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Film Studies: Types of Montage Essay

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Updated: Mar 21st, 2020

The well known Soviet film director Sergei Eisenstein distinguished between five different montage techniques, which are metric, rhythmic, tonal, overtonal and intellectual montages. Their techniques were used in Eisenstein’s films and the works of other Soviet filmmakers such as Pudovkin and Kuleshov. Today, these types of montage are also popular and widely applied in modern movies. The three montage techniques I chose to describe and illustrate in this paper are rhythmic, tonal and intellectual.

Rhythmic montage techniques are used to depict the continuity of the action of the scene. If there is a movement going on in the scene, the shots are directed in a way that the continuity of the movement never stops, the effect of the motion is flowing, it serves to absorb the viewer and make them more present to what is happening on the screen.

A good modern example or this montage technique is the car getaway scene from the film called “Drive”. The movement of the car is maintained throughout the whole scene. At the same time, the events of the getaway are shown from a passenger of the car. This technique helps to maintain the effect of personal presence for the viewer of the film, and also increases the emotional side of the scene, putting the viewer right into the car together with the characters.

Tonal montage techniques are applied with the purpose of emphasizing the emotional side of the shots and scenes. In the shots combined into a tonal montage, the reaction of the audience is directed not with the help of movement of rhythm but using employing the images associated with various emotions. This technique is used to dictate the mood of the scenes in a subtle and complex way. An example of the application of this kind of montage in the modern cinema is represented by the film called “Boy in the Striped Pajamas.”

The final scene of the film uses tonal montage using colors and images. The shots feature the bright and colorful sceneries of the peaceful German backyard that are replaced by the grey and dark images of a concentration camp. The colors and shades become dimmer; the mood is strengthened by the emotions of the characters creating the growing intensity of the feelings closing to an explosion that suddenly breaks, leaving the audience emotionally heated up.

Finally, intellectual montage techniques employ shots that contain intellectual meanings and associations or connections that can be drawn logically. Often such montage techniques include images and actions that can be compared or related to each other, creating a deeper meaning to the scene. An example of such technology can be found in one of the episodes of the fictional series called “Buffy the Vampire Slayer,” where Buffy and her boyfriend Riley are both fighting the supernatural creatures.

The scenes of battle are intercrossed with the scenes featuring a passionate bed scene between the two characters, after the sequence of shots from both scenes the characters finish their action, and then we see Buffy and Riley standing among the defeated enemies, and one of them asks the other what they were going to do next.

Such montage omits the sequence of events but makes it clear what happened first and what followed, at the same time, it points out emotional similarities between sexual intercourse and fighting symbolizing passion both characters felt for each other.

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