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I am a huge movie buff. I anticipate big blockbuster hits and save up the money for the admission at the movie theater. Film strips are made up of still frames that when projected at an average of twenty-four frames a second gives the illusion of movement and continuity. Many films use different elements in their frames whether it is between shots or within them. This is an example of Montage. In this paper I will attempt to discuss montage, the film "Battleship Potemkin", analyze Eisenstein's methods of montage he used for the film, and come up with an idea as to how to transform this historical piece on to theater stage.
Montage is the joining together of different elements of film in a variety of ways, between shots, within them, between sequences, within these. During the 1920's Russian filmmaker Sergei Eisenstein, who is considered "the father of montage," created five methods to montage. These methods are metric, rhythmic, tonal, overtonal, and intellectual montage. With these methods Eisenstein was able to change the way a scene was brought to life in film.
Metric montage is when "pieces are joined together according to their lengths, in a formula-scheme corresponding to a measure of music. Realization is in repetition of these "measures". Tension is obtained by the effect of mechanical acceleration by shortening the pieces while preserving the original proportions of the formula (Eisenstein & Leyda pg73)." When cutting to the next shot, no matter what was happening to the next image, it was used to bring out the most basal and emotional reactions from the audience.
With rhythmic montage "the length of the pieces, the content with in the frame is a factor possessing equal rights to consideration. Abstract determination of the piece-lengths gives away to a flexible relationship of the actual lengths (Eisenstein & Leyda pg74)." With this type of montage, it is based on timing of the visual composition of the shots to induce a more complex meaning than with metric montage.
In tonal montage the "movement is perceived in a wider sense. The concept embraces all effects of the montage piece. Here montage is based on the characteristics of emotional sound of the piece-of its dominant (Eisenstein & Leyda pg75)." Just like metric montage the shot is used to make a reaction to the audience. Only difference is that tonal montage uses shots that have emotion.
Overtonal montage is an accumulation of the previous three montages. And give the audience an even more abstract and complicated reaction. Overtonal montage "steps up the impression from a melodically emotional coloring to a directly psychological perception (Eisenstein & Leyda pg78)."
The last is intellectual montage. This method of montage is "sounds and overtones of an intellectual sort: i.e. conflict-juxtaposition of accompanying intellectual affects (Eisenstein & Leyda pg82)." With these shots combined you get an intellectual image.
It starts out in act I, named "Men and Maggots", it is June of 1905, and the armored battle ship Potemkin is near Odessa on the Black Sea returning after Russia's defeat in the Russo-Japanese war. There are many sailors that are sleeping in their hammocks. A petty officer walks in checking on therm. One of the sailors that are sleeping with a shoulder and arm hanging outside his hammock is in the way of the officer who is trying to get through. When the officer cannot get through he reacts by whipping the young man. Some of the other sailors wake up this act. In the morning, the ship's cook has displayed large pieces of meat outside the ships kitchen. The sailors saw this meat hanging and began talking and pointing to the meat and calling others to look. An officer on a railing higher up notices the sailors around the meat and the sailors start to complain to him that the meat is rotten. The officer calls the ship's doctor, who goes down to check out the meat. The ship's doctor after looking carefully at the meat says that the meat is not rotten it has no worms, only maggots that can be washed out with brine. The cooks prepare to serve a meal on table tops that hang from ropes in the ceiling. Large steel bowls are placed on the tables and soup is the only food that is being served. Some sailors do not eat the soup. Later it is shown a sailor is in the kitchen washing dishes after the meal. One dish had an inscription that read "Give Us This Day Our Daily Bread". The sailor washing the dish hold it for a moment, read it again, and then smashes it. The sailors who were on wash duty walks off from their work stations. In the next scene of we see a lot of sailors at the ships commissary buying many cans of food. One of the higher ranking officers notices this and continues walking by. One point talking on one of the decks below, sailor Vakulinshuk says the treatment on the boat was worse than being a POW in a Japanese camp. Other sailor talked about the overall treatment.
