The father of montage, Russia's Sergei Eisenstein was one of the principal architects of the modern cinematic form. Despite a relatively small ouevre of only seven completed films, most if not all of which suffered under the weight of communist intrusion, few individuals were more instrumental in enabling motion pictures to evolve beyond their origins in 19th century Victorian theater into a new arena of abstract thought and expression. While later criticized for the strong currents of propaganda coursing through his work, the continuing influence of Eisenstein's films is, regardless of politics, undeniable; a master of metaphor and allusion, he brought to the medium a new depth of power and complexity.
Sergei Mikhailovich Eisenstein was born January 23, 1898, in Riga, Latvia. The child of an affluent architect, he studied at the Institute of Civil Engineering in Petrograd, and in the wake of the 1917 revolution he began working as an engineer for the Red Army. By the early '20s, he had become the set designer of Vsevolod Meyerhold's Moscow Proletkult Theater, later graduating to the position of director; there he learned the principles of "bio-mechanics," or conditioned spontaneity. Eisenstein's interest in film began with an appreciation of the work of D.W. Griffith, whose editing style influenced him in the production of his first cinematic endeavor, the 1923 five-minute newsreel parody Dnevnik Glumova. A stint with Lev Kuleshov's film workshop followed, as did an increasing fascination with the burgeoning avant-garde.