It to the severity of the subject.Eisenstein’s

It is undeniable that the aesthetical choices which directors make withintheir films, whether it is through cinematography, mise-en-scène or editing, often channelmessages surrounding the contexts in which films were made or of which they arethe subject of. Films made during times of great political, economic or socialstruggle are often of high importance when taken into the account the potentialinfluence they can have on shaping the attitudes and culture of those viewingthem. Early 20th century Soviet filmmakers were an important part ofinstigating revolution, and the establishment of a communist state in Russia;through deep theoretical knowledge and the new concept of montage editing,their films were effective propaganda to feed the Russian population.

Likewise, cinema was the most effective method of gaininginfluence at the time due to its easy distribution and ability to be accessedand understood by the large percentage of the population that were illiterate.Brutal Realism achieved through a film’s aesthetics’ can evoke visceralresponses from a viewer, and also bring to attention current issues. While the media has often been criticised for its lackof, or negative/ unfair representation of asylum-seekers and refugees,films such as Mediterranea (Italy, Carpignano, 2015) do not hold back withchaotic handheld camerawork, fast paced editing and low key lighting to grab anaudience and let them see and experience what many migrants have to go throughto reach their destinations in such a way that draws attention to the severityof the subject.

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Eisenstein’s Strike (1925, Russia) is a prime example of a film wherecinematography and editing are used to create metaphors for ongoing events inthe film’s political context; it is composed to reinforce a communist agendaupon the audience and in many ways, the film was propaganda. Eisenstein builton the work of Russian theorists like Kuleshov and Vertov, focusing in particular on ‘the Kuleshov Effect’; howcombining different shots together will make viewers derive more meaning, overjust long single takes which had dominated the composition of early 20thcentury cinema. Using these theories, he developed his ‘dialecticalmontage’ editing, which I feel strongly mirrors the Marxist Dialectic asboth regard the collision of thesis and antithesis to form a synthesis; (shot A + shot B = shot C) and (Labour + Capital =Revolution.

) A key scene in Strike is the finale sequence where thelabourers are massacred by the Russian military/ police under orders from thegovernment. The shot composition in this scene makes use of depth; long shotsof the military advancing and labourers fleeing have their background, middleground and foreground filled with characters, emphasizing the magnitude of theevent and how chaotic and distressing it is for the viewer, it begins to buildempathy for the labourers as they are helplessly killed.Likewise, Eisenstein’s cross-cutting between the killing of the labourersand the slaughter of livestock (graphic and un-censored,) serves as a metaphorfor the political context at the film’s time; the bourgeoisie’s attitude/treatment of the labourers. The brutality displayed by the military is furthershown through close ups of the labourers hands held up showing they areunarmed, yet the violence continues. The shock value ofthis scene very much forces the audience to identify with the workers,and against the authority; the film achieves its purpose to reinforce communistideology effectively.

Although the alignment you as a viewer are supposed tohave is made clear, it could be argued that the ruthlessness, machine-likefunction and power that the military and government are shown as having,coupled with the fact that the strike of the workers ended in them and theirfamilies’ deaths, could discourage any thoughts of resistance against theauthority. However, noted that this film was made after the October revolutionin 1917 (after Russia had become a communist state,) its message is more likely“don’t let history re-write itself,” reinforcing a communist society as theideal.The scene ends on a long shot of the slaughtered workers which dissolvesinto a second shot of the marching military’s feet, the use of a dissolvetransition makes it appear as though the soldiers are literally marching overthe dead bodies; this display of disrespect and animosity coupled with thelimited shot only showing identical boots marching presents the military almostas a ‘faceless figure’ or ‘authority.’ Eisenstein ends the final scene and filmwith a simple title “DEFEAT,” this feels anti-climactic and juxtaposes theaction occurring previous, and it does not seem to offer any resolution likethe classical Hollywood Narrative (which was alsobeing pioneered at the time) would. This could then lead you on toquestion the idea of “Americanitis” as the film does not follow manycinema tropes or clichés (other than a short film-noir style chase scene whichis reminiscent of many detective films.

