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Kinds of Montage: Eisenstein's tonal montage

by Michael Frierson

Eisenstein says of tonal motage, "This term is employed for the first time. It expresses a stage beyond rhythmic montage.
In rhythmic montage it is movement within the frame that impels the montage movement from frame to frame. Such movements within the frame may be of objects in motion, or of the spectator's eye directed along the lines of some immobile object.
In tonal montage, movement is perceived in a wider sense. The concept of movement embraces all affects of the montage piece. Here montage is based on the characteristic emotional sound of the piece-of its dominant. The general tone of the piece."

The cutting rhythm here is very slow, with the shortest shot being 2 seconds and the longest 13.5 seconds. Most of the shots are 5-7 seconds in length, and the broad areas of sea surface that fills much of the area of the shots is in the mid-grey range, with gently lapping waves. Eisenstein cuts back and forth from a shot of a buoy with its gulls ascending and then descending to a shot of the water’s oily surface swathed in light is particularly evocative of emotional tone of the scene.

In addition to the fog and soft gloom that permeates the scene, there is a gentle rocking either from a static camera with the sea and boat rocking, or from the camera itself rocking on a floating platform that adds to the emotive tone of the scene, which justly is the source of the “secondary rhythmic” quality Eisenstein describes.

Kinds of Montage: Eisenstein's Tonal Montage

Eisenstein claims this type of montage is "based on the characteristic emotional sound of the piece-of it's dominant. The general tone of the piece."

from Battl (1928)
Creator: Sergei Eisenstein
Distributor: Kino Classics
Posted by Michael Frierson