Montage techniques in movies and their effect

Nowadays, montage in movies is something that is determined by the worldview of its director. It is the expressive means of the screen, the way of artistic thinking, and the rhythm of the work. However, it is still subject to rules, and as a result, it was divided into different types. Types of editing styles in films differ in how frames will be joined to each other, and on what basis – by meaning, by association, sequentially or in parallel, etc.

The Soviet movie director S. Eisenstein believed that the image in the film should be a combination of different frames in a structure where the conflict exists between its elements, which is achieved by video montage editing. Thus, Eisenstein proposed his own classification of montage techniques. Let’s take a look at them!


Metric montage is based on the temporal length of the segments and requires cuts at regular intervals, regardless of how the action develops within the shots.

It may feel uncomfortable while watching because the action is constantly interrupted, but if you catch the general rhythm of the movie, it turns out to be interesting and more understandable. Quick cuts or, conversely, long shot, affect the level of tension the viewer feels during watching.

In the famous shower scene in “Psycho”, Hitchcock exploits this montage effect by editing shots of a knife and the victim next to each other.


Rhythmic montage is similar to metric, however, as suggested by its name, here rhythm of movement and the content of specific scenes are taken into account instead of their duration.

The shots are edited according to the soundtrack and how it’s used in the particular scene, what sound effects and on-screen action there are. Most evident examples are modern movie trailers that combine dramatic music and vivid stills from the movie.


When it comes to the emotions the director wants us to experience, it is time for tonal montage, in which shots are arranged according to their "emotional tone". The idea is that, when juxtaposed, they enhance the emotional impact.

The tone can be determined, for example, by the lighting in the frame as well as its change, use of specific metaphors that associate with a particular emotion or even a sequence of reactions of characters to an emotional situation within the movie.

In Ridley Scott’s “Alien”, we can see tonal montage applied when Ripley encounters the Xenomorph. The combination of shots where she hides from danger while on the other side there are constant flashes and an alien almost invisible in the dark, set the tone and make the viewer feel tense.


A combination of the aforementioned montages, there’s an overtonal montage.

A good example is the final scene from Sergio Leone’s “The Good, the Bad, the Ugly”. Tonal montage is present in the environment and setting: the action takes place in a cemetery, which is a common symbol of the end – in this case, both death and the finale of the film. When shots of the three shooters are combined with the already well-known soundtrack piece – that’s where the rhythmic montage kicks in. Finally, metric montage works when the scene starts with long frames and as the intensity increases, the frames are edited faster and faster.


Intellectual montage expresses abstract ideas by creating a conceptual relationship between edited segments that is opposed to visual content. So, in the process of such editing, two incoherent frames, when combined, evoke a different idea in the viewer.

This type can be considered the purest form of Soviet montage theory, and the Kuleshov effect confirms it perfectly. The segment showing the face looks the same in all cases, but when shown next to different shots, it changes how viewers perceive its meaning.

Intellectual montage works surprisingly well in comedy, especially in eccentric comedy. There it is used either as a parody of direct metaphors or directly as a satire of a character or situation.