)
• Iris-out or Iris-in – transitional device in filmmaking created by
closing or opening the aperture of the camera lens
Focus
• Depth of focus – if both near and distant objects appear
clearly at the same time
oActors can move without necessitating a change of camera
position
oMany TV shows recorded before an audience use this kind
of focus
• Rack or Differential focus – when the main object of interest
stays clear while the remainder of the scene blurs out of focus
oFilmmaker can draw the audience’s attention to one
element within a shot
Movement
• Movement & position of camera can add variety or impact to a shot or
scene
• 5 Physical camera movements:
1) Track – shot taken as the camera moves in the same direction
at the same speed, and in the same place as the object being
photographed
2) Pan – the camera rotates horizontally while keeping it fixed
vertically; used in enclosed areas like TV studios
3) Tilt – moves the camera vertically or diagonally,
and adds variety to a sequence
4) Dolly shot – moving the camera toward or away
from the subject
5) Zoom shot – modern lenses can achieve the same
effect by changing the focal length; this negates
the need for camera movement; wide-angle to
telephoto and vice versa
Lighting
• Camera cannot photograph a scene without light – natural or artificial
• TV shows before a live audience – need flat general illumination
pattern
• Close-ups – stronger & more focused lights are needed to highlight
feature, eliminate shadows, and add feeling of depth
• Cast shadows (atmospheric lighting) – used to create a mood,
especially in black-and-white films; in art – chiaroscuro
• Lighting at a particular angle can heighten feeling of texture, just like
an extremely close shot can
• These techniques add visual variety to a sequence
• Cinéma vérité – filmmaking technique in which
natural or outdoor lighting is used and the camera is
hand-held, while the film appears unsteady
oFound in documentary films or sequences
photographed for newsreels or TV news
programming
oAdds to the sense of reality
• Camera technique adds variety and commentary,
meaning and method, to the shot, the scene, and the
film
Sense Stimuli
• Perception is most important in the area of technical
detail for sense stimuli
oExample: in Alfred Hitchcock’s (1899-1980)
Psycho (1960), when caretaker of the motel (actor-
Anthony Perkins) wishes to spy upon the guest in
cabin 1, he pushes aside a picture that hides a
peephole; picture is a reproduction of Giovanni
Bologna’s statue Rape of the Sabine Women –
Hitchcock’s suggestion is clear
Viewpoint
• Viewpoint plays significant role in how our senses respond to
a film
• Louis Giannetti – “the gaze” refers to the voyeuristic aspect
of cinema – sneaking furtive glances at the forbidden, the
erotic – “because most filmmakers are males, so too is the
point of view of the camera. The gaze fixes women in
postures that cater to male needs & fantasies. When the
director is a woman, the gaze is often eroticized from a
female point of view.”
oBecky Sharp (heroine of Thackeray’s 19th-century English
novel Vanity Fair, is a calculating, manipulative social
climber, determined to enter the world of the rich &
powerful no matter what the cost.
oMovie version of Vanity Fair (female director, Mira Nair)
is more sympathetic, more feminist: Becky is portrayed as
a shrewd exploiter of the British class system, which is
male-dominated, imperialistic, and hostile to women. A
gutsy, clever woman like Becky (actress, Reese
Witherspoon) clearly deserves to triumph over such a rigid
& corrupt social system.
Crosscutting
• Crosscutting – filmmaking technique that alters between two separate
actions related by theme, mood, or plot to create suspense
• Example in a western: pioneers going west in a wagon train are
attacked by hostile warriors; settlers hold them off, but ammunition
runs low; hero finds a cavalry troop, and they ride to the rescue. Film
alternates between pioneers fighting for their lives and soldiers
galloping across the countryside toward them. Film cuts back and
forth, the pace of cutting increasing until the sequence builds to a
climax – cavalry arrives in time to save the day.
