Watch: The Soviet Theory of Montage & Eisenstein’s Five Editing Methods

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Soviet Montage Theory Five Editing MethodsOne of filmslie’s previous posts examined Sergei Eisenstein’s influential theory of montage and its idea of creating new meaning through film editing. From Chris Marker’s La Jetee which creates the illusion of movement through dissolves and fades to Paul Sharits’ Word Play which demonstrates how meaning can be created and destroyed, from Hollis Frampton’s Nostalgia which examines time and memory through the asynchrony of film sound and images to Louis Morton’s Passer Passer which combines sound and images to create a feeling of rhythm, from Robert Bresson’s claim that “an image must be transformed by contact with other images, as is a color by contact with other colors” to Lars von Trier’s Nymphomaniac which captured the human condition in a single dissolve, the cinematic power of editing seems ubiquitous. As Francis Ford Coppola said, “the essence of cinema is editing.”

This educational video by puts the Soviet theory of montage in historical perspective and delves into the details of the Soviet editing school. One of the most valuable lessons from the video is Sergei Eisenstein’s classification of the five film editing methods.

The Five Editing Methods of Sergei Eisenstein

The first and most basic is metric editing, based on the length of a shot. It creates the tempo of the film.

The second editing method is rhythmic montage, based on both the length of a shot and the dynamics of the scenes. In other words, it also considers the rhythm of the action depicted.

Next is the tonal editing method, which focuses on the lighting, shadows, and colors of the edited scenes.

The over-tonal method combines the first three method in a holistic approach.

The last and most complex editing method, and Eisenstein’s favorite, is the intellectual method. It creates new meaning through editing by combining shots on the basis of a conceptual connection between them.