This lecture, entitled “Problems of Composition”, was delivered by Eisenstein to his class of student-directors on Christmas Day 1946. Although almost the entire presentation focuses on the composition of frames and shots in the process of filming an adaptation of a novel or poem, at the end of the lecture Eisenstein offers a very interesting insight into Prokofiev’s working methods as a composer of his film scores. He expresses high esteem for Prokofiev’s astonishing ability for “contrapuntal development of music which fuses organically and sensually with the visual images”, after Prokofiev saw the edited material just twice and knew only the number of seconds allotted to him. According to Eisenstein, Prokofiev was able to find “structural and rhythmical equivalents for the edited piece of film” and when working with an unedited material, Prokofiev was capable to “discover the potentialities of structural laws inherent in it” (181). He also reminds the students that although the director doesn’t have to possess a musical talent, he/she needs to have at least an ability to envision some organic congruence of the movement of the music with the movement of the visual contour.
Evaluation & Analysis:
Upon first sight, this printed primary source (Eisenstein’s lecture preserved in a stenographic record) evidently contradicts Eisenstein’s other accounts about the collaboration between him and Prokofiev. Although Eisenstein repeatedly throws compliments at Prokofiev’s prodigious musical talent, here he carelessly degrades the role and function of his composer in the film-making process. The cooperation between the two, according to this presentation, limited Prokofiev’s role to a quasi Hollywood-style composer – a composer who gets the edited version of the film and/or chunks of unedited footage and then simply makes the score, without having any impact on the visual structure of the film. However, it is a known fact that Prokofiev had a significant say about the composition of shots in several scenes of Alexander Nevsky and it is therefore more than likely that this unfair “degradation” is totally unintentional one on Eisenstein’s part. The illustrations and examples he uses in this case are, nonetheless, very vivid re-creations of Prokofiev’s working techniques and enable us to understand how his music accomplishes to permeate Eisenstein’s montage structures in Alexander Nevsky and create an organic compound with the visual images.