Film Theory Narrative Excerpt

This excerpt comes from a paper looking at how the theory of Lev Kuleshov and Béla Balázs come together to explore the creation of meaning within narrative.  If you have any questions regard this excerpt or you are interested in the larger paper for publishing or research purposes, please do not hesitate to Contact me.

The point where these two theories intersect and mingle appears when Kuleshov insists that montage is created through the mechanism of close-up. Not only does this reinforce the idea of Soviet montage being mainly a cinematic phenomena, but also we see how the cinematic apparatus’ capturing is not inert, but capable of revolutionary ideas. Here the detail of image in the close-up connected with juxtaposed editing can create meaning based on the object alone, because of its removal within its space. To better articulate this concept we should place attention to the example of the film Battleship Potemkin [1925] wherein this idea is discernable from the lion statuettes or the famous woman getting stabbed with the sword sequences. By placing these objects in close-up, the image is removed from its surroundings, allowing it to function as a singular entity, which Balázs would attribute to cinema’s relief of our human “short-sightedness and superficiality” (Balázs 129). Within the aforementioned sequences, the close-up removes the subjects from the collective mass of people, thus focusing in on a singular spatial-temporal moment to evoke a strong emotion from the audience. Another aspect of the close-up that compliments the montage theory is how the attention to detail is played along with the tempo of the editing, in that images are instilled with momentum. For instance, the lion statuettes are positioned in a way that create the illusion of them waking up in alarm, all by manipulating the tempo of the edits. Modifying the tempo, either quicker or slower, and attaching an image to it allows the film to juxtapose meaning, and create an ideological purpose throughout the images. While this example focuses on the revolutionary style of Soviet montage, regular classical examples can be attributed; for example, in The Godfather [1972] during the Baptism scene, the close-up Michael Corleone is edited with multiple murders, along with fast editing tempo the montage correlates more along with Balázs’ idea of meaning through editing.

This excerpt comes from a paper written during the Spring of 2017 in NYU’s Cinema Studies’ Graduate Film Theory Class taught by Dr. Marina Hassapopoulou.

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