Editing Film Like a Pro (Part 3): How Repetition and Rhythm Shape Video

Cut film Repetition and rhythm
From the secrets of the pros | © Montage: filmpuls.info

Craft and artistic aspects of film montage can be considered not only in terms of content, but also from a purely formal point of view. Thanks to rhythm and repetition, montage, which is shaped by formal principles, has a very special power over the effect of the film image in film editing.

Montage as a formal principle in film editing is not only found (excessively) in art and experimental films. Alternating with other principles of montage, formal editing can be found in the rhythm of every film or video thanks to the principle of repetition.

You need to know

  • Repetition of a setting can underline – or refute – a substantive statement. It can thus have the character of either a monologue (no disagreement) or a dialogue (disagreeing statements).
  • Repetitive film sequences work because the viewer unconsciously establishes a relationship between all the shots. He tries to make sense of film editing and interprets the montage.
  • Movements determine the rhythm of a film. They can already be created in the production or only arise during the editing of a film.

Repetition in editing: dialogue or monologue

Settings can be mounted repetitively one after the other for purely aesthetic reasons. The outer form of the image dominates the content. The great experimental documentary“Samsara” (2001) by Ron Fricke and Mark Magidson largely follows this principle.

The juxtaposition of shots, as a collection of images in film editing, can lead to a unified message or to contradictions. In this way, the repetition can take on the additional character of a monologue or a dialogue.

In the form of the monologue, the settings are similar in form, content, motif or movement. This is different for dialogue, where the settings in repetition have no formal commonalities and additional conditions.

Repetitive montage when editing movies

Settings in the repetitive montage are always in a reciprocal relationship in film editing.

Because man always and everywhere by nature wants to recognize patterns and meaningfulness, he searches (similar to parallel montage) for the meaning of repetitions. This is irrespective of whether or not such is intended by the concept and the creators. This is essential for the editor.

Montage is visual language gained from the field of dynamics, speed, energy and power.
Jean Mitry

That is why leitmotifs in film editing only become a recognisable pattern for the viewer through their repetition. The leitmotif does not have to be repeated within a single image in order to be recognizable as such, as is the case with photographs.

However, the use of repetition is not limited to formal areas. In film editing, leitmotifs can also take the form of an emotion and lend a film a supporting basic feeling.

Cut film: Rhythm is movement

The rhythm of a film is not exclusively dependent on the montage. Movement plays an equally important role in the picture. As a principle of form, rhythm is usually manifested as a rapid succession of short cuts. Many quick fragments of reality assemble them into a new reality with the intended effect.

Rhythm can also be used as a montage principle in film editing to make an attitude to life tangible for the viewer through the editing in the film.

But regardless of how it is defined, and regardless of the genre, talent, and expertise of the editor, when it comes to film and video editing, cinematic rhythm cannot be measured with mathematical precision.

Unlike photos, the rhythm of a film only becomes apparent in the editing process. But not only.

Also the way the camera is directed, the movements of the actors, the staging of the director, even the speech tempo of the off-commentary or the way the dialogues are interpreted and of course also the image and the music determine the beat of a film.

Time changes are rhythm changes

The use of slow motion (extreme slowing down of a film image) or fast motion (extreme speeding up of the image) can also be stylistic for the rhythm in film editing. Originally from Hong Kong, director John Woo (“Face Off” and others) was celebrated for many years in Hollywood for his slow-motion shots of white doves lying on the ground in his action films.

All these elements help to make rhythm more than the sum of its parts. Behind every cut in film editing there is always a cutter, in German usually called Schnittmeister or Editor. As the main person responsible for editing, he or she shapes the cut with his or her handwriting, knowledge and talent in consultation with the director. Without it, creating a movie or video is not possible.

The phenomenon of the invisible cut

One of the formal design principles in film editing is the correct use of invisible editing. In communication with film and video, we always speak of an invisible cut when a film is obvious to the human eye, but is not perceived as disturbing by the viewer in the flow of the plot and the narrative.

The invisible cut is not to be confused with the hidden cut. The hidden cut tries to conceal the transition between two settings. This is also part of editing a film.

Continuation of the series

The contents of the Film Editing series at a glance:

For more on editing film, check out the article on 10 Good Film Books.

This article was automatically translated into English using AI. If you would like to help us improve the quality, we would be happy to hear from you.

Pavel Sokolov
About Pavel Sokolov 49 Articles
Pavel studiert Film Editing. Er mag François Truffaut, Terrence Malick, Dr Pepper, seinen Thermaltake View 71 TG, Musik von Seeed und alle Dinge, die mit der Farbe Rot zusammenhängen, aber keinem Lebewesen Schmerzen bereiten.

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