Watch: 5 Essential Types of Montage to Use in Your Film
Sometimes, you just gotta have a montage.
Sergei Eisenstein, the Russian film theorist and director famous as a pioneer in the theory and practice of montage, loved the device so much that he often argued it was the "essence of cinema."
Eisenstein was one of the first to put into practice the theory that editing could be used for more than just ending a shot and starting a new one. Eisenstein felt the "collision" of shots could be used to manipulate the emotions of the audience and create metaphor. For example, he coined the Kuleshov effect, which demonstrated that a shot of a man, spliced with a shot of a piece of bread, could lead the audience to believe that that man is very hungry for some yeast.
According to Eisenstein, montage is defined as “combining shots that are depictive—single in meaning, neutral in content—into intellectual contexts and series.” This video essay by editor Ryan Charles breaks down Eisenstein’s five methods of montage: metric, rhythmic, tonal, overtones, and intellectual.
1. Metric Montage
The practice of cutting according to exact measurement, irregardless of the content of the shot.
2. Rhythmic Montage
The practice of cutting according to the content of the shots, or continuity editing. This is the most commonly used form of montage. Each shot's length derives from the specifics of the piece and from its planned length according to the structure of the sequence.
3. Tonal Montage
The practice of cutting according to the emotional tone of the piece. This type of montage is a bit more subjective in the sense that you're not cutting towards any physical aspect of media. Instead, it's a combination of both metric and rhythmic montage to highlight any emotional themes that may be present at that particular point of time in your story. These shots can be matched by both video and aural characteristics.
4. Overtonal Montage
The practice of cutting according to the various “tones” and “overtones” of the shot. This one is even more abstract than tonal montage. In the words of Eisenstein, “from the moment that overtones can be heard parallel with the basic sound, there also can be sensed vibrations, oscillations that cease to impress as tones, but rather as purely physical displacements of the perceived impression.”
From this, we can take away that overtonal montage is the intermixing of larger themes (whether political or religious or philosophical) with the emotional tones of the piece through the use of metric and rhythmic montage.
5. Intellectual Montage
The practice of cutting according to the shot's relationship to an intellectual concept.