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” (Gallese and Guerra 2012) 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.
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