WHAT it is…

A theory and technique of film editing expounded by Soviet filmmaker Sergei Eisenstein, among others, in which two unrelated shots are utilised to create a secondary meaning not inherent in either of the two individual shots. A purely dialectical process derived from Marxist concepts, Intellectual Montage requires that the shots ‘collide' with – instead of reaffirming - each other.

WHY it is special...

More than any other theory, Intellectual Montage placed the entire responsibility of meaning-creation on a single cinematic practice: editing. Theorists asserted that authorship of a film lies in montage alone. Vsevolod Pudovkin even claimed that objects residing within individual shots are ‘dead' until they are placed alongside other ‘dead' objects and given life through montage.

Against continuity…

Soviet Intellectual Montage stood in direct antithesis to the practice of Continuity Editing that American pioneers had established as standard for narrative cinema. Instead of eliminating seams by providing the illusion of spatial and temporal continuity, it exposed and harnessed those very seams in order to urge the audience to take part in the meaning-making process. A politically charged technique, it is a reliable go-to choice for simple agitprop cinema.

WHEN it is deployed...

Although continuity cutting is what all of commercial moviemaking is based upon, Intellectual Montage has often been appropriated with varying degrees of success. Usually, it is used to score cheap dramatic (a shocking news intercut with thunder and lightning) or comedic (a man being thrashed and a laundryman washing clothes) points or, in the case of mediocre student efforts, to exhibit “directorial skill.”