May 10, 2009
I'm going to go back, way back, to the start of filmmaking and the guy who's theories redefined editing- Sergei Eisenstein.
Eisenstein was a Russian filmmaker who wrote and taught on something he called 'Montage'. He believed that by juxtaposing images he could create emotion in his viewers. For an example he shot a few seconds each of people looking at the camera. He then shot a few seconds of other things like food or children. When he would put an image of a woman with a picture of a child and ask the viewers what the woman was feeling, they said love. When he put the same image of the woman together with a picture of food, the viewers said the woman looked hungry.
Specifically I recall a scene in his film "Battleship Potemkin". There's a famous scene referred to as The Odessa Steps Sequence. In this sequence the people are showing their support for the sailors on the Potemkin and clash with soldiers on the Odessa Steps. A woman is shot, she falls, her baby stroller rolls down the steps. A woman looks on in horror, the soldiers march down the steps continuing to fire on the people. The stroller continues down the stairs. The baby cries. A man looks on in horror. The soldiers march. The stroller falls over. The woman again looks on in horror. A soldier raises his rifle butt end down and away from him. The woman's glasses are broken and there is blood on her face.
Just by placing those images in that sequence we know the story. We don't need to see the in between bits. We don't need to see the soldier's gun come down and strike the woman's face. We don't need to be told what the man and the woman are looking at. By placing the images in the order they are we can piece the story together ourselves. Especially important since this film was made in 1925 and is silent. If you'd like to see this sequence for yourself and see a list of films that have been inspired by it, check out the following You Tube link: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=J74IKt8rxkQ
The reason why this is important is because it illustrates an important aspect
of editing. Simply that you don't need to show everything in order to get your point
across. The audience can fill in the blanks. In fact, they'll do it without even realizing
they're doing it.