"Following the Russian Revolution in October 1917, the new Soviet government faced the difficult task of controlling all sectors of life. Like other industries, the film production and distribution systems took years to build up a substantial output that could serve the aims of the new government.
During World War I, there were a number of private production companies operating in Moscow and Petersburg. With most imports cut off, these companies did quite well making films for the domestic market. The most distinctive Russian films made during the mid-1910s were slow-paced melodramas that concentrated on bravura performances by actors playing characters caught in extremely emotional situations. Such films showcased the talents of Ivan Mozhukin and other popular stars and were aimed mainly at the large Russian audience, seldom being seen abroad.
These film companies resisted the move made directly after the Revolution to nationalize all private property. They simply refused to supply films to theaters operating under the control of the government. In July 1918, the government's film subsection of the State Commission of Education put strict controls on the existing supplies of raw film stock. As a result, producers began hoarding their stock; the largest firms took all the equipment they could and fled to other countries. Some companies made films commissioned by the government, while hoping that the Reds would lose the Civil War and that things would return to pre-Revolutionary conditions." 
"These circumstances led the Bolshevik regime to develop policies designed to both reconstruct the national film industry, and train a new generation of film-makers. The Peoples Commissariat of Education, or Narkompros, was the government agency given responsibility for supervising the development of the arts and education within the Soviet Union, and, in August 1919, Lenin issued a decree which nationalised the film industry, and charged Narkompros with the responsibility of regulating 'the entire photo and cinema trade and industry'. That same year Narkompros established the Moscow State Film School, from which many of the most important montage film-makers would later emerge.
A new genre of film-making which appeared during the civil war period was the agitka, or 'small agitational works'. Single-reel agitka such as Za krasnoye znamya (For the Red Banner, 1919) were mainly directed at raising the morale of the Red Army, and drew on formats already developed within the prerevolutionary propaganda films which had appeared during the First World War. However, although the agitka were modest, straightforward propaganda pieces, they provided emerging filmmakers with experience of a new, and different form of film-making. Films shot at the front had a documentary quality which distinguished them from more studio-bound, pre-revolutionary forms of film-making; whilst the imperative to complete films quickly led to the development of innovative editing, acting and other stylistic practices. The agitka film-makers also became actively involved in the fighting process, often filming in the midst of battle, and this degree of involvement was to breed a school of highly committed, politically engaged film-makers, which included Lev Kuleshov, Alexander Levitsky, Grigori Giber, Edward Tissé, Vladimir Kasyanov, Nikandr Turkin and Dziga Vertov.
One of the most portentous developments to occur within committed Soviet film-making in 1918 was the departure of the first 'agit-train'. The mission of this particular train was to raise the morale of troops fighting to defeat the White Guard forces on the Eastern Front. To this end, the agit-train was equipped with a printing press, a troupe of actors, and a film crew headed by a cameraman later to become one of the most important within the Soviet cinema: Edward Tissé. Later agit-trains contained complete film-making systems, including laboratories and editing rooms, and this enabled films to be shot, processed, edited and projected at the front within a short space of time." 
In the face of shortages of equipment and difficult living conditions, a few young filmmakers made tentative moves that would result in the development of a national cinema movement.
"During the first half of the 1920s, when all these sweeping changes were revolutionizing the arts, a new generation of filmmakers was moving into the cinema. For them, the revolution was a crucial formative event partly because they were extraordinarily young. Indeed, Sergei Eisenstein was nicknamed "the old man" by his younger friends because he was all of twenty-six when he began his first feature film. Born in 1898, Eisenstein came from a middle-class family in Riga, Latvia. His education gave him fluency in Russian, English, German, and French. He recalled that, while on a visit to Paris at age 8, he saw a Melies film and became interested in the cinema. Two years later he visited the circus and became similarly obsessed with this popular spectacle. Following his father's wishes, he began studying engineering in 1915.
Eisenstein participated in the revolution and during the civil war put his engineering skills to work building bridges. He was drawn to the arts, however, and during this same period he also decorated agit-trains and helped design many theatrical skits for the Red Army. The combination of engineering and artistic work seemed anything but contradictory in the era of Constructivism, and throughout his life Eisenstein likened the production of his films to the building of those bridges.
