Film Form by Sergei Eisentein

I read a book while in college called Film Form. An editor from CTV suggested it to me. It's an early film theory book written by the man who invented the montage style of editing. Russian filmmaker Sergei Eisenstein.

I really enjoyed his book but it's not without its issues. As many of the early film theorists, Eisenstein has a tendency to propose as universals the principles of a specific school. The Soviet school of montage, whose heyday was in the late 20s, in this case. It seems to me he was the first to coherently express that, in editing, 1+1 doesn’t always equal 2. Sometimes it equals joy. Sometimes it equals sadness. The juxtaposition of two images can create a third, entirely unique image, separate from the original two, but dependent on their union. I think, this excerpt is a good example of that.

A blue tone is mixed with a red tone, and the result is thought of as violet, and not as a “double exposure” of red and blue. The same unity of word fragments makes all sorts of expressive variations possible. How easily three shades of meaning can be distinguished in language-for example: “a window without light,” “a dark window,” and “an unlit window. ” Now try to express these various nuances in the composition of the frame. Is it at all possible? If it is, then what complicated context will be needed in order to string the film-pieces onto the film-thread so that the black shape on the wall will begin to show either as a “dark” or as an “unlit” window? How much wit and ingenuity will be expended in order to reach an effect that words achieve so simply?

That main thing that I took away from his book is the A + B = C thinking. Creating, via juxtaposing two images, a meaning that is independent of both images. It seems obvious in our video-saturated world but someone had to be the first to write it down. It’s a fantastic concept and should be kept in the back of your mind while you edit, but beyond that very important and basic idea; I have to admit there isn’t much else to this book if you're not into film.

If you’re an editor like me, I’d suggest you read it anyway. If not, then just A + B = C is the main takeaway point. You can buy the book on amazon here.