• Parallel development – subtle case of crosscutting
oExample: The Godfather (1972) – Michael Corleone (Al
Pacino) acts as godfather for his sister’s son; at the same
time, his men kill all his enemies
 Film alternates between views of Michael at the
religious service and sequences showing violent death
 This parallel development draws an ironic comparison:
juxtaposition lets the audience draw their own
inferences and added meaning
Tension Build-Up and Release
• If plot of a film is believable, actors competent, and
director/film editor talented & knowledgeable – feeling of
tension can occur
• If tension becomes too great – audience will seek release:
odd-sounding laugh, sudden noise, or loud comment from a
member of the audience may cause the rest of the viewers to
laugh, thus breaking the tension and destroying the
atmosphere
• Wise filmmakers build into their film a tension release that
deliberately draws laughter from the audience, but at a place
in the film where they wish them to laugh
oAchieved by a comical way of moving, a gurgle as a car
sinks into a swamp, or a comic line; doesn’t have to be
obvious
• After a suspenseful sequence, the audience needs to relax;
once the tension release does its job, they can be drawn into
another exciting situation
• To shock the audience or maintain their attention – filmmaker
may break a deliberately created pattern or convention of film
oExample: In Jaws (1975), each time the shark is about to
appear, a 4-note musical motive is played; audience grows
to believe they will hear this warning before each
appearance, and so they relax
 But toward the end of the film, the shark suddenly
appears without the motive, thus shocking the audience
 From that point until the film’s end, they can no longer
relax
Direct Address
• Direct address – filmmaking method to draw attention in which the
actors look or talk into the camera
oExample: Ferris Bueller’s Day Off – actor Matthew Broderick
• Camera look – form of direct address; in silent films, the silent
comedians felt they should have direct contact with their audience, so
they developed this
oExamples: Buster Keaton in The General (1926) after a destructive
moment in the film, his face immobile, Keaton would stare at the
audience; Charlie Chaplin in Behind the Screen (1916) use of wink
to the audience
oStan Laurel (1890-1965) in You’re Darn Tootin’
gestured helplessly into the camera as if to say
“How did all this happen” while Oliver Hardy
(1892-1957) after falling into an open manhole,
would show disgust directly to the camera and the
audience
oThese examples let the audience know that the
comedians knew they were there
oAlso done in sound comedies – Bob Hope/Bing
Crosby in The Road to Bali (1952)
Magnitude and Convention
• Magnitude – the scope of universality of the theme
• Must consider means by which the film is to be communicated
oWas film made for a television showing or for projection in a large
theatre?
 TV films should be built around the close-up and around
concentrated action & movement because audience is closer to
the screen
• Must consider a film’s settings
oMovie sets are a thing of the past; computer imaging is done now
oThe Jungle Book (2016) combine computer animation with
computer-enhanced reality and created digitally –Mowgli the only
human actor
• Film, like theatre, has certain conventions or customs that the
viewer accepts without hesitation
oExciting chase scene takes place – no one thinks about the
orchestra location playing the music that enhances the
sequence; accept the background music as part of the
totality of the film
oFilm photographed in black and white – accepted as a
recording of reality, even though the viewer knows the real
world has color
oWhen a performer sings and dances in the rain in the
middle of a city street, no one cares whether the performer
will be arrested for creating a spectacle
• Convention is important to the acceptance of the silent film as
a form of art
o1) Exaggerated pantomime and acting styles, 2) the use of
titles, 3) character stereotyping, and 4) visual metaphors all
constitute conventions accepted during the silent era
oAction in silent film recorded and presented at a speed of
16-18 frames per second; when presented today on a
projector, it operates at 24 frames per second, the
movement becomes too fast and appears jerky
oOnce we accept the original conventions, we find that
silent film is an effective form of cinematic art
• Visual metaphor uses a visual image to transfer an idea to
another circumstance by inference; works the same as verbal
metaphor (ex.: “the twilight of life”)
oMetaphorical comparisons create a kind of shock
 Example: The Mission (1986) – the priest’s (Robert De
Niro) ascent of the mountain while carrying the
soldier’s armor works as a visual metaphor for the
internal awareness of guilt that De Niro’s character
feels; he accidentally killed his brother; when he is
forgiven & freed of his guilt, the weaponry is cut from
him and it tumbles down the mountain, offering him
relief –both from the weight of the armor and from his
own guilt
Structural Rhythm
• Structural Rhythm – manner in which the various shots join together
and juxtapose with other cinematic images, both visual and aural
• Filmmakers create rhythms and patterns based on the way they choose
to tell their stories or that indicate deeper meanings and relationships
• Symbolic images, whether obvious or subtle, are all useful in directing
the attention of the audience to the ideas in the philosophical approach
underlying the film
• Use of symbolic elements are found in such clichés as the: hero dress
in white/villain in black; present of an X whenever someone is about
to be killed in Scarface (1983)
• Symbolic references can be enhanced by form cutting
oExample: cutting directly from the hero’s gun to the villain’s gun
• Filmmaker may choose to repeat a familiar image in varying forms,
using it as a composer would a motive in music
oExample: John Ford in Fort Apache (1948) uses clouds of dust as
curtain to cover major events; dust indicates the fate of the cavalry
troop
oGrass, cloud shapes, windblown trees, and patches of color
appeared symbolically and as motives.