In 1920, at the end of the civil war, Eisenstein went to Moscow and joined the Proletkult Theater (short for Proletarian, or Workers' Cultural Theater). There he designed and co-directed many plays. In 1921, Eisenstein (along with his friend, Sergei Yutkevich, another future Montage film director) enrolled in a theater workshop under the supervision of Meyerhold, whom he would always consider his mentor. In 1923, Eisenstein directed his first theatrical production, Enough Simplicity in Every Wise Man. Although the play was a nineteenthcentury farce, Eisenstein staged it as a circus. The actors dressed in clown costumes and performed in the acrobatic biomechanical style, walking on a tightrope above the audience or doing handstands as they spoke their lines. Eisenstein also produced Dnevnik Glumova (Glumov's Diary, 1923), a short film to be shown on a screen on the stage. At the same time that this play was performed, Eisenstein gained some early experience as a film editor: along with Esfir Shub (soon to become an important maker of compilation documentaries ), he reedited a German Expressionist film, Fritz Lang's Dr. Mabuse, the Gambler, for Soviet release.
Eisenstein always maintained that his move from the theater to film came in 1924, when he directed a production of playwright S.M. Tretyakov's Gas Masks, not in a theater but in a real gas factory. According to Eisenstein, the contrast between the reality of the setting and the artifice of the drama was too great. A few months later, he began work on Stachka (Strike, 1925) (released in early 1925) - a film set and shot in a factory. It was the first major film of the Montage movement, and Eisenstein went on to make three more important works in that style: Bronenosets Potyomkin (Battleship Potemkin), Oktyabr (October aka Ten Days That Shook the World in an abridged version), and Staroye i novoye (Old and New). Potemkin was extremely successful abroad, which gave Eisenstein and his colleagues considerable leeway for experimentation over the next few years. Many Montage films proved more popular abroad than in the USSR, where they were often accused of being too difficult for workers and peasants to understand." 
"The oldest Montage director in years and experience was Lev Kuleshov, who had designed and directed films before the revolution and then taught at the State Film School. He was eighteen years old at the time of the Bolshevik uprising - the revolution was, in effect, his university (nearly all the major Soviet filmmakers were under twenty-five during the formative period of political upheaval) The year before, when he was seventeen, the young art student had landed a job as set designer with Evgeni Bauer. He also acted, completed directing a film after Bauer's death, and directed one on his own. When the old film companies left Moscow, Kuleshov remained, casting his future with the revolution He worked on agit-trains and on agitkas, the films made for agit-train screenings. One of the founders of the Film School in Moscow, he formed the Kuleshov Workshop to work on cinematic theories and techniques.
In the workshop, Kuleshov developed his views on montage. He took the position that the material of cinema was the celluloid film strip pieces of film. Film art consisted of putting these pieces together to create, through montage and the spectator's perception, a cinematic composition or idea. The legendary Kuleshov effect was an illustration of this principle."  Kuleshov edited together a short film in which a shot of the expressionless face of Tsarist matinee idol Ivan Mosjoukine was alternated with various other shots (a plate of soup, a girl, a little girl's coffin). The film was shown to an audience who believed that the expression on Mosjoukine's face was different each time he appeared, depending on whether he was 'looking at' the plate of soup, the girl, or the coffin, showing an expression of hunger, desire or grief respectively. Actually the footage of Mosjoukine was the same shot repeated over and over again. Vsevolod Pudovkin (who later claimed to have been the co-creator of the experiment) described in 1929 how:
[the audience] raved about the acting... the heavy pensiveness of his mood over the forgotten soup, were touched and moved by the deep sorrow with which he looked on the dead child, and noted the lust with which he observed the woman. But we knew that in all three cases the face was exactly the same.
The Kuleshov effect thus describes a phenomenon whereby shots acquire their meaning only in relation to other shots. Kuleshov's own Soviet films were only mildly experimental in style, but his workshop produced two important Montage directors.
