Kuleshov Effect

The Kuleshov Effect was a discovery made by Soviet filmmaker Lev Kuleshov during the early years of cinema.

He conducted an experiment where he took a neutral shot of an actor’s face and intercut it with various images, such as a bowl of soup, a coffin, and a child playing. When shown to audiences, the viewers perceived the actor’s facial expression differently based on the preceding or subsequent images.

For example:

When the neutral shot of the actor was followed by the bowl of soup, the audience interpreted the actor’s expression as hungry.

When the same neutral shot was followed by the coffin, the audience perceived the actor as expressing sadness or grief.

When the neutral shot was followed by the child playing, the actor’s expression was seen as happy or joyous.

The crucial point of the experiment was that the actor’s expression remained unchanged throughout. However, the audience’s perception of the emotion displayed by the actor was influenced by the shots surrounding it.

The Kuleshov Effect demonstrates that the meaning and emotion conveyed in a shot can be significantly impacted by the shots that come before or after it.

This phenomenon led to a deeper understanding of the power of editing in film and how filmmakers can manipulate emotions and convey meaning through the sequence of shots.

How is it different from Eisenstein’s theory?

Eisenstein’s theories focus on creating compelling montages or the arrangement of shots to create deeper intellectual and emotional impact, while the Kuleshov effect displays the power of editing by influencing the audience’s changing interpretation of a shot based on its context.