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MARXISM 101: Dialectical Materialism, Montage, and Cinematic Grammar

What the Heck is Montage?

I wrote this essay for Curt Cobain after seeing his daughter’s stunning documentary: Montage of Heck.  In this emotionally honest biographic film Cobain says that he killed himself because he didn’t want to endure the rigours of being a production robot for industrial consumption. Curt explains his own suicide as Frances Cobain brilliantly brings her late father’s notebooks and audio montage tapes to life with seductive computer animation and touching home video of Curt, Courtney and Frances together for a brief moment in Curt’s tortured and twisted life.   


Dialectical materialism is also known as Marxist Dialectics and is taught in college cinematography and editing courses as part of film grammar and technique. marxist dialectics

Dialectical materialism proposes the metaphysical theory that:

1 + 1 = 3

The film editor shows us a child running through the woods and then cuts to a cliff. The audience mentally combines these emotionally engaging images into the concept and emotional feeling of danger. Catharsis. Art. Western Civilization. Dialectics is the theoretical basis of montage.

Film montage is the editing technique of dialectically combining film sequences into the very highly emotional communication medium we call motion pictures. Dialectical materialism is the theory of how montage works upon the human thought process.  Film grammar is the skilful manipulation of human consciousness through such devices as placing the camera low to the ground so that the viewer is looking up in awe and respect at the orating political figure so as to perceive the leader as a demagogue. If the media master wants to depict the political theorist in an unflattering manner then there are other montage, collage and technical methods available.  

dialectical materialism

Classical Russian Revolution Style Dialectical Materialism:


The classic film school lessons in montage are the Odessa Steps sequence from Battleship Potemkin by Russian icon Sergei Eisenstein, and the gangster film The Untouchables by American director Brian DePalma. The baby carriages, the steps, the guns and shooting, the mother falls, a man is shot through the eye and the baby carriage rolls down the steps unattended in both movies. No words just images: pure cinema. That is film montage using dialectical materialism.

Dialectics was also the basics of Russian political theory leading to Bolshevik style Marxism, the October Revolution and eventually degenerated into Soviet style iron-fisted communism.

Dialectical materialism works great as a political theory and artistic device because we are social animals designed for tribal living. We all like to see and be seen. However, Dialectics, Marxism, and Communism all eventually fail as socio-political models because most human beings ultimately only act in self-interest. Most people prefer the individualism that is the hallmark of democracy, free-market economies and capitalism (private property and individualism) vs. Marxism (communal property).     

Dialectical Materialism is Higher Consciousness

Dialectical materialism was theorized by Karl Marx, Fred Engels and others who propose that the socio-political systems of man will evolve into the most efficient form on their own. They thought that modern people would get together and develop localized social systems idiosyncratic to that particular community. If you wanted to be an artist the community would support you and if you wanted to be a farmer then that was what you did. 

From Wikipedia: “Engels made constant use of the metaphysical insight that the higher level of existence emerges from and has its roots in the lower; that the higher level constitutes a new order of being with its irreducible laws; and that this process of evolutionary advance is governed by laws of development which reflect basic properties of ‘matter in motion as a whole’.”[3]

marxist montage mentorDialectical materialism was my introduction to political theory in college film and political science class. As a teenager I was politically active by campaigning for Mayor Sam Yorty and Councilman Nowell in Sunland-Tujunga. I am going through a political rejuvenation because of the Donald Trump presidential campaign. The purpose of this article is to broaden the depth of my writing and develop a political theory of consciousness.

Dialectical materialism has been my heretofore linear way of thinking for my entire life. Lately I have been developing a non-linear consciousness and way of living and being in the desert. I am off the binary grid.  This morning I began experiencing everything as pure consciousness. I have reconnected with the Catholic Church as a social resource and everything seems infinite now. I am experiencing myself as infinite spiritual energy. Dialectical materialism lets me evolve with church and state into the best life for me.