p.p1 peasants and workers”. These themes are reflected

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“Since the 1920’s, when film theorists began to realise what editing can achieve, it has been the most widely discussed film technique” (Bordwell, Thompson and Smith, 2012, p216). Between 1924 and 1929 soviet filmmakers recognised the importance of editing to put across messages and meanings, particularly surrounding political ideas that were produced during that time period. Jill Nelmes in ‘An Introduction to Film Studies’ states that “the early 1920’s marked the end of a period of civil unrest, the causes of which lay in the great divide that separated wealthy land-owning Russians from the peasants and workers”. These themes are reflected in the films of soviet filmmakers such as Kuleshov, Pudovkin and of course Eisenstein and Vertov. Whilst Eisenstein and Vertov both made films during the same period and are both influential filmmakers with regard to soviet montage, their films carry a wealth of differences in terms of their editing choices. 

‘Battleship Potemkin’ by Sergei Eisenstein follows the story of an uprising on the Potemkin and in Odessa. When sailors on the Potemkin are fed rotting meat they revolt and take over the ship, when the civilians in Odessa hear of the uprising they join the uprising in support of the crew on the Potemkin which leads to the governments army attempting to the stop the uprising by killing civilians in Odessa. Whilst this film is fictional it is based off events that occurred in 1905, Eisenstein later said that “I had my own principled demands of the script: the absence of central heroic characters, an emphasis on the mass, on collective action and so on”.  

‘Man With a Movie Camera’ by Dziga Vertov on the other hand, is a documentary that follows the day in the life of people living in the soviet union. Not only that, but we see the makings of the documentary – how the cameraman got that shot and focuses heavily on kino-eye (seeing through the camera). Vertov in his book ‘Kino-eye’  said “I am kino-eye, I am a mechanical eye. I, a machine, show you the world as only I can see it”. 

When examining the differences between both Eisenstein and Vertov’s  editing approaches, it is important to first look at the differences between their genres and formats. Whilst ‘Battleship Potemkin’ is a fictional film, ‘Man With a Movie Camera’ is a documentary so their initial genre is different. These means that ‘Battleship Potemkin’ has a story and a plot whilst ‘Man With a Movie Camera’ lack scenario or plot. In addition, ‘Man with a Movie Camera’ also looks at the making of the film; the editing process and how different shots were actually captured. Whilst ‘Battleship Potemkin’ fails to do this, it does tell a story which includes dialogue. These differences in genre allow Eisenstein and Vertov to approach editing in their own way, allowing for different editing techniques. 

Both ‘Battleship Potemkin’ by Eisenstein and ‘Man with a Movie Camera’ by Vertov are renowned worldwide for their impact with regard to soviet montage. Soviet montage was a movement during the Russian revolution and ‘montage’ in French means to assemble or to edit – this reflects the movement where so much change happened in filmmakers approaches to editing. According to Bordwell, Thompson and Smith (2017) filmmakers created ‘an art that would reflect Communist social ideals’. Filmmakers wanted to include politics within their work and approach these issues within their own work. During this time period, lots of the films were of a slow pace which ‘favoured long takes and intricate styling’. At the same time. Hollywood was emerging with it’s own fast paced approach, Russian filmmakers wanted to develop too, they wanted to create their own tools for future filmmakers to use. Eisenstein and Vertov were among these filmmakers. 

The first notable difference in editing choice is the use of captions or lack of. Within Eisenstein’s ‘Battleship Potemkin’ there is a use of captions to both capture what the characters are saying and to show the five different chapters at the film, such as ‘The Odessa Steps’. The use of caption within this film helps to break the film into different acts and shows the development of the film. The use of captions for dialogue help the audience to understand the story and of course what the characters are actually saying. Eisenstein does however, keep the use of captions to a minimum as it was the era of silent cinema. Vertov with ‘Man With a Movie Camera’ on the other hand, actively chose not to use any captions at all, confirmed at the beginning of the start of the film which includes titles, which states ‘without the aid of captions’. This shows how Vertov wanted to use his Kino-eye and show the people the world from his eyes. This is supported by Vertov stating in the opening of the film ‘ This experimental work is directed at the creation of a totally international absolute language of cinema founded on its separation from the language of theatre and literature’. This also shows how Vertov wanted to create a film that was universally accessible – anybody from anywhere could watch this film. This shows how Vertov’s choice to leave out captions as a more powerful choice then Eisenstein’s to use captions. Whilst the captions in ‘Battleship Potemkin’ move the narrative forward whilst ‘Man With a Movie Camera’ actively lacks captions in an attempt to create its own cinema language and to allow everybody to watch it. 

