The Kuleshov Effect in editing has been studied and used by some of the greatest filmmakers in history. Here's a short rundown on what it is and how it came about!
The Kuleshov Effect is a film editing technique demonstrated by Russian filmmaker Lev Kuleshov in the 1910's and 1920's.
Here's what his experiment consisted of...
Kuleshov set up his experiment this way...
He shot a single closeup of an actor sitting quietly-still without expression. He then inter-cut that shot with various other shots comprised of...
The audience's reaction was very interesting!
The shot he used of the actor was just one single long-duration close-up without expression or emotion... completely neutral but... Reportedly the audience marveled at the "sensitivity of the actor's range of emotion."
film editing experiments also contributed heavily to the Soviet Montage Theory of
filmmaking in the 1920's. This theory has influenced filmmakers all over the world for
Psychologists have long debated whether an audience's intellectual or
emotional reaction to a shot or scene in a film comes directly from what
is being shown to them or... do they invest their own emotional reaction
into the shot or the scene... even if the scene itself is passive or
The essence of the Kuleshov effect is that the individual viewer is...
"Filling in the blanks" or "connecting the dots" so to speak. According to Kuleshov...the viewer doesn't realize the reaction is in his own mind. He assumes the actor shows it.
Kuleshov's reasoning was...
It is the context in which the subject of the shot or scene is shown that creates the effect on how the subject is perceived and understood by the viewer.
It is interesting that this effect can also be created not only visually... But also by using sound to influence the viewers emotional judgments or interpretations of the shot or scene that is being viewed.
The above conclusion may or may not be true for all but... this technique has been used brilliantly by filmmakers such as Stanley Kubrick and Alfred Hitchcock.
Alfred Hitchcock called it "Pure Editing " or "Pure Cinematics ". Here is the great filmmaker talking about the Kuleshov Effect...