Soviet Montage

The Soviet Montage movement began in 1924/25 and ended at 1930. During the Montage movement's existence, perhaps fewer than thirty films were made in the style. But the films were very influential. In the following text I want to explain the history of Russia at this time and the main concepts of Soviet Montage. To explain the key concepts of the avantgarde film movement I will examine Eisenstein's Strike (1925), the first and very successful feature film of Sergei Eisenstein.

Soviet History & Film Production

In 1917 there have been two revolutions in Russia. The February Revolution eliminated the Tsar's government. The second revolution took place in October. Vladimir Lenin was the leader of the revolution and the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics was created. Narkompros, founded in 1918, controlled the film industry.

Narkompros established the State Film School in 1919. A year later Lev Kuleshov joined the State Film School and formed workshops. Kuleshov's experiments were showing how important editing is and he developed the central idea to the Montage theory and style. A central aspect of his experiments was that the viewer's response in cinema was less dependent on the individual shot than on the editing or montage. Lenin saw cinema as the most important art, most probably because it is an effective medium for propaganda and education.


One main characteristic of Soviet Montage films is the downplaying of individual characters in the center of attention. Single characters are shown as members of different social classes and are representing a general type or class. In Eisenstein's Strike there is only one character named individually in the entire film. Another characteristic is that Soviet Montage filmmakers often chose strikes and other clashes in the history of revolutions e.g. Eisenstein's Potemkin, October and Strike.

The central aspect of Soviet Montage style was the area of editing. Cuts should stimulate the spectator. In opposition to continuity editing Montage cutting often created either overlapping or elliptical temporal relations. Overlapping editing means, that the second shot repeats part or all of the action from the previous shot. Through repetitions of this method the time an action takes on the screen expands. Elliptical cutting creates the opposite effect. A part of an action is left out, so the event takes less time than it would in reality. Elliptical editing was often used in the form of the jump cut. In Strike, Eisenstein cuts from a police officer to a butcher who kills an animal in the form of a jump cut.

The butcher is not part of the story but should make the viewer think about the connection and come to a conclusion such as: the workers were slaughtered like animals. The butcher is here a nondiegetic element. Anything that is part of the film story world is diegetic. A nondiegetic element exists outside the story world. There is no connection between the slaughter of the animal. The use of such nondiegetic shots was central to Eisenstein's theory on "intellectual montage". Intellectual montage creates its effects through conflict such as the juxtaposing of shots that have no direct connection. Soviet Montage filmmakers often shot on location. Strike, in fact, was shot in a real factory. The machine and the factory became symbols of the new society in this time.

Sergei Eisenstein

Sergei Eisenstein was 26 when he made his first feature film Strike, the first major film of the Montage movement. It was released in 1925. Potemkin, October, Old and New are three more important works from Eisenstein in that style. At the center of Sergei Eisenstein's concept of Montage was the collision of elements: shots should not be seen as linked, but rather as conflicting with one another. The spectator can create a new concept in her or his mind realising the conflict between elements.

Even today, the Soviet Montage style is very interesting to watch and very inspiring but the political aspects are much harder to follow today. The lack of individual protagonists is a factor that reduces the joy of viewing and makes it hard to follow the whole film. But one can get an idea how exciting it was to be part of the emergence of a new form of society.

Evamaria Trischak



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