This article proposes that inquiry into the cognitive complexity of film editing processes could provide insight into how edits affect audiences beyond convincing them of temporal and spatial continuity. Application of two influential theories in cognitive studies of the moving image to this inquiry suggests that editors make some decisions to maximize the smooth transference of their own attention and some in response to their own embodied simulation. However, edited sequences that do not conform precisely to the principles of maximum attentional efficiency or that significantly reshape the cinematographer’s “kinematics” () reveal other cognitive expertise at work. Sequences generated by editors’ feeling for rhythmic phrases of movement, tension, and release create unique expressive forms in film. They require artistry of a higher order, rather than following the relatively straightforward rules of continuity cutting, and may have distinctive affective or cognitive impact on audiences.
Karen Pearlman is a lecturer in screen practice and production at Macquarie University in Sydney, Australia. She is the author of Cutting Rhythms: Intuitive Film Editing (2016), now in its second edition with Focal Press, and numerous articles on film and dancefilm in scholarly journals and arts publications. Her creative research film Woman with an Editing Bench (2016), a stylized biopic about the editor of Man with a Movie Camera, has won eight awards, including the 2016 Australian Teachers of Media Award for Best Short Fiction and the 2016 Australian Screen Editors Guild Award for Best Editing in a Short Film. E-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org