Less is More Than Enough: Acting and The Kuleshov Effect

By  · Published on October 18th, 2017

Ryan Gosling stars in a case study of the editing effect.

The Kuleshov Effect makes the case that meaning can come from something that wasn’t filmed, but merely the juxtaposition of two filmed shots. A neutral face and a bowl of soup retroactively creates a hungry face. Extending this to acting theory means that when an actor considers their performance, they must take into consideration that the meaning arising from the completed film may not come at all from their performance, but from its editing with another shot.

Leaving room for these creative interpretations is another reason for actors to avoid overperforming. Aside from looking over-constructed and overbearing, these loud, brash, or otherwise garish performances undermine an effective cinematic tool.

Mark Duggan’s video concisely explains these concepts, then uses the filmography of Ryan Gosling to show what he means. This is great for nuanced, quiet acting that separates the pros from the friends cast in student films. Understanding that you don’t have to carry a film on the merits of your expressive performance alone is a growing pain many actors must go through, but a necessary one for quality movies.

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Jacob Oller writes everywhere (Vanity Fair, The Guardian, Playboy, FSR, Paste, etc.) about everything that matters (film, TV, video games, memes, life).