Vsevolod Pudovkin had intended to train as a chemist until he saw D.W. Griffith's Intolerance in 1919. Convinced of the cinema's importance, he soon joined Kuleshov's workshop and trained as both an actor and a director. His first feature film typified the Constructivist interest in the physical bases of psychological response; he made Mekhanika golovnogo mozga (Mechanics of the Brain), a documentary about Ivan Pavlov's famous experiments on stimulus-response physiology. In 1926, Pudovkin (born in 1893) helped found the Montage movement with his first fiction feature, Mat (Mother). Within the USSR, Mother was the most popular of all Montage films. As a result, Pudovkin enjoyed the highest approval from the government of any of the movement's directors, and he was able to keep up his experiments with Montage longer than any of the others - up until 1933. Another Kuleshov workshop member, Boris Barnet (born 1902) had studied painting and sculpture, and he trained as a boxer after the revolution. He acted in The Extraordinary Adventures of Mr. West in the Land of the Bolsheviks and other mid-1920s films, and he also directed Dom na Trubnoy (The House on Trubnoya, 1928) and other Montage-style films.
The other important filmmaker who, along with Kuleshov, had started directing about the time of the revolution was Dziga Vertov (born 1896). During the mid-1910s, he wrote poetry and science fiction, composed what we now call musique concrete, and became influenced by the Cubo-Futurists."  From 1916 to 1917, however, he studied medicine "until left medical school during the revolution to go into film work in Moscow He traveled on agit-trains and as a war correspondent, and put together newsreels and documentaries from available film footage. Where Kuleshov had gone from the agit-train experience through film school teaching to fiction filmmaking, and Eisenstein through theater to historical films, Vertov learned the creative importance of film editing and became a lifelong advocate of the documentary film." 
"In 1920, Vertov toured the south-western front on an agit-train which carried a print of his first, complete, edited film: October Revolution. Whilst on the move, Vertov also shot new footage of events at the front, and, when he returned to Moscow, he edited this footage into a series of films which formed the basis of his Kinopravda ('film truth') newsreel series. The Kinopravda both addressed contemporary political issues, and continued the exploration of filmform which had arisen from the work of those involved with the agitka. This provided Vertov with the theoretical and practical foundation for the development of his first film manifesto: ‘Kinoki: Perevoret’ (Kinoks: A Revolution), which was published by Mayakovsky, Nikolai Aseyev and Osip Brik in Lef in 1923. However, Vertov’s manifesto, in which he went so far as to declaim that "what we have so far done in the cinema is 100 per cent mistaken", displayed a degree of avant-gardism which was soon to bring him into conflict with the Soviet authorities.
That conflict first emerged in a series of disagreements which took place between Vertov and officials within Goskino, the successor body to the Moscow Cinema Council, which had been established in 1922. These problems eventually led Vertov to leave Moscow, and work with VUFKU, the pan-Ukrainian film production unit. Here, away from the constraints of the capital, he continued to experiment with his theory of the ‘kino-eye’, and eventually made Odinnadtsatyy (The Eleventh Year, 1928), Chelovek s kino-apparatom (The Man with the Movie Camera, 1929) and Entuziazm: Simfoniya Donbassa (Enthusiasm, or Symphony of the Donbas, 1931). However, Vertov continued to experience difficulties with the Soviet authorities over the avantgarde nature of his films, and his career, from 1930, until his death in 1954, was beset by such problems." 
"The youngest Montage directors came out of the Leningrad theater milieu of the early 1920s. In 1921, while still in their teens, Grigori Kozintsev (born 1905), Leonid Trauberg (born 1902), and Sergei Yutkevich (born 1904) formed the Factory of the Eccentric Actor (FEKS). This theatrical troupe enthusiastically embraced the circus, the popular American cinema, the cabaret, and other entertainments. They issued provocative manifestos in the manner of the Cubo-Futurists' Slap in the Face of Public Taste (1912). In 1922, the FEKS group defined how their approach to acting departed from that of the traditional theater: "from emotion to the machine, from anguish to the trick. The technique-circus. The psychology-head over heels." They staged theatrical events that adopted the techniques of popular entertainments, and by 1924, they moved into the cinema with a short parody of American serials, Pokhozhdeniya Oktyabriny (The Adventures of Oktyabrina, 1924 - now lost). Yutkevich went on to make Montage films on his own; Kozintsev and Trauberg codirected several important films of the movement. Because of their taste for bizarre experimentation, the FEKS group were criticized by government officials from the start of their careers.
