3: The Problem of Context: John Grierson

Eisenstein's great obsession was the language of film. He brought a wide range of learning and a sharp intelligence to bear on this element of cinema. But to focus in such a way on a specific part of film, to look in detail at the `technical' workings of the medium, required him to operate within a whole range of assumptions. In other words, he assumed a certain context. Take his discussions of montage `rhythm'. It is now a commonplace to assume that accelerated cutting raises the level of emotional tension in an audience. In terms of behaviourist psychology, that the stimulus provided by a particular pattern of rhythm provokes a certain response on the part of the audience. Now much of Eisenstein's analysis of montage rests on such ideas of tempo, or, at least, on more complex versions of this basic notion. This sort of suggestion about psychological response to a particular set of stimuli can be one (or both) of two things: either a straight psychological assumption, or part and parcel of a larger psychological body of knowledge. To explore the particular phenomena that interested Eisenstein some such assumption was essential, and in his case he undoubtedly felt it justified in terms of Pavlovian reflex psychology. Of course, if the assumption is demonstrably wrong, or limited in particular ways, then serious questions must needs arise about any theory of film employing it. Assumptions about

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Theories of Film
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page 3
  • Contents 5
  • 1: Introduction 7
  • 2: - Eisenstein: Great Beginnings 25
  • 3: the Problem of Context 59
  • 5: Critical Method 116
  • 6: Epilogue 153
  • Bibliography 165
  • Acknowledgements 168
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