Narrative vs. Montage Essay

Narrative vs. Montage Essay

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Each film has a distinct purpose associated with it. Whether this purpose is as simple as teaching children a valuable lesson or as complex as criticizing a society’s barriers, there are explicit goals which must be discerningly conveyed. There are specific elements to filmmaking which are designed to contribute to the goals set forth when making a film. Such elements include what would be considered “aesthetics of astonishment,” or striking images, editing conflict and other techniques associated with montage filmmaking. Each of these techniques imprint a thought or logic on a film – a kind of “watermark” – that pushes the film itself towards the accomplishment of the original goals. Regardless of the need for the completion of these “higher goals”, a director’s ability to keep a viewer’s undivided attention is crucial to the success of a film. Each viewer must remain fascinated from start to finish by the plot and characters, or he will lose interest in the film. So, when a film relies on a strong narrative base to keep its audience captivated, there is little room for variation from the elements which depict the story best. Striking montage images or techniques, if not carefully placed, can have a tendency to take the viewer’s eye from the progression of the narrative and turn their thought to something else.
     Quite often, montage aspects of a film are deliberately placed to invoke specific thoughts or feelings. Such techniques can be employed to even go so far as to provide an alternate connotation to an event than what the average viewer would normally formulate. Parallelism is a method designed to do just that. This technique allows directors to have his audience associate a single action or event with a secondary action or event. The Strike parallels the slaughter of a cow and the execution of factory workers to generate a deeper emotion than one would normally associate with murder. The audience does not view the execution as merely mass murder, but instead they compare the soldiers to a butcher and connect the murder itself to something heartless and revolting – a slaughter. The Strike seems to tastefully use this method to strengthen the purpose of the film itself: a criticism of murder and execution. There is, however a fine line between what is tasteful and what is not. If this techniqu...


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...en were sickened by the excessive visual conflict. Needless to say, these flashes took a significant amount of attention away from the narrative itself, and one can safely assume that such an event would tend to make a film rather unpopular.
     If the aesthetics of astonishment are not employed whatsoever, the film loses its purpose and becomes an empty recital of the actions of its characters. This deems the striking montage elements necessary. If these elements are overdone, then the audience can and will lose sight of the narrative element. Should this cause the audience to lose interest in the film altogether, then the film is a failure and the director loses credibility. The most important aspect of creating a film is finding a healthy medium between completing the objective of the film and presenting the narrative. Directors are responsible for depicting the necessary montage elements in a film while avoiding creating what Gunning describes as “an excess of mimesis” (FTC). One could argue that this very conflict is what distinguishes films that find this medium as “great films.”

Books used to support this paper:
Film Theory and Criticism
Film Art

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