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THEORETICAL DISCUSSION: ANDREY KARPENKO. Montage in the documentary cinema

I want to turn to the pervious speech of V.Jarmoshenko who asserts that it is in the nature of spectators and every man from his birth has an irresistible temptation to go deep into what is happening, to look up to the end, to the very end. I remind you of one statement of Krakauer on the occasion. In his sensational theoretical investigations he made a sufficiently simple conclusion: cinema art fulfills its role when shows a physical being in its infinity, continuity or in the current of life which is identical with incomplete, non-concluding life. And from this point of view Jarmoshenko's speech is in full accord with Krauer's. That means that man's subconsciousness, having seen a great number of films for some decades has comprised a notion that there is something behind the screen space which surely needs to be considered, co-endured, examined. And then the moment comes, and at the will of the cameraman or producer, or a fault of technique, this world ceases to exist on the screen, we have an irresistible desire to continue its being.

The montage as the break of duration contradicts first of all to this natural desire. When Nickolas Ray's death was being shot by Venders, he said: "Just don't switch off the camera".

On the other hand we spoke much about Vertov who by editing made all his creative work and with this he went down in the history of cinematography. Thus we have two approaches: an unbroken sequence which depends on the duration of a film put into a cassette on the one hand, and on the other hand the author's desire to break it at any moment. Between these two extremes there is a space of cinematography existence. In connection with this I would like to differentiate between these two different on principle approaches of producers to editing who don't contradict each other.

A man is measure of all these phenomena. Cinematography is related to a number of physical objects. Krakauer called all represented space as physical reality. I say at once: if we take physical reality excluding a man from it as the main character, we are absolutely free, unrestrained in the choice of editing devices. If a film is shot about nature, we are free in the choice of the fore shortening, the shooting point and editing joints. I take nature in a broad meaning of the word - if it's the Urals preserve which is shot by Michail Zaplatin or horses shot by Boris Galanter. In this meaning Urals stones or horses are absolutely documentary objects. The inter relation between a producer and reality in this case are absolutely constant. If we want to create this reality and represent it to the spectators, we'll get it. Moreover we are free from moral dogmas. In connection with this I would rather call the montage approach to such kind of realities as analytical. Besides in the author's documentary there is a number of examples when the film was made on this device, and a powerful artistic image was created.

I always recall a film of a vanguard producer from Chile Raul Ruis "Ice Breaker". It is a highly poetic film in which within 60 minutes on the screen there is an icebreaker battling its way trough polar ice. The life of people on board is scarcely shown - literally, as a general plan. The producer has no aim to be absorbed in the study of the life on board the icebreaker shot during the whole navigation. An ice-breaker, battling its way through the North sea lanes, becomes Bethoven's symbol, creates an image of a ship-destiny, an incredibly strong, emotional, poetic image on the screen. There were only technical difficulties when the film was shot: how to shoot from an ice floe, how to shoot from a helicopter, how to shoot from some parts of the ship, etc. While editing the producer could act as it was prompted by the nature of a producer-spectator.

And there is another approach, in principle, when we are approaching to a man. This approach in cinema reviews is marked with sufficient concretions and was called by Basen neomontage. It is necessary when we shoot absolutely real object during a continuos time and on account of some technical or some other circumstances cannot show it without gluings in the scale 1:1. As an example he gives the film "Bullfight" in which corrida, all relations between a bull and a toreador are shot documentary. It is a sea of passion, a sea of blood. On the screen there appears the author, Shakespearean, emotional atmosphere of the relations between the characters, one of which must kill the other. It is impossible on the account of shooting peculiarities and of different circumstances to shoot the whole corrida by one plan. That's why the film was being shot for ten corridas. The bulls all looked almost alike, there was some difference in toreadors, but a pair - a bull and a toreador-remains the same. In this case we have a synthetic editing decision when we glue the sequences shot in different time.

I quote Basen himself: "As a result she has edited a document with such a brilliant skill that only with strained special attention one can see that a bull bursting into sequence from the left is not the same bull that has just disappeared behind the right edge of the sequence.

And in the long run getting the resulting image of a bull, in general, we don't break the rules of the game into reality and editing serves here a compensation for the fault of shooting technique. And namely, this cheating at the montage helps credibility. Connection of two plans, imprinting two different bulls is necessary to make a symbol from the bull force and not a certain concrete bull appears before us, but a real bull not existing in nature".

