Sergei eisenstein film form essays in film theory
That Eisenstein would characterize the separate terms as purely material seems particularly egregious in light of this example, where the terms knife and heart obviously contain meanings that go beyond what is represented. It would seek to express ideas which were not only non-material, but which exist in a conceptual sense and in this regard go beyond things like emotions which while non-visible do have an empirical connection to objective reality.
These kinds of ideas are generally broad claims which, while about the world, are highly abstract in a way which, unlike general scientific claims, can neither be proved or disproved with any degree of certainty. An example closer to Eisenstein would be to make a critical statement on the nature of religion, an example he employs in October and which is described below. His objective was to find ways in which a series of mental representations of empirical reality visible and non- visible can be combined to produce abstract notions which cannot be directly represented.
If this is a rather commonplace conclusion to draw from his early essays, then it seems especially important to note that it is a conception of his task arrived at more thorough inference than an explicit rendering of what is on the page. In order to prevent the possible ambiguity which plagued the hieroglyphs, it is necessary to find a way to provide the viewer with a tool to effectively read the images.
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This challenge and a direction for the solution is expressed in the following quote, in which he addresses the possibility of ambiguity in a series of images:. A few paragraphs below these observations, he seems to be addressing this same issue of how to stabilize meaning, by introducing the idea of the dominant:. In a word a whole complex of secondary stimulants always accompanies the central stimulant.
Their collision with one another and with the basic tones, etc.
The fundamental notion which seems to be implicit in these comments, and which addresses the way in which meaning must be stabilized, is related to the methods described above in relation to the hieroglyphs. While speculative, it is possible that it was an awareness of the need to stabilize meaning that led him to favor the idea of the dominant over the promotion of an equalization of the different elements of cinema.
While perhaps lacking in emotional impact, the deconstruction of the hieroglyphs illustrated the possibility for a multitude of possible meanings to arise, and the correction of this problem by the establishment of an ideological privileging production over consumption that limits the meaning. But the meaning of this scene, which begins with an image of a conventional god and then gradually replaces it with a series of lesser and lesser gods, is by no means clear.
It could be taken to show how the universal truth of God is present in a variety of representations, or perhaps could be a statement that there is only one God, in effect a warning against idolatry.
Film Form: Essays in Film Theory Eisenstein essays in film theory
But numerous other sections of October serve to establish the privileging of real people over various statues, which are to be seen in a negative way. In light of this system of privileging, there is something redundant about placing it in a context with lesser religious symbols, since the image has already been denigrated through the establishing of a negative term, through the establishing of a reading code. On a superficial level, such indoctrination by images would seem to arise by the ideas and values conveyed in the films.
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But in trying to arrive at a means of producing abstract concepts, and to limit the possible overflow of meaning, his writings hint at strategies which would establish not just the ideas to be thought, but also the mode of thinking, the grammatical code, which could produce these ideas. Such a code would function by establishing dominant values which could function as a kind of intellectual legend of various images.
From the point of view of ideology propagation, this is perhaps a much more significant project than delivering mere slogans. In an kind of extreme version of an fictional history, one can almost imagine his proposed film version of Das Capital as an impenetrable cluster of images to the non-indoctrinated, but a logical and seemingly obvious explication of Marxist principles to the people of the Soviet Union.
This difference is between presenting the objects of thought and mounting the very processes of thought itself. While the former is overt and didactic, the latter is subtle and unlikely to even be detected by the viewer. Eisenstein was in many ways an extraordinarily prescient thinker. By implicitly suggesting the use of a dominant in order to limit meaning so as to produce ideology, he may well have been almost half a decade ahead of his time in foreseeing certain kinds of ideas that would come to be characterized under the rubric of poststructuralism.
A major difference, of course, is that Eisenstein was looking at how to produce this kind of meaning, while poststructuralist thinkers are more interested in deconstructing it. Another difference is that there are times when Eisenstein takes natural modes of thought for those that are actually highly conventional, and in this sense related to ideology.
