Google doodle had a film theme today, and I couldn’t resist leaping on it. Sergei Eisenstein, Russian master of the montage, inspiring me to look at some of the best montage examples from Hindi film.
Sergei Eisenstein’s most famous montage is of course the Battleship Potemkin Odessa steps sequence. It’s a brilliant leap forward in film, building tension by rapid cuts. But it also had a thematic purpose, Eisenstein was making a socialist film, he wanted to create the feeling of many people suffering in their own way and yet also united, versus the implacable power of the state.
Indian film was highly influenced by Russian film style, especially in the 1950s. But they were less likely to do montages, partly because of technical/expense issues. A montage can only be done with multiple cameras being set and reset and shooting from multiple angles, and then finally everything being chopped up and pasted back together. With the limited quantity of raw film stock available to Indian filmmakers, and the heavy clumsy cameras they were using, it was hard to film like that. Which is why the exceptions to that rule were so exciting.
The first one that springs to mind is the Darr trailer. Which Aditya Chopra cut together and shocked people by how very different it was from what they were used to seeing. It’s not one formal sequence edited together as is the Odessa Steps scene, but rather an entire film shown in quick flashes, kinetically pulled together.
That montage pulls together one narrative, there are also montages like this which pull together one part of the narrative, one character. In this case, Shahrukh Khan playing (essentially) himself.
Fanvids also tend to be montages, because they are repurposing footage made by others and the easiest way to do that is to chop it up and put it back together again. Just like Eisenstein did with his own new footage.
So far these have all been sort of mood pieces, putting together multiple things in order to create a certain mood. Montages can also be used in order to show events happening simultaneously in multiple places. For instance, the amazing montage that opens The Legend of Bhagat Singh. Which I can’t find, so click here and go to Netflix and watch the opening 5 minutes! It’s AMAZING.
As good, but more reflected instead of power packed, is the end of Bombay.
There’s also montages used to show time passing, multiple events in a condensed way. Here’s one I really love from Wazir which adds on freeze frames and slow motion.
And finally back to Rang De Basanti for the use of montage that is closest to Eisenstein’s original famous sequence.
I know that is just scratching the surface, please let me know if there is something I have missed, or a montage you really love! Oh, and also, GO TO NETFLIX AND WATCH THE OPENING OF BHAGAT SINGH!!!!