Montage in play

  • John Higgins Senior Research Scholar, Centre for Higher Education Development, University of Cape Town, Cape Town.
Keywords: montage, politics of reading, deconstruction, spectator, Soviet cinema, Covid-19 lockdown


Montage is commonly identified solely with film-editing. Why this is the case when conceptually it is synonymous with the practice of collage is due largely to the Soviet insistence that Russian editing practices – montage – differed substantially from Hollywood editing practices. In asserting the specificity of a Soviet montage practice which seeks to entirely control the message of film for the spectator, Sergei Eisenstein set himself against the thinking of his rival and contemporary Dziga Vertov. In this dispute, the focus becomes the politics of reading more generally. This dispute around the politics of active reading is later echoed and amplified in Jacques Derrida’s arguments around the postcard, and picked up in South Africa around the understanding of a recent montage text, 40 nights/40 days: from the lockdown. The dynamics of what it is to be a “fearful reader” are here taken further through the question of montage in play and the politics of reading in the moment of Covid-19.