Well we’re nearly there; the whole nation holds their breath in anticipation for the most exciting event in Britain’s recent history. Yes the time has come, for the BBC’s montage marathon.
It started innocently enough, at the end of sporting contests to summarise the course that the tournament took and the high and lows along the way. But from these humble beginnings, the simple montage’s stature has grown to become an ever-present feature before, during and after each athletic feat.
To me it’s as if the guilty TV companies are saying that real life is no longer appealing enough for the average audience. That reality is doesn’t incorporate the excitement that the typical, reality-TV loving viewers thrive on. No, life needs to be dramatized to really get the point across, to really manufacture that sense of power and intrigue, or people might switch off!
So as we welcome the Olympic Games to London, with the BBC promising extensive coverage of every sport, athlete and queen-loving patriot exploding with national pride directly into the camera, expect to get familiar with a few of these summation traits.
Music is the key factor in making any run-of-the-mill montage into something on the scale of summer blockbuster epicness. Basically there are two options; the overblown chanting and drumming option which offers the ‘going to war’ semantic, you know, like they always do with the Welsh rugby team, or the acoustic cover of a previously famous option, you know, like they use on all those clever and heartfelt adverts where you watch someone get old in half a minute. There are a few ground rules that the editors have to follow when deciding between the two options; any rivalry or chance of violence = epic war music, individual sporting competition and lots of shots of relaxed athlete = acoustic cover. There are also the factors such as race, stature and sex; any Eastern European competitor falls into the bracket of war music as well as anyone bigger than us, whilst the majority of female athletes will get lumped into the acoustic cover category, or maybe, if they’re really lucky, the current pop song bracket, because girls love dancing and that don’t they?
If anyone can remember back to their English GCSE days then you will already be aware of our next trait. The phrase is pathetic fallacy, and it has nothing to do with erectile dysfunction. This is the montage maker’s mantra and is basically when the weather reflects the mood in a film or a book. However, in the case of montages, it can quite often be the reverse. You can often find that if there has been rain at an event (with tennis and cricket being the obvious exceptions, you can’t make a montage out of nothing , although I’m pretty sure it will be tried soon) then the mood will be set as a battle with lots of slow motion shots of bedraggled competitors and rain lashing down past a scoreboard of some kind or a symbolic piece of equipment. If the weather is sunny then everything takes on a jovial mood (despite the athlete clearly sweating their nads off) and the montage will be laden with footage of ladies in sun hats and children eating ice creams and maybe someone will have been slipped a tenner to get into a fountain somewhere, you know, to really get the message across. Even the typical British cloud, the most boring type of weather possible, gets manhandled into meaning something, usually as a sense of impending doom or loss for the home team.
So as the whole nation is plunged into a slow motion world of tears and smiles, pain and adrenaline, defeat and success, all condensed into a minute and served up with a helping of emotive music, just remember that this emotion is already there in reality, not just in this Hollywoodisation of life, created by the BBC and Sky. These feelings are being felt, in real time, in real life.
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