Eisenstein’s piece compares the work of director Griffith to the works of Dickens. The idea of the montage is a reoccurring theme that Eisenstein constantly goes back to. A montage arrived “through the method of parallel section” (205). It is essentially multiple, parallel story lines that are woven together– “the two never-convergent parallel racers, interweaving the thematically variegated strips with a view towards the mutual intensification of entertainment, tension, and tempi” (254).
The montage is able to exist in both text (Dickens) and film (Griffith), as shown by Eisenstein. We always think about applying the text to the film, but can it be the other way around? Can words that are associated with film/images/moving images such as montage of the cinematic (Eisenstein notes the ” ‘cinematic’ surprises [that] must be hiding in Dickens’s pages”(214).) Why is Eisenstein specifically choosing to use terms to describe both film and text?
One possibility is to give legitimacy to the film. As read in the Robert Stam’s introduction, there is a lot of negativity surrounding film and cinema. Film is considered to be the “cheaper” version of literature. Thus, it only makes sense to apply literary terms such as “metaphors” and “allusion” to film (which does not deserve to have its own terms). Eisenstein is showing how film does have legitimate terms and features of its own. Another possibility (related to the first) is to place film on the same social level as literature. Eisenstein does not forget that ideas of montage and cinematic has existed before film–the comparison between Dickens’s Oliver Twist and Griffith’s films is are strong examples. Thus. he does not believe that film is necessarily superior to literature. The ability to describe Dickens’s work as cinematic means that there are certain elements that remind the reader of a film. The constant comparison and calling “this” a montage or “that” cinematic just shows how interlinked literature and film is. Yes, literature existed before cinema, but they share enough similarities that terms can be interchanged. Furthermore, terms are just terms–arbitrarily created and designated to describe something.