Film editing: history, theory and practice

Looking at the invisible

One of the most surprising facts about film-editing technology is that until about 1916 there was none. This book discusses filmed fiction as it has evolved in America and Europe. It explores the history of filmmaking in a way that it is not usually done, looking in detail at films specifically to discover the way that they construct meaning rather than evaluating them in the context of the cultural circumstances of their production and reception. The book examines the primitive and unsophisticated early structuring methods of silent films to discover what steps brought film language to its most recognisable form and to explore any other avenues of experiment that might have suggested themselves on the way. It also examines such methods to discover why most films continue to be shot and structured in the ways that they are. The book evaluates new approaches that challenge convention, explaining how current practice accommodates to those conventional editing forms that have been historically determined. It is instructive to consider the structure and editing of The Great Train Robbery because in some ways it also defines a point from which filmmaking was restarted. A film of particular significance which constructs a narrative by carrying action across different scenes to produce an unbroken continuity is Rescued by Rover. The films examined bend the form to provide explorations of human emotions. Lars von Trier's Breaking the Waves has a painful bleakness within it that seems to sit somewhat ill with its faith-confirming conclusion.

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