Monday, January 15, 2007

lying with edits

Relational Editing: Editing not only controls time but creates relationships between subjects that don't exist in real life. Relational editing techniques work on the human need to see a theme or connection in a series of images even if the pictures are random.

In the 1920's, Russian film makers Pudovkin and Kuleshov proved this principle. They alternated a MS of a man staring blankly into the camera with a CU of a bowl of soup; a MS of a dead woman in a coffin; and CU of a little girl playing.

To viewers, the man's blank expression suddenly mirrored the emotions in the other images to the point of creating an imagined cause and effect be-tween them.

Although footage of the actor's face was the same, when the coffin footage came first, the audience thought the actor showed deep sorrow. When his face followed a CU of the soup, the audience thought he was hungry. And when he was edited to the shot of the little girl playing, the audience saw the actor feeling parental pride.

The footage of the actor's face has no real connection with the other shots, except in the viewer's imagination when seen in sequence. We mentally "project" our responses to the images onto the actor and believe we know what he is thinking or feeling.

3 comments:

Doc Savageland said...

This is a phenomenon that I find effects most actor's performances more often then people like to admit. A lot of time a bad performance is improved by the audience "bringing their own baggage" to the film. So ask yourself, am I really seeing a good performance, or good editing?

Which is probably why Gregory Peck won best actor in 1962 for To Kill a Mockingbird, over Peter O'Toole for Lawrence of Arabia. Peck is indeed good, but nowhere near as powerful and full of depth as O'Toole's.

Rob A. said...

Very true. I think you can take this further and apply it to how a news piece can change depending on how it is cut.

Doc Savageland said...

Are you saying the news lies!!!

Very true and very scary, especially considering that there is no law that prevents news distortion, a rather nebulous term that can be used to define all kinds of news tampering.