Probably one of the first theorists of film and cinema was Lev Kuleshov, who brought new insight into the world of motion graphics. He conducted his own study group named the “Kuleshov workshop”, attracting the more radical and innovative film students. In this workshop they experimented with combining the expressionless face of a man, with various other shots, such as a plate of soup, a girl in a coffin or a woman on a sofa. They discovered that when the expressionless face of the man was sequenced with each of these different shots, each sequence established a different meaning towards the viewer. This is now known as the “Kuleshov Effect”.
Other forms of montage editing are outlined in Herbert Zettl’s book “Sight Sound Motion, Applied Media Aesthetics”. In chapter 18 he focuses on: Visual Narrative: The Syntax of Complexity Editing. He describes complexity editing as the selection and the sequencing of specific shots, processing a story, with its emotions. Underpinning what people do, what drives them to do it, and how they feel about what they do. Unlike Continuity Editing, which is editing methods and principles laid out to produce consistent and sensible perceptions, Complexity editing may very well cut between cameras that are positioned on opposite sides. This may be to show the inner confusion of a troubled person, or to induce other purposeful meanings from the audience.
He refers to montage editing to be the juxtaposition of two or more separate events, that when shown together, combine into a new and more intense overall representation.
- Analytical Montage
- Idea-Associative Montage
- Comparison Montage
- Collision Montage
In analytical montage editing, the editor observes an event for structural and thematic elements, and collects these essential elements to create a more intensified version. This method is broken down into two types, which are sequential and sectional.
Sequential Analytical Montage
This montage method condenses an event by breaking it up according to time, to tell a shorthand story of how events transpired over time. One of the main features of analytical montage is that the main event is often implied but not other wise made explicit, leaving it up to the viewer to imagine.
The example above shows a girl riding her bike down the driveway of a street. Shortly, another cyclist is seen crossing her path resulting in the third shot showing the bikes in collision. Whereby the fourth shot illustrates how no one was seriously injured. Notice how the accident was not shown. This is for effect, engaging and forcing the viewer to participate in the event and develop a response.
This example was shown in a particular order, but when the placements of the events are switched around the overall interpretation of the montage can be read differently.
The montage sequence above displays the following order: proposal, marriage, first baby and child growing up to ride their first bike.
The montage sequence above illustrates the same shots, but in a different order. As you can see the story now reads: proposal, first baby, child growing up to ride their first bike and then marriage.
Sectional Analytical Montage
As opposed to seeing progression of an event over time, sectional montage isolates a section of an event or moment. It is achieved by producing a shot that establishes the context and sets the tone. The following sectional pieces add to this, going into greater depth.
The shot above starts the montage from a student’s point of view, showing the viewer the story from his perspective.
The picture above illustrates the same set of shots, but examines the moment from the perspective of the teacher, as it establishes his point of view first.
The idea-associative montage brings together two disassociated events to create a third principle concept. Similarly to the analytical montage, idea-associative montage has two types, comparison and collision.
This montage type compares two or more similar themes, however, combines them in a manner that expresses them differently.
As demonstrated in the picture above, the two shots are representing the same theme, with the man and the dog both looking into the public bin. However, while the two events are similar, the comparison conveys how the man is living a dog’s life, scrapping over food. Highlighting the idea of desperation and the social degradation of the poor.
This montage type clashes two similar, but opposing events to reinforce a basic feeling. An example would be a montage that juxtaposes a man eating out of a bin, in contrast to a man sitting at a table eating a buffet of food. It is a powerful and insightful type, yet a conspicuous one, which can both enlighten or involve the viewer sensitively.
Below is a montage edit that I have constructed, which applies some of the montage types described.
Eisenstein was a brief student of Kuleshov and was a pioneer in the usage of montage editing, arguing that it was the essence of cinema. His work on cinema came from an intellectual viewpoint, developing theories to communicate abstract ideas in a new and modern way.
These are Eisenstein’s 5 methods of montage:
This is based purely on the length of the shot. This induces the most basic emotional response, whereby tempo can be raised or lowered for effect. An example of this would be editing that follows a specific number of frames, in conjunction with the physical nature of time.
This is a lot like Metric, in that it involves tempo, but is more concerned with what’s inside the frame. Effectively cutting in tempo with the action.
This method isn’t concerned with time, but with the tone of the shot. From the lighting, the shadows and the shapes of the frame. Cutting between shots of different aesthetic tones, creates this materialist sensation.
This combines metric, rhythmic and tonal montage methods, essentially covering how whole sequences play against each other.
While the other methods focus on evoking an emotional response, the intellectual montage method is sought to express abstract ideas. It does this by creating relationships between opposing visual concepts. Intellectual montage editing was the method that most interested Eisenstein, claiming it was an alternate method to “Continuity Editing”.