The term “montage” in film refers to a series of shots that are edited into sequences where time and space are condensed. They are essentially the film version of a pictorial collage. Nearly all movies use montage and they are an integral part of film. What I primarily wanted to focus on was putting an emphasis on montage itself while watching Rocky (1976). The Rocky movie series are famous for their training sequences where the protagonist (Rocky Balboa) undergoes rigorous exercises to improve himself for his next fight. These scenes are short usually 2 to 3 minutes layered with music, no voice over from the characters in the film and lots of cuts and shots of him training in various ways. They imply passage of time where the character improves himself. My objective of this project was to apply the montage training segments of Rocky to the entire film. I did this by muting the normal audio and layering it with the official soundtracks of all seven movies (Rocky 1-5, Rocky Balboa and Creed). I also sped up the film to 1.5x speed because the montage sequences are much faster paced than the rest of the movie plus they would cut between different shots much faster but 1.5x would be slow enough that I would be able to examine how the characters act and what choices they make.
Right off the bat, the film starts off with an underdog narrative. We see Rocky win a boxing match in a rundown underground ring, collect a very small amount of fight money, walk back home in a very low income area and see him working his job as a loan shark collector. We also see that despite the fact he is a lower class citizen living in a rough area, he has a big heart as he helps a girl out who is hanging out in a rough area and lets off one of his “clients” when he is working as a loan shark collector despite his boss’ request to hurt him. It is important to note that the film effectively showed this all off without any proper audio, I was entirely able to pick all this up without hearing a single character speak. The music in the background emphasizes Rocky’s start for his boxing career as a nobody with a big heart who is just trying to make ends meet. The scenes shot cuts between the local boxing ring, his rundown apartment, his job as a loan shark collector and Adrian’s pet shop which work effectively in a montage sequence to show off Rocky’s humble beginnings.
The next major turning point in the film is when Rocky accepts Apollo Creeds challenge. Characters who initially rejected Rocky such as the loan shark owners and Mickey the elderly trainer who owns the gym start actually helping him. Rocky’s relationship with Adrian and her brother Paulie also develop and strengthen. We see Rocky improve various aspects of his life to get ready for the big fight and it fits almost perfectly with the music I had playing. It was somewhat surreal to see the actual montage segments of the film where Rocky climbs the stairs with the adjustments I already made to emulate this scene. I felt like this second act of the movie best fit the description of a traditional montage where we see a character grow and improve. Once again, I also think having these scenes played out in a montage like viewing helped hammer in the underdog narrative the film is going for.
Finally we get to the boxing match with Apollo Creed and I felt this was the worst part of the movie with the changes I made. This fight is supposed to be slow and an endurance test for Rocky as he has to survive as long as possible in the ring but having it sped up seemed to take that endurance factor away. The inspirational montage music also did not work as it counteracted what I saw on screen such as when Rocky is clearly losing the fight when his nose is broken. The sound of the film missing for this fight also worked against it as I could not feel the full impact of the punches the characters were throwing and I could not hear the cheers of the audience in the background. While the fight did not work, the scenes following the fight did. Seeing Rocky happy despite the fact he lost or him kissing Arian after all he had to go through was emotional and having the audio muted with the Rocky soundtrack in the back actually helped improve the final shot.
I felt this viewing experience helped emphasize the underdog narrative for this movie. Scenes where Rocky is training with Mickey or Paulie worked out extremely well because the cuts and inspirational music complimented these scenes so well. Scenes which showed off Rocky’s beginnings and living situations before his match against Creed also worked well. If I were to make some changes for a second alternate viewing for this movie, I would somehow try to split the background audio from the character dialogue. Background audio is important because it helps build the world of the movie while not taking away that montage feeling. I would also slow down certain because they did not work in a montage style with the main two being Rocky’s dates with Adrian and his fight with Creed. The film did an excellent job telling me its story despite only having visuals and the speed I watched it at with the films score backing it genuinely pumped me up and made me root for the characters.
by Aman Prasad