THE PRINCIPLES OF MONTAGE
One of the key elements of being a good director, is to
understand the “principles of montage” – the juxtaposition of
images to tell a story.
In 1918, a Russian filmmaker called Lev Kuleshov conducted an
experiment where he shot and edited a short film in which the
face of a famous Russian matinee idol was intercut with three
other shots: a plate of soup; a girl playing ball; an old
woman in a coffin.
And Kuleshov made sure that the shot of the actor was
identical (and expressionless) every time he cut back to him.
The film was then shown to audiences who totally believed that
the expression on the actor’s face was different each time he
appeared – depending on whether he was “looking at” the plate
of soup, the little girl, or the old woman’s coffin; showing
an expression of hunger, happiness or grief respectively.
So what does this experiment tell us?
By carefully using the juxtaposition of images, filmmakers
were able to produce certain emotions from the audience by
manipulating an actor’s performance.
As a film director, understanding the principles of montage
will help you to: create a more visual script; to decide your
camera placement; to block your scenes; and to get layered
performances from actors.