Why the Sergei Eisenstein Google Doodle Celebrates the "Father of Montage"

He would have been 120 years old today.


Google has unveiled a tribute to the man known as the “father of montage.” Sergei Eisenstein, who would have celebrated his 120th birthday on Monday, is credited with pioneering modern techniques seen in filmmaking even today.

Born in Riga in the Russian Empire (now Latvia), Eisentein started off working as an engineer for the Red Army. In later years, when he became a set designer and director, Eisenstein began to formulate a theory that would help bring filmmaking into the 20th century — that of the “montage of attractions,” which used images to develop the greatest psychological impact rather than adhering to strict chronological order.

Google’s tribute included an explanation of why the company chose to immortalize him on this day:

Known as the father of montage — the film technique of editing a fast-paced sequence of short shots to transcend time or suggest thematic juxtapositions — Eisenstein deployed arresting images in sequences of psychological precision. His films were also revolutionary in another sense, as he often depicted the struggle of downtrodden workers against the ruling class.

The company also released a flattened version of the film strips used in Monday’s doodle, depicting the Eisenstein-inspired footage used to create the doodle.

Google Doodle's footage inspired by Sergei Eisenstein


In his life, Eisenstein only produced seven films, but these works demonstrated the techniques that he helped create. The 1925 film Strike (Stachka) features a famous scene where strike suppression is mixed with cattle slaughtering. In the 1928 film October, about the October Revolution, a machine gun firing is mixed with scenes of people fleeing a scene as part of an evocative montage. These works, heavily focused on the struggle of the workers, led to Joseph Stalin describing him as a “true Bolshevik” after viewing Eisenstein’s 1938 epic drama Alexander Nevsky.

Eisenstein died on February 11, 1948, before he could finish the third part of his epic film about Tsar Ivan IV.

“That many of his pictures were patently propaganda works was true, but to students of the movie art this appeared not so much to matter as the fact that he developed new techniques, devised camera approaches and sought always to bring out the potential of a still developing form,” Reuters said in its obituary for Eisenstein.

This is not the first time that Google has paid tribute to a famous figure through its homepage. Previous doodles have celebrates the lives of horticulturist Gertrude Jekyll, astrophysicist Subrahmanyan Chandrasekhar, and author Chinua Achebe.

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