The Rhythm of Silence

When I was in high school I was very interested in short movies and directing; I was reading books about directing, learning how to use camera, and after some point I even delved into details about best camera lenses. After years, I forgot what I learned about the technical details, but I still remember one of the books I read. It was On the Composition of the Short Fiction Scenario by Sergei Eisenstein. At the time I did not know anything about Eisenstein, except that he had given lectures in Moscow on film making, and these lectures were compiled in the book I was reading. Later I learned that he made a movie about the 1905 Russian Revolution.

Sergei Eisenstein is a Soviet Era film director, theorist, and scenarist. He is known by his pioneering montage practices. He actually is the first director to use montage in his silent movie The Battleship Potemkin, which is a propaganda movie about the 1905 Russian Revolution. (If you are interested in learning more you can click on this link, but beware of possibly disturbing images:

One of the things that stood out to me was Eisenstein’s perspective on shooting a war scene, because the ideas can be applied to many aspects of film making. Eisenstein claims that the most effective way to show war is not to show the war itself, but to show the start or the end of it, because the audience will imagine the war in the most horrid way. Probably Eisenstein chose not to show the faces of the armed men in the noted Odessa Steps scene for a purpose.

A scene form The Battleship Potemkin

A scene form The Battleship Potemkin

The silence of tension and the aftermath is more effective in telling the horror of the war. Eisenstein had no choice but to make silent movie at the time of making The Battleship Potemkin, but the silence in the movie acts in favor of creating the gruesome sense. Maybe it is why the Odessa Steps scene in The Battleship Potemkin is very disturbing, because without the sound the sense of the scenes are heightened.

Silence is actually is a very effective tool to create very tense moments. In writing, it may be difficult to create those silent moments, because reading itself is a silent act. However, I know for sure that with the right words it is possible to create a rhythm of silence.



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