Eisenstein, Kuleshov, Pudovkin, Vertov, and the FEKS group were the principal early exponents of Soviet Montage. Other directors picked up their influences and developed the style. In particular, filmmakers working in the non-Russian republics enriched the Montage movement. Foremost among these was Alexander Dovzhenko, the principal Ukrainian director. Dovzhenko had been in the Red Army during the civil war and served as a diplomatic administrator in Berlin in the early 1920s. There he studied art, returning to the Ukraine as a painter and cartoonist. In 1926, he suddenly switched to filmmaking and made a comedy and a spy thriller before directing his first Montage film, Zvenigora, in 1927. Based on obscure Ukrainian folk legends, Zvenigora baffled audiences but demonstrated an original style that emphasizes lyrical imagery above narrative. Dovzhenko went on to make two more important Montage films, Arsenal and Zemlya (Earth), also set in the Ukraine." 
"None of the important filmmakers of the Montage style was a veteran of the pre-Revolutionary industry. All came from other fields (for example, Eisenstein from engineering and Pudovkin from chemistry) and discovered the cinema in the midst of the Revolution's ferment. The Czarist-era filmmakers who remained active in the USSR in the 1920s tended to stick to older traditions. One popular director of the Czarist period, Yakov Protazanov, went abroad briefly after the Revolution but returned to continue making films whose style and form owed almost nothing to the theory and practice of the new filmmakers." 
"Protazanov's return coincided with a general loosening of government restrictions on private enterprise. In 1921, the country was facing tremendous problems, including a widespread famine. In order to facilitate the production and distribution of goods, Lenin instituted the New Economic Policy (NEP), which for several years permitted private management of business. For film, the NEP meant a sudden reappearance of film stock and equipment belonging to the producers who had not emigrated. Slowly, Soviet production began to grow as private firms made more films. The government attempted, with little success, to control the film industry by creating a central distribution company, Goskino, in 1922.
"Of all the arts, for us the cinema is the most important," Lenin stated in 1922. Since Lenin saw film as a powerful tool for education, the first films encouraged by the government were documentaries and newsreels such as Vertov's newsreel series Kino-Pravda, which began in May 1922. Fictional films were also being made from 1917 on, but it was not until 1923 that a Georgian feature, Tsiteli eshmakunebi (Red Imps), became the first Soviet film to compete successfully with the foreign films predominant on Soviet screens. (And not until 1927 did the Soviet industry's income from its own films top that of the films it imported.)
The Soviet Montage style displayed tentative beginnings in 1924, with Kuleshov's class from the State Film School presenting Neobychainye priklyucheniya mistera Vesta v strane bolshevikov (The Extraordinary Adventures of Mr. West in the Land of the Bolsheviks). This delightful film, along with Kuleshov's next film, Luch smerti (The Death Ray, 1925), showed that Soviet directors could apply Montage principles and come up with amusing satires or exciting adventures as entertaining as the Hollywood product.
Eisenstein's first feature, Stachka (Strike), was released early in 1925 and initiated the movement proper. His second, Bronenosets Potyomkin (The Battleship Potemkin), premiered later in 1925, was successful abroad and drew the attention of other countries to the new movement. In the next few years, Eisenstein, Pudovkin, Vertov, and the Ukrainian Alexander Dovzhenko created a series of films that are classics of the Montage style.
In their writings and films, these directors championed the powers of editing. Until the late 1910s, most Russian fiction films had based their scenes around lengthy, fairly distant shots that captured the actors' performances. Analytical editing was rare. But films from Hollywood and from the French Impressionist filmmakers told their stories through fast cutting, including frequent close framings. Inspired by these imports, the young Soviet directors declared that a film's power arose from the combination of shots. Montage seemed to be the way forward for modern cimema.
