(Reader) Einstein’s and Bazin’s Thoughts on Film

This week’s readings were different from the typical textbook reading. They were essays by two majorly influential film theorists: Sergei Einstein and Andre Bazin.

Sergei Einstein was a soviet film director, editor, and film theorist. In his essay “A Dialectic Approach to Film Form” was a detailed explanation on his own ideas about cinematic philosophy. Stemming from the ideas of Karl Marx’s Marxism, he believed that film’s essences lays in conflict. He spends the first couple of pages diving deep into this idea, claiming that art is always conflict from its social mission, nature, and methodology. This transitions to his concept of “montage”, but not the montage we know. Einstein defines his understanding of “montage” as juxtaposing shots to create a dramatic principle. He believed this created strong intellectual and emotional responses to the viewer, making the whole experience way more powerful. These conflicts can be derived from six main things (there are plenty more though):

1. Graphic conflict
2. Conflict of planes
3. Conflict of volumes
4- Spatial conflict
5. Light conflict
6. Tempo conflict

Through these means and many others, filmmakers can create conflicts that make the viewer emotionally connected to the work.

I feel that this a confusing yet interesting approach to film. Sure conflict is essential to film, but I don’t think it is everything. I feel that in order to connect to the viewer, you need scenes and sequences that aren’t necessarily conflicts but are filler. I feel if there is always contrast and contradiction, it can get confusing and overwhelming for basic viewers. I feel that this approach definitely appeals to film critics and connoisseurs, but not the common viewer which makes up the majority.

Andre Bazin was a renowned French film critic and theorist. In his essay “The Myth of Total Cinema”, he discusses the concept of film and how it is simply an ideology. He argued that the creators of film were not scholars, but people who were obsessed with creating the perfect illusion of the outside world. This idea of creating a representation of reality came to be known as “The Myth of Total Cinema”. Overall, this essay argues that cinema is not just a product of economic and technological innovation, but an idealogical phenomenon.

I found this essay to be an interesting one. It made me think about the roots of film and has me wondering if this can be true. The theory makes sense and I feel that this is a great discussion point. But a question I had was, without economic and technological advancement, does the idea of cinema ever exist? Sure it is obvious that you need the advancements to make films, but did the idea of cinema exist before these advancements?

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