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Kuleshov effect

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1. (film) Any montage sequence in which the relationship of two adjacent shots appears to be particularly meaningful. In what has come to be referred to as the Kuleshov (or Kuleshov-Pudovkin) experiment (allegedly c.1919), the Russian film-makers Kuleshov and Vsevolod Pudovkin (1893–1953) claimed to have assembled a sequence of disconnected shots from library footage, intercutting the same shot of the apparently expressionless face of a famous Russian actor with close-ups of a bowl of steaming soup, a dead woman lying in a coffin, and a little girl playing with a toy bear. Pudovkin wrote that: ‘The public raved about the acting…They pointed out the heavy pensiveness of his mood over the forgotten soup, were touched and moved by the deep sorrow with which he looked on the dead woman.’ Kuleshov concluded that the ‘content of the shots in itself is not so important as is the joining of two shots of different content and the method of their connection and their alternation.’ We have no proof of the film's existence (it was allegedly destroyed in a fire) or of the experiment having taken place, but even if it were only a ‘thought experiment’, the concept has proved influential despite the failure of several attempts to replicate it. See also dialectical montage; juxtaposition.

2. The phenomenon whereby viewers infer a connection between two adjacent images.

3. The meaning, significance, and/or emotional impact ascribed to any such connection.

4. The associative power of montage.

5. For Bordwell and Thompson, ‘any series of shots that in the absence of an establishing shot prompts the spectator to infer a spatial whole on the basis of seeing only portions of the space.’

Subjects: Media studies

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