Early German vs. Early Russian Filmmaking

This paper discusses early German vs. early Russian filmmaking
in terms of a controlled versus an uncontrolled narrative perspective.

This paper explains that the primary difference between the early Russian films of the first half of the 20th century and the German Expressionist movement, whose films exemplify an artistic ethos, is the significance given to narrative and to expressing a singular and coherent ideology for the viewer. The author points out that, in the case of Russian filmmakers such as Eisenstein, the narrative and descriptive sequences of the film are manipulated over the course of the film to invest particular images and aspects of the film with great importance. The paper relates that the German cinema creates a more ambiguous sense of meaning within its choice frames; the visual, rather than the story-based aspects of the film’s shot and the film’s overall plot arc, have greater significance.
“The greater emphasis on narrative within early Russian cinema also is evidenced in the way that the Russian directors, most notably Eisenstein, create meaning between frames of narrative, rather than within frame in a miens-en-scene approach. In this approach, the meaning of a single scene has a meaning in and of itself and can be invested with different meanings outside of the filmed narrative sequence. For instance, “Potemkin” makes use of what is known as a dialectic montage, or a composition of rapidly evolving scenes, too rapid for the viewer’s eye simply to apprehend just one. The composition and the apprehension of scenes all at once creates a singularity of emotion and intent regarding the action, as opposed to a sustained scene where the viewer is able to consider the image and come to his or her own conclusion regarding the events that are transpiring. Miens-en-scene or middle of the scene approach became very popular in postmodernist and post-structuralism critiques and film analysis. Even the most impressionist examples of Russian cinema, such as the Man with a Movie Camera, have a highly ideological and uniform tone, that of the glory of Russia, in sequences where seemingly unrelated images are created.”