Here is the example I mentioned in class on Monday. First, the original trailer for the romantic comedy, When Harry Met Sally:
Now, the mock horror / thriller movie of When Harry Met Sally:
Notice how changing elements of the composition completely changes the feeling or attitude or reaction to the movie (“style becomes content“). Change the music, change the font style, change the order of images to create a different juxtaposition of shots and the entire meaning and attitude changes. The scene where Meg Ryan lays on Billy Crystal who stares blankly into space is somewhat comical in the first trailer; in the second, his stare becomes creepy and a little chilling because it’s been juxtaposed to a different sequence of images. Simply rearranging the clips created a completely different meaning.
One of Eisenstein’s points is that this has to happen with “organic” composition. That is, a filmmaker must use images, conventions, styles, music, and so on that seem familiar and natural to the audience. Through repetition (or maybe “dull daily reinforcement”) we’ve come to understand the “knowledge” that certain types of music correspond to feelings like happy-go-lucky or fear or terror. A filmmaker must tap into at least some of the already existing cultural meanings and forms or else the audience won’t recognize or feel what the filmmaker wants them to to. (Remember that Goffman made a similar point about fronts and our own performances.)