Theory Response (Excerpts)

Montage of Faces: Béla Balázs and Lev Kuleshov

Another tool to be used is movement. While I first interpreted this to mean camera movement in the vain of tracking shots or push-ins, I began to realize the term applied was broader in approach. Movement within the frame and the action of the story plays as important a role as the camera’s physical presence and external motions. Balázs believed there was a need, within the frame, for movements, like a ball rolling or a bird flying, which would find its equal or answer in the proceeding shot. He formulates a rule for its application, which we understand now as the basis of continuity editing. A director must not change “the angle together with the direction of movement—if he does, the change in the picture is so great as to break its unity” (Balázs 128). This rhythm within a film and his concern for its disruption show an awareness of the whole cinematic process which seems lost on certain theorists of the time.

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I now want to focus on a core issue when discussing this man’s work: the face. Features displayed and the expressions possible in the human face fascinated Balázs. Two of his three works compiled in Critical Visions deals specifically with this matter. His writings seem to equate the same qualities on the human face as the elements mentioned above. Storytelling was conducted on the canvas of human expression. The way an angle can instill in the viewer a fresh perspective given off by a director, a close-up can reveal “the hidden mainsprings of a life which we had thought we already knew so well” (Balázs 129). He relates this experience to music. Close-ups are to moviegoers as understanding the intricacies of music is to concertgoers. Without knowledge of the art, a symphony is limited to the most obvious of its elements. In this way, the close-up in his formulation is a tool of learning, of gaining appreciation, and the opening to further possibilities.

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