It is a paradox, but it is really so - that the nature of a new documentary to the considerable degree corresponds to the second approach, to the problem of editing a documentary.

The fact is that with this method the majority of the most brilliant films were shot. Practically all films shot in the course of a long period of time by means of cinema observation, in the end were made in such a way. And the first from these films is "Nanuk from the North". Besides speaking about this film, we can find elements of both approaches because there are episodes which were being shot for several years. But there are also montage joints when the same Nanuk enters and comes out of the sequence. These are not the same bulls as it was with Basen, it is one and the same Nanuk - and in this case it is not important for us whether it was shot during the last expedition or before the last one. A real image of Nanuk appears before us, he was going to hunt a seal. And at the same time we can see a large episode which fully meets the demands of those who want to make the sequence very long according to Krakauer and Jarmoshenko from eternity to "always". E.g., an episode with pulling out a seal from the icehole when practically the whole cassette was shot because the seal could hold Nanuk infinitely long. Thus we have both approaches in one film: on the level of the author's intention and on the level of a ready film.

Pavel called the film "Ten minutes older" by Herz Frank a program film of a new documentary. Here we also have both elements.

At first, a film becomes a film due to the combination of two sequences, that is due to one montage joint. Ten minute emotional experience of a boy looking at the screen (we learn about it only from a caption). A film becomes Frank's film when we see a caption "Ten minutes older" and subtitle in small letters " A Fairy-tale about good and evil". Without this subtitle I think that it was simply wonderful material but not a film.

Due to the subtitle "A Fairy-tale about good and evil" during 10 minutes we are watching how the boy is becoming a grown-up. It is an editing device characteristic of a synthetic method.

All mentioned here classical devices of deepstaging, a famous passage in "Maria" by Sokurov, who was spoken several times, taken out from the context of the film could hardly give us anything. Because the image of the troika, road etc. is born from the foregoing and subsequent. The thing is that a man is usually connected with the road and movement with his feelings and emotions but the reference is very precise, the reference to Gogol settles in editing conception of the author on the level of the whole film but not of a concrete separate sequence. We can shoot much more interesting - more exciting foreshortening, camera put under the wheel, there would be both snow and ice and so forth. It does not change the essence. Only being included into the author's context on the level of understanding of the whole film's material, it becomes that very diamond which interests us. I want to stress that there is no problem. Pavel said himself that in his own film he was simply obliged to chop off in some places, to insert pictures, it was simply technical devices, which were connected with his author's conception.




You said absolutely. I have caught you, here are my witnesses. By this you emphasized that you are the author of this film.




Going after your character or giving him the possibility to do his best, sharing with us, you never the less were the master of the situation from the very beginning up to the end. I am convinced that any sequence is a fruit of your author's conception.


To my regret


But why? Pay attention - we deal with real cinematography in which we are limited by concrete things. It is "to my regret" lives with us 100 years and will continue to live 100 years more, it will follow us. What is the best? I tried to prove, that the best is what corresponds to your author's intention and your conscience. In this case Pechonkin, Ioseliani and a spectator coinside - here is that very triad, which cannot contradict each other.

I would like to draw you attention to one more thing, which is worth speaking about the author's documentary, all of a sudden everybody understood that one of the means making the author's documentary is the rejection of the banal announcer's text. With the very commenting words we get an image of old, Soviet, classical, special, applied, not feature, not the author's documentary . People understood, that it is possible to communicate with the screen without the author's text - there appeared a new art reality, new strategy. 98 % of films shown are like these. For a rare exception the majority have no author's text.

Many of us have began to reject the text forced either by fashion or by circumstances. Not being ready to face a great problem of semantic decision of their pictures, many producers could not make their films: films just didn't come out because there were new tasks, and the montage decision was very hard. In short I dwell upon the nature of the printed word and cinematographic representation. It is proved that a word is precisely semantic: being uttered, it names the objects sufficiently concrete and the notions are understood by people similarly and at the same time the nature of cinematographic picture is polysemantic, the one and the same sequence in a varied contexts can give quite a different quality. Nowadays we can show the chronicles of the coronation of Nickolai II somewhere on the banks of the Nile and any fellow can take it as a fashion show at the beginning of the century if he is at least slightly educated. And any Australian aboriginal will learn at first that there is something else besides the loin-cloth and take it as a show. It is clear only for us that it is a coronation of the tzar. If it is not sounded, the sequence only in concrete social and historical surrounding expresses one semantic meaning. An attempt to create an artistic documentary reality, repudiating the commentator text, called forth a large number of problems on the level of dramatic and semantic decision of the main theme of the film. Rejecting the author we simply show some pictures glued in some way and without explanation we think that the spectator will understand everything himself.