 George Lucas in Star Wars: Episode I –The Phantom Menace
uses obvious form cutting
• Another part of structural rhythm – repetition of certain visual patterns
throughout a film
oCircular image against a rectangular one; movement from right to
left, action repeated regularly throughout a sequence can all
become patterns or thematic statements
oSilent film made use of thematic repetition
 In Intolerance, (1916) D. W. Griffith develops 4 stories at the
same time and crosscuts between them and enable him to
develop ideas of similarity of intolerance throughout the ages
 Laurel & Hardy, built up pattern of “You do this to me and I’ll
do that to you”; or “tit for tat”; a variation on the theme would
be presented at a certain point thus surprising the audience into
laughter from the unexpected pattern
• Parallel development can create form and pattern throughout
a film
oEdwin S. Porter’s (1870-1941) The Kleptomaniac (1905)
alternates between 2 stories; wealthy woman caught
shoplifting a piece of jewelry, and a poor woman who
steals a loaf of bread
 Each sequence shows the crime, arrest, and punishment;
wealthy woman’s husband bribes the judge to let her
off, while poor woman goes to jail
 Porter’s final shot shows the statue of justice holding
her scales, one weighted down with a bag of gold; her
blindfold is raised over one eye, looking at the money –
the form is the film
Audio
• Audio tracks could be used for symbolism, for motives that reinforced
the emotional quality of a scene, or for stronger emphasis or structural
rhythm
• Audio of a film enhances its impact and our understanding
• Abrupt cuts from scene to scene give the film a staccato rhythm (short
and detached) that approaches the reality they hope to achieve
oIf done to beat of the soundtrack, a pulsating rhythm is created for
film sequence & adds a sense of urgency
• Dissolves, however, create a slower pace and tend to make the film’s
transitions smooth and more romantic (legato: smooth & connected)
• High Noon (1952) by Fred Zinnemann (1907-1997) – sheriff waits for
the midday train to arrive – the montage sequence shows the
townspeople and sheriff waiting
oEvery 8 beats of the musical track, the shot changes; as noon
approaches, the shot changes every 4 beats. Tension mounts;
feeling of rhythm enhanced by images of a clock’s pendulum
swinging to the beat of the soundtrack
oTension continues to build; train whistle sounds; series of rapid cuts
of faces turning & looking follows but soundtrack has only silence
(tension release). This last moment of the sequence serves as
transition between the music & silence
oIn other films, track may shift from music to natural sounds or
natural sound, silence, and a musical track and depends on the
mood the filmmaker tries to create
• Director, John Ford – sentimental moments in his films by
accompanying dialogue of a sequence with traditional
melodies
oAs sequence comes to a close, music swells and then fades
away to match the fading out of the scene
 Example: The Grapes of Wrath (1940) when Tom Joad
says goodbye to his mother, “Red River Valley” plays
on a concertina; as Tom walks over the hill, music
becomes louder, and when he disappears from view, it
fades out
 Throughout the film, this folk song serves as a thematic
reference to the Joads’ home in Oklahoma & boosts
feelings of nostalgia
• Pivotal step in film music occurred with George
Lucas’s first film of the Star Wars trilogy (1977)
oComposer, John Williams used older cinematic
traditions – brassy, powerful and richly orchestrated
• Nora Ephron (1941-2012), in Sleepless in Seattle
(1993) – juxtaposes contemporary and traditional
issues by taking classic popular tunes of the 1940s and
presenting them as sung by contemporary singers;
became a best-selling album
• Voiceover narration - a nonsynchronous spoken
commentary often used to convey a character’s thoughts;
nonsynchronous means the sound does not derive from an
obvious source in the visuals
oUseful device for filmmakers to establish a tone different
than what would occur in a strictly objective presentation
 Example: Dances with Wolves (1990), director Kevin
Costner (b. 1955) uses voiceover narration to create a
sympathetic tone
oUsually narrator is a character in the film who helps us
interpret the events
D. W. Griffith
• D. W. Griffith (1875-1948) – first giant of the motion-picture industry
and a genius of film credited with making film an art form
• Never needed a script; he improvised new ways to use the camera and
to cut the celluloid filmstrip
