This is the twentieth film I have watched in "My Letterboxd Season Challenge 2021-22", "A 33 week long challenge where the goal each week is to watch a previously unseen feature length film from a specified category." This is the 7th annual challenge, and my third time participating (my first year can be found at "My Letterboxd Season Challenge 2019-20", and last year's at "My Letterboxd Season Challenge 2020-21"). Week 20 is called "Soviet Montage Week":
"Soviet montage theory is an approach to understanding and creating cinema that relies heavily upon editing (montage is French for "assembly" or "editing"). It is the principal contribution of Soviet film theorists to global cinema, and brought formalism to bear on filmmaking.
Although Soviet filmmakers in the 1920s disagreed about how exactly to view montage, Sergei Eisenstein marked a note of accord in "A Dialectic Approach to Film Form" when he noted that montage is "the nerve of cinema", and that "to determine the nature of montage is to solve the specific problem of cinema". Its influence is far reaching commercially, academically, and politically. Alfred Hitchcock cites editing (and montage indirectly) as the lynchpin of worthwhile filmmaking. In fact, montage is demonstrated in the majority of narrative fiction films available today. Post-Soviet film theories relied extensively on montage's redirection of film analysis toward language, a literal grammar of film. A semiotic understanding of film, for example, is indebted to and in contrast with Sergei Eisenstein's wanton transposition of language "in ways that are altogether new." While several Soviet filmmakers, such as Lev Kuleshov, Dziga Vertov, Esfir Shub and Vsevolod Pudovkin put forth explanations of what constitutes the montage effect, Eisenstein's view that "montage is an idea that arises from the collision of independent shots" wherein "each sequential element is perceived not next to the other, but on top of the other" has become most widely accepted.
The production of films—how and under what conditions they are made—was of crucial importance to Soviet leadership and filmmakers. Films that focused on individuals rather than masses were deemed counterrevolutionary, but not exclusively so. The collectivization of filmmaking was central to the programmatic realization of the Communist state. Kino-Eye forged a film and newsreel collective that sought the dismantling of bourgeois notions of artistry above the needs of the people. Labor, movement, the machinery of life, and the everyday of Soviet citizens coalesced in the content, form, and productive character of Kino-eye repertoire.
The bulk of influence, beginning from the October 1917 Revolution until the late 1950s (oftentimes referred to as the Stalin era), brought a cinematic language to the fore and provided the groundwork for contemporary editing and documentary techniques, as well as providing a starting point for more advanced theories."
This week's challenge is to watch a previously unseen Soviet Montage film.
I've told the story many times. My first attempt at college was in 1973-4, when I was a film major at a local junior college. Things were different in California in those day before Prop 13 lowered taxes, which resulted in a loss of revenue. In 1973, there was plenty of money for education, so that my local junior college had a full film program that included a free film showing five nights a week (usually a double-bill) along with all the movies I watched in the day during classes. It was, in fact, the largest free film program in the country at that time. While I became known in my grad school days in the English department as an anti-canon advocate, my film education was a different kind of preparation. It was, in short, canonical. This meant, among other things, that I spent several weeks watching silent Soviet films. So this week's challenge took me back to my younger days.
I barely need to write anything more ... the challenge description above may be the most detailed I've ever seen. One oft-noted difference between Eisenstein and Pudovkin is that Pudovkin would focus on individual characters more than Eisenstein, who relied more on the collective. I'm not sure how different the results were ... Mother has several main characters, but outside of the titular mother, those characters are mostly stereotypical, and Dear Old Mom serves a clear ideological purpose, such that it appears we learn a bit about her character just so we can see her transition to a revolutionary mindset. Mother is the kind of movie that ends with the mother being trampled to death by Tsarist soldiers on horseback. This is presented as a triumph, because the previously apolitical woman has advanced to waving the socialist flag as she dies. (I admit my interpretation may differ from how you see it.)