Montage – Everything You Need To Know

Montage is a cinematic technique that condenses space, time, and information by sequencing a series of brief shots. The capability to edit and rearrange images and frames to construct a story is one of the essential components of filmmaking. In general, the challenge in editing and filmmaking is to be effective and efficient. This allows the audience to comprehend the story while remaining fully interested. In this regard, the montage editing technique is one of the necessary tools available to filmmakers.

How is Montage Defined?

A montage is a collection of still or moving images combined to form a continuous sequence. Montages allow filmmakers to convey a significant amount of information to an audience in a short period by juxtaposing diverse images, compressing time through editing, or weaving multiple narrative threads together.

The term “montage” comes from the French word, which means “assembling” or “editing.”

Video: How Does Christopher Nolan Use Montages in his Films

Why is Montage Used in Films?

To Speed Up Time

To begin, how is a montage beneficial to a film? Few editing techniques are more effective at compressing the time of a series of events than this one. This technique briefly conveys a large amount of information to the audience, which is fantastic for giving a film both context and explication.  

Pixar’s Up‘s tear-jerking opening sequence is a superb illustration of this. The opening scene condenses an entire lifetime of love into a few dramatic minutes. However, montage editing can save a lot of time by compressing it. Weeks, months, and even years are displayed on screen for less than a minute using the sequences created this way. The video below shows how a sequence from the Up screenplay is converted for the big screen.

Video: Montage in the Film Up

To Create Meaning with Juxtaposition

Finally, juxtaposition has been used in montage since it became famous, thanks to Soviet montage theory. How the shots are placed and juxtaposed next to each other dramatically impacts the meaning and information conveyed.

The Kuleshov effect is based on this. For example, the baptism scene from The Godfather is the most well-known example of this effect. The assassinations of various mafia bosses are juxtaposed with the baptism of Michael Corleone’s nephew to convey Michael’s christening as the new Don. 

Finally, if the scenes were separated, the effect would not have been as strong, and Cinefix considers this to be the best sequence of all time. 

Video: Montage in the Film The Godfather

Constructing a Gestalt

“An organized whole that is viewed as more than the sum of its parts,” says the definition of gestalt. As a result, in the medium of film, multiple images can combine to create a gestalt, giving the audience a richer picture of the film’s environment or characters. This is nicely done in the opening sequence of 500 Days of Summer. The film gives the audience a more profound knowledge of the two main characters throughout the film by employing short views and images from their upbringing.

Video: Montage in the Film 500 Days of Summer

As a Comic Relief

Montages are used well in comedies for hilarious effects. These sequences have been utilized to set up a hilarious scene and deliver the punchline. In Step Brothers, the newly formed friendship between Dale and Brennan is a humorous example.

Video: Montage in the film Step Brothers

To Combine Multiple Plotlines

Numerous storylines in a single scene are frequently intertwined in films with multiple storylines. When numerous tales are combined, this is very powerful. As a result, montages can convey a film’s subject in a single scene.

It can also be utilized to increase the ferocity of a significant plot point and impact every character in the novel. For example, in the film The Big Short, this is done to show how several storylines react to the same incident. When the market does not crash as the film’s central protagonists, expect this sequence to amp up the drama of the entire film.

Video: Montage in the Film The Big Short

To Develop Characters

Filmmakers frequently have to convey a character’s evolution and growth in a short length of time. This could be crucial in setting the tone for the rest of the movie. This is most typically encountered in the training montage.

The iconic Rocky montage, for example, is perhaps the most prominent illustration of this. But let us look at another equally successful example. Characters in Mulan prepare for battle by training and practicing. Though they start hopeless, they finish up victorious.

Video: Montage in the Film Mulan

What are the Different Types of Montage Editing?

The different types of montage editing techniques are:

Dialectical Montage Editing Technique

In his essay “A Dialectic Approach to Film Form,” Sergei Eisenstein expressed his agreement. He claimed that montage is “the nerve of the film” and that “determining the nature of montage is to answer the special challenge of cinema.”

Hence, a dialectical montage is the juxtaposition of unrelated images to elicit an idea or emotion in the viewer. For example, we could cut from a smiling man to a coffin to suggest that he’s relieved and someone has died. This is all about manipulating the audience’s emotions.

