Video: The History of Editing, Eisenstein, & the Soviet Montage

Essentially ever since cinema's inception, there has been a great question about its complicated nature -- answers to which have spawned an even greater debate among film theorists: What makes a film a film? One theory, formulated by Russian filmmaker and "Father of Montage", Sergei Eisenstein, claims that the footage captured by a camera is nothing more than raw material. Not until that raw material is edited do you have a film -- at least according to the Soviet Theory of Montage. John P. Hess of Filmmaker IQ breaks down the history of montage editing in the second video in their History of Cutting series. Check it out after the jump.

The practice of editing footage has been around since 1898 when British filmmaker Robert W. Paul cut together his film Come Along, Do!. However, it wasn't until filmmaking pioneer and "Father of Film" D.W. Griffith began using editing techniques, such as parallel editing, that the practice became more sophisticated -- a discernible film language that later became known as "continuity editing".

As Hess points out in the video below, Griffith's approach to editing was more practical, whereas Eisenstein's approach was more intellectual. To put it another way, continuity editing is structural -- it's meant to get you from point A to point B without wondering where you are. Soviet montage, on the other hand, works to elicit an emotional response from the audience thanks to The Kuleshov Effect.

Check out Filmmaker IQ's helpful video and learn about the history of Soviet Montage below.

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And here is the first video from their History of Cutting series, in which Hess breaks down the history of continuity editing.

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Eisenstein wrote several incredible books, essays, and articles, like Film Form (a compilation of his essays) and The Film Sense, in which he discusses at length his theories on montage. If you're not only interested in film history and theory (like this gal), but your own editing skills as well, I highly recommend getting your hands on these pieces of literature -- or anything that Eisenstein has written.

What are your thoughts on Soviet Montage? How has Eisenstein changed the way we make and edit films? Share your thoughts in the comments below.

Link: The History of Cutting: The Soviet Theory of Fontage -- Filmmaker IQ

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Your Comment


Editing is one the most underrated aspects of filmmaking, in my opinion at least.

A great Editor can make a decent performance Oscar worthy and a bad Editor can make an Oscar worthy performance Razzie worthy.

February 13, 2014 at 2:38PM, Edited September 4, 8:45AM


Grammar of the Edit is also a good book.

February 13, 2014 at 2:47PM, Edited September 4, 8:45AM


Eisenstein's writings are more theoretical than instructive, but thanks for the recommendation. :)

February 13, 2014 at 5:06PM, Edited September 4, 8:45AM

V Renée
Content Manager at Coverfly

Whether or not it's done on purpose reality tv follows a lot of Eisensteins theories. Soaps back in the day must have as well. I remember as a kid soaps would cut to the different characters and get their expressions and then a voice would come out of nowhere of the character thinking aloud to themselves. Sorry to cheapin' up your post but it's a simple way to grasp his theory. Ask any reality tv producer and they'll tell you "it's all in the edit" ;)

February 14, 2014 at 6:21AM, Edited September 4, 8:45AM

Anthony Marino

That was an interesting watch. I've never studied film but I'm currently editing my first feature doc. The amount of work involved was more than I expected but it's quite wonderful seeing it come together.

February 20, 2014 at 4:11PM, Edited September 4, 8:45AM


An experiment demonstrating the 5 METHODS OF SOVIET MONTAGE ::

July 27, 2014 at 3:06AM, Edited September 4, 8:56AM