Creative History: European Films That Changed Cinema

I can picture the film director Brian Da-Palma slumped on a Chicago bench, he knew the final scenes of David Mamet's script were unfilmable. He had simply run out of money. His movie, The Untouchables, was on a knife's edge. But Da Palma got himself one chance to realise his vision. He began to secretly store film stock with the intent to film his new unscripted ending. He wanted a scene that would represent the effects on innocent people during the war on organised crime. When he started to construct the scene narrative Da Palma didn’t look for inspiration in the rich catalogue of American westerns or gangster movies. Instead he would look to the 1925 movie the Battleship Potemkin. He would pay homage to soviet cinema's most famous scene, the “Odessa Steps Sequence”. The scene would go on to be one of the most celebrated moments in the 1987 Oscar winning movie.

In this video we’ll look at the influence of European cinema and the massive impact just 5 films have had.

Number 1. The Battleship Potemkin.

It’s difficult to overstate just how important this movie is to film making. The film maker's ambition was to create a revolutionary propaganda piece loosely based on the mutiny of Russian sailors of the Potemkin. It certainly was revolutionary, the 1925 silent film would transform the way films would be shot and edited.

Before Sergei Eisenstein, the director, created the film he wrote a paper titled ‘A Dialectic Approach to Film Form’. In it he calls montage “the nerve of cinema”. The 5 types of editing montage he details in his paper are:

Metric Montage - where the length and quantity of shots in a sequence is fixed irrespective of the action within each frame.

Rhythmic Montage - which is determined not only by the length of shots but also the rhythm of the action itself.

Tonal Montage - where editing is used to generate the emotion of a scene.

Overtonal Montage - which combines the three aforementioned styles of montage.

Intellectual Montage - which uses editing to generate a logical connection between shots and hence add meaning to the entire scene.

These are the building blocks of editing.

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The film is one of the only movies on Rotten Tomatoes to have a 100% positive rating. The critical consensus reads "A technical masterpiece, Battleship Potemkin is Soviet cinema at its finest, and its montage editing techniques remain influential to this day.” Since its release Battleship Po