Video: Alfred Hitchcock on Dialectical Montage Editing Technique

Rhythmic Montage Editing Technique

Every cut between each shot regulates the pace at which the film or TV show accelerates, according to the notion of rhythmic montage editing. As a result, this type of editing can speed things up or slow them down at will.

The length of a shot is usually changed to create a pattern. For example, to impact the audience’s emotions regarding the scene, we either give staccato cuts or elongate footage in slow motion.

Edgar Wright is one of the top directors in using rhythmic montage editing techniques. He frequently edits to the beat of the music and uses songs to help develop tension and even comedy from those moments.

Video: Edgar Wright Using Rhythmic Montage Editing Technique in his Films

Metric Montage Editing Technique

As it employs a visual speed closely associated with the musical score supported by it, a metric montage refers to music meters.

Video: Metric Montage Technique in Rocky 3

Overtonal Montage Editing Technique

An overtonal montage is a composition that incorporates a variety of methods. As a result, you will find metric, rhythmic, and tonal montage elements all in one place. This is done to maximize the montage’s impact on the audience.

The film Parasite employs all of the strategies and concepts we have discussed thus far to convey the story of a family defrauding someone over a few months. It is intriguing and engaging, and it sets the tone for the rest of the movie.

Video: Overtonal Montage Editing Technique in the film Parasite

What is Soviet Montage Theory?

Filmmakers experimented with various editing approaches when they initially learned how to make movies and elicit emotions from the viewer.

Lev Kuleshov was the first to propose what became known as the Kuleshov Effect. It’s a cognitive event in which viewers get more meaning from the interaction of two sequential photos than they would from a single shot alone. But that was only the start. That concept piqued people’s interest, and they wanted to expand on it.

Video: What is Soviet Montage Theory?

How are Montages Written in a Screenplay?

You can present a montage in a few different ways in your script. Let’s start with a famous example from the page.

Montage in Goodfellas

There are a lot of renowned movie montages to choose from and the montage in the film Goodfellas is remarkable.

Set to “Layla” as in Goodfellas.

Video: Montage in the Film Goodfellas

Isn’t this an incredible montage? Its main goal is to depict a power transition inside the mafia. We learn that burying the evidence involves burying some stuff, thanks to the voiceover and a sick Clapton tune.

Image Source: IMSDB

Examples of Montage Editing Technique in Films

To make the most of the montage effect, you can employ the following techniques that leave a lasting impact in the audience’s mind:

All these devices elevate the responses and development of characters and situations, drawing the audience’s attention. In films and some of the scripts, there are numerous well-known examples of montage, including:

Requiem for a Dream

This montage from Requiem For A Dream demonstrates the metric/intellectual montage’s organized yet chaotic impact. There are nine frames in each shot, as well as a unique sound effect. The montage depicts the disorienting effects of drug use.

The timing of the shots is frenzied but precise. As a result, the sequence has a psychedelic feel to it. It is efficient in moving the plot forward and illustrating each character’s journey into addiction.

Video: Montage in the Film Requiem for a Dream

Image Source: IMSDB

The Breakfast Club

Rhythmic montage is exemplified by this scene from John Hughes’ The Breakfast Club. This montage depicts each member of the group’s adolescent turmoil. As a result, despite their differences, they have become friends and are now at ease in each other’s company.

It is an example of a montage that conveys a sense of togetherness. The characters are not the only ones who are bonded, but the audience too. It is a time when the audience and characters may come together over a shared joy. The characters are so absorbed in their worlds that they lose sight of their individual differences.

Video: Montage in the Film The Breakfast Club

City of God

A tonal montage tells the history of an apartment in this scene from City of God. Everything that has happened in the flat is immediately explained through voiceover narration and montage. It informs the audience on how local dealer Blacky came to control this territory.

This scene employs the same static view throughout the apartment’s history, with changing furnishings and decor to depict the apartment’s deterioration. It is a montage that propels the plot forward while still containing a lot of information. This scope is enabled by the fact that it is a static shot, containing an entire journey and planet within a short frame.

Video: Montage in the Film, City of God

Creed

The montage shots in Creed demonstrates Adonis Creed’s tenacity and drive to succeed.

Ryan Coogler pays homage to the original legendary Rocky montage in this segment. Creed‘s tonal montage, on the other hand, differs from the original’s training montage.