) The visual elements in this scenewhich build it up so high are cut off abruptly, which offers no new equilibrium;we are left in a society where the capitalist government still rule strictlyover the lower class. This is not at all like the typical classical narrativestructure, but could be purposeful as if to suggest that action is needed; theexact kind of influence that could encourage a revolution.Another of Eisenstein’s works which greatly links to early 20thcentury Soviet history and politics, (and very similar to Strike) is Battleship Potemkin(1925, Russia.) The ‘Odessa Steps’ sequence of the film shares a similarmessage to that of the massacre scene in Strike,and is an example of how Eisenstein used his theory of dialectical editing by combining/ colliding shots togenerate reactions and create an ideological standpoint in the film. Afterestablishing the geography of the scene with some long shots that show clearlythe soldiers marching down on fleeing civilians, the editing picks up pace andwe see short sections of montage focusing on individuals among the crowd; forinstance we see the soldiers fire in one shot, a child fall in another and thenthe mother’s reaction in a third. The flow of camerawork movement down thestairs is suddenly disrupted when the 180 and 30 degree rule are broken, as wecut to the mother holding her dead child up to the soldiers, this possiblyinspires hope in a non-violent solution or mercy but the continuation of thesoldiers is inevitable, and the editing becomes faster-paced again as theycarry on killing. The scene mirrors the massacre in Strike by building empathy for the citizens and vilifying themilitary to suggest alignment and identity with the workers to the audience.A modern example of a film with strong ties topolitical and economic context is Mediterranea, which employs realism to directattention to current issues.

The use of handheld camerawork throughout the filmalmost gives it documentary-like features orperhaps a sense of voyeurism especially in some of the more dramatic scenes.This more ‘personal’ viewing builds strong emotional ties to characters(migrants from Burkina Faso struggling to travel to and find work in Italy,) whichthe audience would not normally be able to identify with, and gives theminsight into the reality of the crisis as a pose to news coverage.The scene in which Ayiva (portrayed by KoudousSeihon) is told he will no longer have employment and therefore a residencepermit, uses low key lighting with only hard small beams moving around the dilapidatedflat as car beams drive past. This combined with the dynamic handheldcamerawork and varying speed in editing very effectively communicates andreflects Ayiva’s feelings of hopelessness and defeat. You could argue that thestronger emotional ties that are made between character and viewer through thecinematic elements of this film make the audience more empathetic and aware ofthe issues of racism, violence and corruption that have arisen out of recentmigrant crisis, which are themes throughout the film. This kind of a reactionfrom an audience is what Jonas Carpignano (director) would favour; he aimed tomake the film brutally realistic and emotive by having actors who had actuallylived through the struggles seen in the film. Thefilm is 90% based on events that actually happened to the lead actor KoudousSeihon.Thereare countless film techniques that can manipulate how an audience experienceand see a narrative; who they identify with and what they take away from thefilm.

Early Soviet cinema uses cinematic techniques like Eisenstein’s dialecticediting as well as clever shot composition that makes use of varying depth fordramatic effect which influences audience’s alignments in the film whileinfluencing them with socialist ideals in real life. The relationship betweenRussia’s politics and its early film style is very much expressed through themetaphors laid out in the films; cross cut editing of the slaughter oflivestock and workers being shot is an example of a metaphor for the bourgeoisieand government’s treatment of the lower working class. While you could arguethat early Soviet films are outdated and less than implicit with theirunderlying messages by today’s standards, Mediterraneais a modern example of where political and social messages are explicit in afilm through camerawork in particular, as well as the emotive performance fromlead actors Koudous Seihon and Alassane Sy, I think it mainly uses strongemotion to depict migrant’s lives brutality and draw attention to the hardshipsthey face which are not documented in mainstream media. The main stimulus thatseems to form the link between a film’s visual aesthetics and any political,economic and social contexts is influence. Filmmaker’s will use cinematictechniques to shape how audiences feel about issues brought up in the film.


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