• Born in Floydsfork, Kentucky, near Louisville into an aristocratic
Southern family that had been impoverished by the Civil War
• His father, a Confederate colonel, told him battle stories that affected
the tone of his early films
• His father died when he was 7 years old and the family moved to
Louisville
• Quit school at 16 to work as a bookstore clerk where he met some
actors at a local theatre
• He worked with amateur theatre groups and went on tours
• His first play failed; his first screenplay was rejected
• Biograph Company hired him as a director in 1908
• During this time, Griffith’s innovations in cinematography included
the close-up, the fade-in and fade-out, soft focus, high- and low-angle
shots, and panning (moving the camera in panoramic long shots)
• In film editing, he invented flashback and crosscutting
• Expanded film with social commentary
• Directed and/or produced 500 films
• First full-length work was his most sensational – The Birth of a Nation
(1915) – hailed for its radical technique but condemned for its racism
• As a response to censorship of The Birth of a Nation, Griffith
produced Intolerance (1916), an epic integrating 4 separate themes
• After Intolerance, Griffith turned away from epic films because of
financial obstacles but his gifted performers more than made up for
this loss – giants in their own right
• Stars he introduced to the film industry: Dorothy and Lillian Gish,
Mack Sennett, and Lionel Barrymore
• 1919 – Griffith formed a motion picture distribution company called
United Artists together with Mary Pickford, Charlie Chaplin, and
Douglas Fairbanks
• Griffith was known for his integrity and was highly respected
• 3 linchpins (vital to an enterprise) of the ambitious Triangle Studios,
along with Mack Sennet, and Thomas Ince
• The Birth of a Nation (1915) – silent epic drama – chronicles the
relationship of 2 families in the Civil War and Reconstruction era:
pro-Union Northern Stonemans and the pro-Confederacy Southern
Camerons with the assassination of President Abraham Lincoln by
John Wilkes Booth dramatized
oPortrayed black men (some played by white actors in blackface) as
unintelligent and sexually aggressive towards white women
oPortrayed the Ku Klux Klan as a heroic force
• Intolerance (1916) - silent epic drama – 3 ½ hours long with 4 parallel
storylines, each separated by several centuries: 1) contemporary
melodrama of crime and redemption, 2) a Judean story: Christ’s
mission & death, 3) a French story: events surrounding the St.
Bartholomew’s Day massacre of 1572, and 4) a Babylonian story: fall
of the Empire to Persia in 539 B.C. Scenes linked by shots of a figure
of Eternal Motherhood, rocking a cradle
Sergei Eisenstein (1898-1948)
Battleship Potemkin
• One of the most influential films ever made – great classic of film art
• Added a new dimension to film language: montage editing
• After the Bolshevik Revolution in 1917, Soviet government took
control of the film industry and said film would serve the purpose of
education & propaganda to indoctrinate the Russian masses and
promote class consciousness throughout the world
• 1925 film narrated the mutiny of the Potemkin and the massacre of
civilians on the steps leading down to the harbor in Odessa
• Film has number of qualities that give it the appearance of a
documentary
• Eisenstein used nonprofessionals as actors
• Film was shot on location
• Collective hero is the Russian people – represented by people of
Odessa, the mutineers, and the sailors on the other ships who rebelled
against Czarist opposition
• Eisenstein’s use of montage, featuring juxtaposing shots and lighting,
camera angle, and subject movement, creates meaning by
incorporating shots within shots
• His cuts between shots were jarring and designed to create shock and
agitation in the audience
• Eisenstein identified 5 types of montage and used each in the film:
1) metric montage – conflict caused by the length of shots
2) rhythmic montage – conflict generated by the rhythm of move-
ment within the shots
3) tonal montage – arrangement of shots by their “tone” or
“emotional sound”
4) overtonal montage – a synthesis of the previous three types
5) intellectual montage – the juxtaposition of images to create visual
metaphor
• Film did not immediately gain favor in the Soviet Union
• Eisenstein accused of being overly formal – concerned with
aesthetic form rather than ideological content
• Once it received universal acclaim outside the Soviet Union,
the Soviet authorities changed their minds and supported the
film