The establishing shot, film space and the Czechoslovak New Wave
In this thesis I have attempted to reveal the aetiology of the absence of the establishing shot in the editing style of the Czechoslovak New Wave. I have demonstrated that the Czechoslovak New Wave had a unique way of editing that differentiated it from those other so-called new cinemas, which were also questioning the continuity style. Never in the history of sound cinema had so many films been edited with such a large number of scenes that lacked the establishing shot. The absence of the establishing shot in these films provokes several questions. I answer the question why the New Wave questions the continuity style. Most scholarly works on the New Wave have argued that the dramatic change in style of these films was the result of a strong reaction against Socialist Realism. This answers the question only partially, though it is true that Socialist Realism in film rigidly followed the conventions established in the continuity style. My thesis, however, is centred on the other two questions provoked by the absence of the establishing shot. The first of these is why the continuity style does not collapse as a narrative medium without the establishing shot, or rather, how the continuity style works if no establishing shot is needed. Secondly, and this is the ultimate aim of the thesis, it attempts to ascertain why the Czech and Slovak directors employed what might be referred to as the non-establishing-shot technique. It is, indeed, a reaction to Socialist Realism and to a socialist society, but my thesis attempts, I believe for the first time, to understand specially how. The thesis is divided into three parts. Parts I and II analyse the nature of film space and in particular how it is perceived by the spectator. Since the Czechoslovak New Wave questions the spatial conventions of the continuity style I devote Part I to an historical analysis of the origins, development, and institutionalization of the continuity style. Part II provides a theoretical discussion on the nature of film space and how the spectator perceives spatial continuity by means of editing, that is, a close study of the theories of montage developed by Lev Kuleshov, Vsevolod Pudovkin, Bela Balazs, Sergei Eisenstein, and the Czechs Jan Mukafovsky and Jan Kucera. These theorists had a completely different approach to spatial continuity. They all shared a central idea, that of semantic completion, and had a direct influence in the development of the New Wave editing techniques, through the person of Kucera, who taught theory of montage at FAMU to the New Wave directors. Part in constitutes a practical shot analysis of those New Wave films where the non-establishing-shot technique has been employed. The aim of Part III is to find in what ways the themes present in 1960s Czechoslovakia were conveyed by means of montage.