Not all of the young theoreticians agreed on exactly what the Montage approach to editing should be. Pudovkin, for example, believed that shots were like bricks, to be joined together to build a sequence. Eisenstein disagreed, saying that the maximum effect would be gained if the shots did not fit together perfectly, if they created a jolt for the spectator. Many filmmakers in the montage movement followed this approach. Eisenstein also favored juxtaposing shots in order to create a concept. Vertov disagreed with both theorists, favoring a cinema-eye approach to recording and shaping documentary reality.
Pudovkin's Potomok Chingis-Khana (Storm over Asia) makes use of conceptual editing similar to that of Eisenstein's Oktyabr (October): shots of a military officer and his wife being dressed in their accessories are intercut with shots of the preparation at the temple. Pudovkin's parallel montage points up the absurdity of both rituals.
The Montagists' approach to narrative form set them apart from the cinemas of other countries. Soviet narrative films tended to downplay character psychology as a cause; instead, social forces provided the major causes. Characters were interesting for the way these social causes affected their lives. As a result, films of the Soviet Montage movement did not always have a single protagonist. Social groups could form a collective hero, as in several of Eisenstein's films. In keeping with this downplaying of individual personalities, Soviet filmmakers often avoided well-known actors, preferring to cast parts by searching out nonactors. This practice was called typage since the filmmakers would often choose an individual whose appearance seemed at once to convey the type of character he or she was to play. Except for the hero, Pudovkin used non-actors to play all of the Mongols in Storm over Asia." 
"The mid-1920s saw a burgeoning in Soviet film theory, as critics and filmmakers sought to understand cinema scientifically. Like the French Impressionists, several Montage directors considered theory and filmmaking to be closely linked, and they wrote about their conceptions of cinema. They were united in an opposition to traditional films. All saw in Montage the basis of revolutionary films that would inspire audiences. But the writings of the Montage directors differed in important ways.
In many respects, Kuleshov was the most conservative theorist of the group. He admired the succinct storytelling of American films, and he discussed Montage chiefly as techniques of editing for clarity and emotional effects."  Kuleshov had initially embarked upon his experiments with montage in an attempt to develop editing techniques which would link shot to shot in such a way that coherent, large-scale narrative structures could be developed, which would have a predetermined effect upon the audience. For example, in his Art of the Cinema (1929), Kuleshov argued that, initially, he and his group were primarily concerned with discovering 'how this material was organised, what the fundamental impression-making means of cinematography is.' " 
We went to various motion picture theatres and began to observe which films produced the optimum effect on the viewer and how these films were made – in other words, by means of which films and which techniques of film-making the film was able to take hold of a viewer and therefore to bring to his awareness what we had conceived, what we had intended to show, and, thus, what we intended to do.
This aspect of Kuleshov’s work also influenced the 'linkage' theory of montage developed by Pudovkin, whose two 1926 pamphlets on filmmaking were soon translated into western languages (in English as Film Language, 1929). Through Pudovkin, Montage came to refer generally to dynamic, often discontinuous, narrative editing.
"Vertov was far more radical. Vertov entered the Soviet film debates of the early 1920s with vigorous attacks on fiction film. With his brother Mikhail Kaufman (1897-1980) as cameraman and his wife, Elizaveta Svilova (1900-1976), as coeditor, Vertov formed the Cine-Eye group. They began producing a newsreel series called Kino-Pravda, named after the official Soviet newspaper, Pravda (the term meant Cine-Truth, and was revived decades later for the French documentary film movement of the 1960s, cinéma vérité) More than twenty Kino-Pravda episodes were released between 1922 and 1925. In his manifestos, Vertov called for an approach to montage that was at once scientific and poetic, whose core lay in the organization of movement into a "rhythmical artistic whole." That job belonged to the film editor, who shapes the movement of the overall work by determining the "intervals," Vertov's term for the transitions from one image to another.
Vertov's sharp polemical pen earned him opponents as well as supporters. He was criticized from many directions: for depriving images of their status as documents; for using ineffective images that needed more design and composition; for overemphasizing inter titles; for attempting to monopolize the documentary field. One who voiced this last critique was Esfir Shub (1894-1959), whose career as a film editor and documentary filmmaker has been largely eclipsed by Vertov's fame as a lone Soviet avatar of nonfiction film. In an era before archives and museums preserved film materials, Shub hunted down discarded footage and put together historical documentaries. In her first compilation film, Padenie dinastii Romanovykh (The Fall of the Romanov Dynasty, 1927), she crafted from what often appeared accidental or innocuous images a compelling narrative of events leading up to the abdication of the Russian monarch in February 1917. This was followed by several similar works on Russian history and Soviet life." 
