Although like many others of my generation I have been exposed to film my entire life, I have never given any thought to the plethora of elements which go into the making of each film. This newfound knowledge continues to leave me highly conflicted. On one hand, reading about and discussing such elements has allowed me to view films quite differently, as I now have a greater understanding and appreciation for the thought and work which is poured into their development. On the other hand, however, knowledge of the “behind the scenes” secrets of film making worries me that it might take away from the overall effect of the film. For example, reading about Kuleshov’s experiments in achieving a particular response from an audience with simple editing gimmicks, left me with the feeling that behind cinematic magic was pure trickery. Does knowing these tricks take away from the magic?
I especially felt this conflict in reading about different views on montage. Bordwell gives a general and simplistic definition of montage when he writes, “…montage also denotes film editing. Although the concept has implications for macrostructure, most writers restrict it to matters involving what we might call the stylistic texture of the film: the way in which shots A and B could be joined to create a particular impression.” (Of Eisenstein) A more detailed and elaborate view of the concept of montage is brought out in writings by Murch, Kuleshov and others, and it is here that I find the source of my discomfort. At many points during my reading of their works I felt as if there was an attempt to make the art of film-making into a scientific formula. For example, Murch’s attempt to order the art with his “Rule of Six” felt as though he were trying to bring order and organization to a topic that could not, or perhaps rather should not, be ordered. Bordwell reinforces my belief of this more scientific approach when he writes of Vertov’s approach to montage, “Film production became like factory production, the assembly of a whole out of pieces trimmed to fit.” (The Cinema of Eisenstein)
In contrast, the piece by Eisenstein somewhat restored my faith in the magic of film, or more realistically the view of film as an art form rather than a simple formula. In particular he writes, “But in my view montage is not an idea composed of successive shots stuck together but an idea that DERIVES from the collision between two shots that are dependent of one another.” (28) This view of film as a living form, constantly changing as new ideas are born and shaped by the raw material of the footage is one that I am more at ease with, as it allows me to view the overall impact of the film as “magic” and simultaneously also see that what goes on behind the scenes is “magical” as well. I now understand the production of film and importance of montage may be a series of techniques which can be described and taught, but the way in which these techniques are employed is where opportunity for artistic expression remains endless.