In Act II named "Drama at the Harbour", it is all hands on deck as Captain Golikov comes up from a trap entrance to discipline the men that did not eat the soup. He says that there will be no disobedience or strike or that he will hang everyone in the ship if it is. Then the captain asks who ever at the soup with the rotten meat to step under the cannons to show their loyalty. All but a group of fifteen shows their "loyalty". The captain decides that he wants to kill the fifteen for not eating the soup. The group tries to escape but the other officers step in their way. The captain throws a tarpaulin over them, making it easier for the other sailors to shoot the fifteen sailors. When the Captain gives the order to shoot, seaman Vakulinchuk stops the firing squad from executing the other sailors. Vakulinchuck gives a speech encouraging the shipmates to stand up and rebel against those who oppress them which would be the officers of the ship. While this is going on the captain is repeating the firing order but it is not carried out. Vakulinchuk and the other shipmates get together and turn on the officers. There is a chase after the officers and when caught they are thrown overboard, the doctor as well. The ships priest appears and plays "possum" when he gets pushed down the stairs pretending to be dead. Before being thrown overboard, one of the officers is able to grab a gun and shoots Vakulinchuk. Vakulinchuk falls from a high point of a ship on to a tackle and then tumbles into the water. The shipmates shout that Vakulinchuk has gone overboard and a couple of sailors jump in to save but it is too late as his body is brought back on the ship. Vakulinchuk's death bonds the shipmates together.
In Act III, "A Dead Man Calls for Justice", The Potemkin is under the control of the sailor s and they dock at the port of Odessa. Vakulinchuk's body is taken to the shore and laid under a tent that is set up on the pier. Vakulinchuk is holding a candle with a sign on his chest reading "KILLED FOR A BOWL OF SOUP". There is talk amongst the people in the local area in small groups about Vakulinchuk. An obnoxious member of the bourgeoisie heckles a woman protester. During another heated discussion someone in the crowd says "kill the Jews!" But the majority of the citizens of Odessa get riled up and decided to destroy the oppressors and help the sailors who rebelled on the Potemkin. Large numbers of the citizens bring food to the battleship to support the crew.
In Act IV, "The Odessa Staircase," after they given the sailors quality food, many of the townspeople have gathered along the long and wide flight of stairs overlooking the harbor leading down towards the piers. In good moral, shouting encouragements towards the ship. All ages of men, women, and children of all ages have come to see what is going on. Then out of nowhere, troops in white tunics show up at the top of the stairs slowly marching down the steps. People start to scramble as the soldiers began their assault on the innocent men, women, the elderly, and children. Countless people scramble down the steps to get to the side. Some elderly people hide behind walls as the soldiers continue to slaughter the people fleeing. A woman who carried her dead son's body in her arms walks up to the soldier s telling them that her son is very ill expecting to let her pass. A second later people look in fear as she is gunned downed. People step over others who have fallen, dead or alive. We even see the soldiers stepping on a small child. One woman had a bullet shot through one lens in her glasses. Another victim included in this massacre was a mother who was pushing a baby in a carriage. As she falls dead, she hits the carriage on the way down to the ground. The carriage starts to make its way down the steps as onlooker watch the carriage travel untouched. Then soldiers on horseback arrive at the bottom of the steps to finish the innocent off.
In the final act, ACT V:"The Rendezvous with a Squadron", The sailors who have taken over the Potemkin mend their battle stations and turn their guns on the buildings that might have held Tsarist soldiers but by then the massacre on the stairs is over leaving only the soldiers standing. The sailors of Potemkin then sail out to sea to avoid an attack from the shore when suddenly a squadron of warships has a course headed straight toward the Potemkin to take it back. The crew of the Potemkin expected this and some mend sentry duty. Other sailors of the Potemkin try to sleep. They are soon woken up and mend battle stations as multiple ships are sighted far away on the horizon. As the ships get close, the Potemkin send a sort of morse code to the other ships crews to treat them as brothers. Potemkin's cannons, despite being outnumbered, are aimed at the other ships as in an attempt at one last "hurrah". But when the ships get into range, the ships allowed the Potemkin to pass through. The crew of the Potemkin celebrates and they come on deck waving at the others ships, as they do the same, when the ships cross in opposite direction.
As I was watching "Battleship Potemkin", I thought about how I could transfer this film on to the stage and the first thing that came to mind was how you (as in you Joseph) and Lucius set up "Vertigo". From a technical stand point, I would use only a limited amount of technology if space was limited to me. If I was to put this play in swain, I would use the projectors to display and identify what scene the actors were in on the back curtain.
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