Eisenstein, Sergei. The Eisenstein Reader. Richard Taylor. Richard Taylor and William Powell. London: BFI, Lavalley, Al, and Barry P. Scherr, ed. Editors should know them as vital working tools so they can be either incorporated or reacted against in any given film. The following are my notes on what I find to be his most useful essays for me as an editor. They can be downloaded. Personal Contexts: Eisenstein studied engineering. Worked with modular pipefittings at the St. Petersberg Department of Public Works. Studied set and costume design. Worked with Myerhold. Bi-sexual at least: remark to Kenneth Rexroth after "Que viva Mexico!
They will tell my mother and it would kill her if she knew.
Historical Context: the times demanded partisanship. Therefore, his metaphors of industry and mechanics. Theorist: similar to Heidegger's statement about the one star which you spend your life shinning. Eclectic, not systematic. Gradually changed his stance on intellectual montage. Hailed the junction of the Kabuki and the sound film. Monistic Ensemble--sound, movement, space, costume, voice function as elements of equal significance.
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Transference--the method of transferring the basic affective aim from one material to another " Pudovkin and G. Alexandrov signed a joint statement on sound film. Opportunity: only in contrapuntal use of sound will it become a montage element. Is most interested in the "copulative" category of heiroglyph where two objects when placed together become a concept which is regarded not as their sum but as their product, a value of another dimension: the ideogram.
This is what is done in montage in cinema: combine depictive shots which re neutral and single in meaning into intellectual contexts and series. Principle of ideogram: denotation by depiction. Laconism: compressed, brief forms characterize Japanese poetry. Haiku, for E.
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Disproportionate depiction of an event: talks about child's picture of stove and room and huge matches which show how important they are--that this is natural in humans. It is simply the function of a certain form of social structure. Shot: montage cell which can form an embryo.
Montage: characterized by the collision of two pieces in conflict from which arises a concept. Montage compared to the explosions of an internal combustion engine which drive the tractor or film forward. Stalin: artists are the engineers of the soul. Conflicts: Graphic directions, Scales, Volumes, Masses--volumes filled with various intensities of light, Depths. Stresses the principle of conflict: counterpoint. Talks about two methods of teaching drawing: without reference to the frame, or by cutting out compositional elements from a cherry tree branch framing.
These ways are analogous to two basic tendencies struggling in cinema:. Kabuki's "disintegrated" acting. Acting with an arm, or leg, breaking up the unity of the actor. Uses as an image the teaching of rifle handling to an illiterate recruit by breaking down the steps as opposed to the "spongy shapelessness" of naturalism. Social mission--its task is to make manifest the contradictions of being. Nature--embodying a conflict between natural existence organic inertia and creative tendency purposeful initiative. Hypertrophy of purpose makes art to rational.
Hypertrophy of naturalness dilutes art into formlessness. Methodology--montage, which is the idea which arises from the collision of independent shots. Seeks a purely intellectual film freed from traditional limitations. These secondary stimuli are the overtones and understones. In cinema the trick is to exploit these collateral vibrations to achieve the visual overtonal complex of the shot.
Overtones cannot be traced in the static frame, just as they cannot be traced in the musical score. Both emerge only in the dynamics of the musical or cinematic process. The visual and aural overtones are elements of a filmic fourth dimension which can be felt. Tension obtained by shortening or lengthening the pieces while preserving the original proportions of the formula. Simple relationships are best because they give clarity of impression. Suitable for simple march-time montages. Content is subordinated to the absolute length of the piece.
Danger: over-complexity to the point where perception is by measurement rather than by impression. When metrical montage is forceably applied it can result in montage failure. Rhythmic montage--the content within the frame is a factor posssessing equal rights to the length.
The practical length derives from the specifics of the content and its movement within the frame. Tonal montage--movement within the frame is here given a wider sense.