Image Source: Scriptslug

It blends and juxtaposes Creed‘s training with Rocky’s deteriorating health, deepening both characters’ tales.

While not mentioned in the narrative, the sequence in the film also includes Creed’s opponent, Ricky Conlan, and his training regimen. Conlan appears to be more ruthless, and the incident establishes a contrast between the two adversaries. The montage succeeds in establishing Creed as the underdog in this way.

Video: Montage in the Film, Creed

Whiplash

We quickly advance through a chunk of Neiman’s drumming training in this tonal sequence of Whiplash. We see his anguish, as seen by the repeated image of the blister tape and his bleeding hands.

The goal of training montages is to demonstrate progression in a short amount of time. Andrew grows as a drummer and as a person. It demonstrates his desire to develop and his willingness to go to great measures to do so. As an underdog, this helps the audience cheer for him.

Image Source: Scriptslug

This montage’s physicality also aids in conveying one of the film’s themes: the physicality of drumming. It shines a light on the side of drumming that many people may not be aware of.

Video: Montage in the Film Whiplash

Edge of Tomorrow

This rhythmic/tonal montage in Edge of Tomorrow is virtually a training montage, as we witness Tom Cruise’s character preparing to not die to win the battle. He must keep dying in order to learn from his mistakes and progress.

The quick succession of Tom Cruise’s characters’ deaths, akin to Groundhog Day, avoids the potential boredom of over-repetition in this montage.

The director and the scriptwriter have realized that condensing this sequence improves its usefulness. It would be tedious to watch all of these deaths over a long period of time.

The fact that they are compressed so quickly demonstrates how much Cruise’s character goes through in such a short period of time. It’s fast and active, and it tells us everything we need to know. The audience is kept on their toes rather than being patronized by over-explanation.

Video: Montage in the Film Edge of Tomorrow

Trainspotting

Trainspotting is another example of outstanding world-building and character explication through montage; Specifically, Iggy Pop’s ‘Lust For Life’ and the legendary ‘Choose Life’ statement. The major protagonists are introduced in this overtonal montage as they play football:

  • Sick Boy fouls a player, then claims innocence.
  • Begbie brags about severely fouling a player.
  • As the goalkeeper, Spud sprints away from the ball and weedily fails to make a save.
  • Tommy, the golden boy, is depicted playing skillfully and clutching the ball despite being tackled by three players.

The montage acts as a microcosm of the protagonists’ personalities.

The key themes of the film are also introduced in this montage: drug misuse, addiction, and nihilism. This introduction montage depicts a wide range of the character’s experiences.

Video: Montage in the Film Trainspotting

Blackkklansman

This closing montage highlights Spike Lee’s commentary in Blackkklansman. He used montage to connect the events of the film to our modern society. The historical racism depicted in the film’s main plot is linked to current events.

This montage has a totally different effect than the others in this post. Instead of creating the story’s setting, it is employed to show a connection between the real world and the film’s narrative world.

This intellectual montage demonstrates how montage can be used to make a point and how the juxtaposition of two pictures may question and confront the listener.

Video: Montage in Blackkklansman

La Jetee

The film is a montage of still pictures that mirror the protagonist’s memories as he journeys through time, directed by Chris Marker.

Video: Montage in La Jetee

Rocky

John G. Avildsen’s film has some of the most unforgettable montages in the sports genre. The film Rocky‘s training montage, which concludes with his run up the steps of the Philadelphia Art Museum, has become so well-known that they are now referred to as “the Rocky Steps.”

Video: Montage in Rocky

Do the Right Thing

Spike Lee’s film includes a racially heated montage that attempts to depict the essence of a city.

Video: Montage in Do the Right Thing

Pretty Woman

Garry Marshall’s film uses the montage method to portray Julia Roberts’ character’s development as she goes shopping and tries on various clothes.

Video: Montage in Pretty Woman

Conclusion

The montage editing technique with its unique ability to express a lot of information in a short time may create some of the most memorable scenes in a film. If executed properly, the montage technique within a film helps the audience to immerse themselves more in a film. 

Finally, knowing how a montage works inside a tale will enable you to use it to engage your audience effectively and communicate with them in the most engaging manner possible.

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