I am convinced that particularly through the use of montage we can understand in the analysis of a film what is a "new documentary".


At last we began to talk about the cinema language. Because the talk about the film from the point of view of Belinsky, Aristotle, Gegel has become old-fashioned. We must speak about what film tells us, about the attributes of a documentary, why a spectator sees a documentary cinema in what he is being shown on the screen. If earlier they could use captions, photos, chronicles, now new quality, given at this festival, consists in bringing montage to the minimum, to minimize the discursive possibilities of the camera. But it is impossible to avoid this. The camera must be near the character as in a feature film, to keep him in a narrative field. I think that all these things are utopian.

They always appear in different vanguard arrangements.

Remember that Yancho wanted to destroy the Hollywood montage but instead of this he got montage inside the sequence. Certainly to minimize editing joints is an ideal at which a new generation is aiming. I think that side by side with the new reality, new realism, something new which is well forgotten old, a new tendency of this festival comes into being. Alexey Khanutin asked a very interesting question about a teleshow "A field of wonders". It is possible to make a wonderful documentary having shot several shows, faces of different supers, their mimicry, Yakubovich himself, switching of the sound. There will be a good documentary. We must offer a spectator some space which he can't see on TV. It is not a space for manipulation. In this meaning everything what was said about minimization of montage and minimization of camera possibilities reminds us of the continuously repeated manifestos about new photogenity and photography. I would like to note that it is very important to turn to natural language. Perhaps it is a peculiarity of Russian cinematography. It is a sort of a biological phenomenon that creates natural surrounding.

We can leave actors in the sequence if they are fully natural and present it as a documentary. It is important that the psychological attitude and some signs in the language of the film in the sound and visual line referring to such credibility: life sound, photographic visuality, etc. I think it is a search of its own space, different space from Hollywood cinematography.


I would like to say a few words about the subject of our discussion. In general these are some secret attitudes of our Sverdlovsk crew when it was arranged in 1987. I would single out 3 points:

First of all it is the rejection of the publicism, of the clear analytics. Problems of the State, personality, history, country, people must be concentrated in the destiny of a man, a family, a small group of people. Though it is not anything new, we went from great Russian Literature (from "The Death of Ivan Ilyich" or "Resurrection" where the destiny of the country is shown through the destiny of Katjusha and Nekhludov) in general it is old literary device which seemed to be good at that time.

The second - it is an attempt in every film not to limit by retelling events, or telling what happened before the film but be able to find an episode when something was happening during the shooting. That's why in the film "Who Mows at Night" an episode appeared - a birth of a calf. We knew that a cow was to calve and especially to that moment we sent an expedition to Tver's region. It was necessary for the film.

The third - it is quite a conscious attempt to drive out what was called at present an effect: unwarranted editing, metaphors, associations presented to the spectators as the only possible.

But these postulates does not give an absolute right to aesthetics which can be unposed on others. This is a trend of some school, of some brotherhood; the trend which has already exhausted itself. A device used by Flaherty in "Nanuk" - a story about the world which is unknown to a spectator, - it is used by our documentary makes as well, because it is easier to speak about a crank, an outcast, whom nobody knows and nobody can imagine how he lives. It does not mean that this device is not good because some general features are usually seen in a personality. But this device begins to exhaust itself when from festival to festival you can see a number of cranks, outcasts, cripples, sick people. This pendulum begins to move to another side. When there is too much queer you want something quite polar - strong, powerful character who can lead to the apology of a superman and the theory of a superman is a theoretical precursor of fascism (remember Nitshe!) I want to say that the new trend, which our organizers called "a new documentary" is not an apology and not an attempt to name this trend as the major one, it is a trend which exhausts itself but it gives birth to a new cinema, in a new quality, very interesting and serious, utterly new cinema which also may exhaust itself.