"Eisenstein developed the most complicated conception of Montage. Initially he believed in what he called the "montage of attractions" (as he boldly declared in the poster for his first stage production). As in a circus, the filmmaker should assemble a series of exciting moments to stimulate the viewer's emotions. Later he formulated elaborate principles by which individual filmic elements could be combined for maximum emotional and intellectual effects. He insisted that Montage was not limited to editing or even to Constructivist art in general. In a bold essay of 1920, he scoffed at Kuleshov and Pudovkin as treating shots like bricks that are joined to build a film. Bricks, he pointed out, do not interact with each other as film shots do. He asserted that shots should not be seen as simply linked but rather as conflicting sharply with one another. Even Eisenstein's writing style, with its short sentences and paragraphs, tried to convey the principle of collision:
The shot is by no means an element of montage.
The shot is a montage cell.
Just as cells in their division form a phenomenon of another order, the organism or embryo, so on the other side of the dialectical leap from the shot, there is montage.
By what, then, is montage characterized and, consequently, its cell - the shot?
By collision. By the conflict of two pieces in opposition to each other. By conflict. By collision.
For Eisenstein, this conflict imitated the Marxist concept of the dialectic, in which antithetical elements clash and produce a synthesis that goes beyond both. Montage could compel the spectator to sense the conflict between elements and create a new concept in his or her mind.
In "collision Montage," Eisenstein foresaw the possibility of an "intellectual" cinema. It would attempt not to tell a story but to convey abstract ideas, as an essay or political tract might. He dreamed of filming Karl Marx's Capital, creating concepts through images and editing rather than through verbal language. Certain of his films took first steps toward intellectual filmmaking.
The filmmakers' theories did not always accord with their practice. Kuleshov and Pudovkin in particular proved more daring as filmmakers than their essays might suggest. All the core Montage directors, however, wrote about film technique as a vivid way to shape the new Soviet society by arousing and educating their audiences." 
"By the end of the 1920s, each of the major directors of this movement had made about four important films. The decline of the movement was not caused primarily by industrial and economic factors as in Germany and France. Instead, the government strongly discouraged the use of the Montage style. By the late 1920s, Vertov, Eisenstein, and Dovzhenko were being criticized for their excessively formal and esoteric approaches. In 1929, Eisenstein went to Hollywood to study the new technique of sound; by the time he returned in 1932, the attitude of the film industry had changed. While he was away, a few filmmakers carried their Montage experiments into sound cinema in the early 1930s. But the Soviet authorities, under Stalin's direction, encouraged filmmakers to create simple films that would be readily understandable to all audiences. Stylistic experimentation or nonrealistic subject matter was often criticized or censored.
This trend culminated in 1934, when the government instituted a new artistic policy called Socialist Realism. This policy dictated that all artworks must depict revolutionary development while being firmly grounded in realism. The great Soviet directors continued to make films, occasionally masterpieces, but the Montage experiments of the 1920s had to be discarded or modified. Eisenstein managed to continue his work on Montage but occasionally incurred the wrath of the authorities up until his death in 1948. As a movement, the Soviet Montage style can be said to have ended by 1933, with the release of such films as Vertov's Entuziazm: Simfoniya Donbassa (Enthusiasm, 1931) and Pudovkin's Dezertir (Deserter, 1933)." 
During the Montage movement's existence, perhaps fewer than thirty films were made in the style. Nevertheless, as in France and Germany, these avant-garde films were prestigious and influential. Leftist filmmakers in other countries, especially documentarists like Scottish-born John Grierson and Dutch Joris Ivens, adopted heroic, low-angle framings and dynamic cutting for similar propaganda purposes. Pudovkin's and Eisenstein's theoretical writings have been read by critics and filmmakers ever since they were translated. Few filmmakers have used the full range of radical Montage devices, but in a modified fashion, the movement has had a broad influence."