Another difference between Eisenstein’s and Vertov’s approaches to editing within their films is their chronology. Within ‘Battleship Potemkin’ the film runs in chronological order. Eisenstein chose to put the sequence together in this order to be able to tell the story – this makes the narrative easier to follow for an audience and takes no attention away from what is happening. This editing style is called analytical editing – and editing style that serves narrative continuity.  ‘Man With a Movie Camera’ on the other hand does not run in chronological order. A series of clips run which are shot in different locations and at different times. Vertov edits together different clips that juxtapose each other, for example, we are shown a couple signing their marriage documents and then we are shown a couple signing their divorce papers. Whilst both Eisenstein and Vertov approach chronology in their films differently, they both use it in order to create an experience for the audience – Eisenstein tells an interesting story and Vertov shows the audience the world from his eyes. 

Another point to consider is the actual editing methods the two filmmakers used. Eisenstein predominantly uses cuts between his shots. He experiments with the different shots he uses to create different images and ideas that resonate with the audience. The article called ‘The Art of Montage: Battleship Potemkin’ by Matt Pearson suggests that ‘ the montage uses quick cuts to give the audience a sense of urgency and dread’. ‘Man With a Movie Camera’ uses an abundance of different editing techniques such as cuts, dissolves, split screen, slow motion, speeding footage up, stop motion and double exposure. The use of different editing techniques shows how Vertov wants to show the audience the world from his eyes. It’s a very experimental film in the way it explores different editing methods and the different ways it makes an audience react. Both of these approaches to editing differ massively – one only uses cuts whilst the other has heavy use with a multitude of different editing techniques. These differences between the editing techniques suit the genre of film they are used within. 

With regard to specific editing techniques, both ‘Man With a Movie Camera’ and ‘Battleship Potemkin’ make use of the 180 degree rule. The 180 degree rule according to Corrigan and White (2009) in ‘The Film Experience’ is where the camera must not cross the axis of action within conversations. This is to help prevent confusion within the audience whilst the conversation is taking place. With relation to the two films being looked at, Eisenstein chooses to stick to the 180 degree rule. When conversations take place the 180 degree rule is followed and the camera does not cross the axis of action. This helps the continuity of the film as well as help prevent over complication the narrative – allowing for the story to be more accessible to audience. ‘Man with a Movie Camera’ by Vertov and the other hand, breaks the 180 degree rule. Whilst no conversations take place in his film, we are shown what is going on on the other side of the camera. We can see the shot from the other angle and we are able to see how to show was captured – this once again relates to Vertov’s kino-eye. 

It’s clear that there are many differences between the editing in ‘Battleship Potemkin’ and ‘Man with a Movie Camera’ mainly because of their different genres and purposes. ‘Battleship Potemkin’ by Eisenstein employs continuity of narrative time and duration in order to present the story in chronological order. The temporal progression however is slowed down within the film. Within the ‘Odessa Steps’ scenes the temporal progression is clearly slowed down as the events that would have happened in a matter of moments last for minutes of screen time. This helps to build tension and heightens the intensity of the scene for the audience. ‘Man with a Movie Camera’ by Vertov employs disjunctive editing which, according to Corrigan and White (2009) is disruption in the ‘continuity by creating ruptures in the story, radically condensing or expanding time, or confusing the relationships among past, present and future’. Whilst ‘Man With  Movie Camera’ doesn’t particularly confuse an audience, it does show different places at different times and condenses footage into what would have taken hours to film. The film is in no particular order and the shots are put into a mixed up order. This makes the temporal progression of the film slightly confusing as it is impossible to know the time period at which this film took to make. 

To conclude, the politics of Russia during the 1920’s led to the Russian movement of Soviet montage. Eisenstein and Vertov were two of the most famous filmmakers that produced during that time. By looking at their films ‘Battleship Potemkin’ and ‘Man With a Movie Camera’ it is easy to see the differences between them as well as the way in which they developed new editing techniques during that time. These differences in technique founded by their difference in genre and purpose. The main differences between the two films included the use of captions, approaches to chronology and temporal progression, editing techniques employed such as slow motion, split screen and stop motion as well as approaching the 180 degree rule differently. These differences explore the different ways they can make an audience feel; whether that is to make an audience feel tense like Eisenstein or to show them the world from their eye like Vertov. The films made by Eisenstein and Vertov were so influential that filmmakers around the world noticed what they did and they continue to do so to this day. 


Bordwell,D., Thompson, K., & Smith, J. (2017). Film Art. New York: McGraw-Hill Education.

Roberts, G. (2000). The Man With The Movie Camera. London: I.B. Tauris & Co Ltd. New York: 175 Fifth Avenue. 

Dix, A. (2008). Beginning Film Studies. Manchester: Manchester University Press. New York: 175 Fifth Avenue. 

Peterson, M. (2017). The Art of Montage : Battleship Potemkin. Online.  Available from http://centerforcreativemedia.com/index.php/the-art-of-montage-battleship-potemkin/. Accessed 9 January 2018.

UK Essays. November 2013. The Man With The Movie Camera Analysis Film Studies Essay. online. Available from: https://www.ukessays.com/essays/film-studies/the-man-with-the-movie-camera-analysis-film-studies-essay.php?cref=1 Accessed 9 January 2018.

Nelmes, J. (2003). An Introduction to Film Studies. London & New York: Routledge.