Complexity editing is the process by which images are pieced together with an increased focus on dramatic or thematic elements of an event. With marked contrast to continuity editing, complexity editing seeks to remove the confines of time in terms of the horizontal parameter, and thus opens the event to a more introspective interpretation along the vertical axis.
The primary application of complexity editing is the use of montage. Montage is the art of construction; the systematic selections of images that can be organized in either sequential or non-sequential manner in order clarify and intensify an event. When these images are viewed in a designated sequence, they call upon a particular translational response that does not rely on the viewer having been provided all relevant details, but rather on their ability to draw conclusions based solely on the selected segments of information. In this respect, montage can provide a unique opportunity to utilize what we know and understand about a viewer’s thought process and allow us to manipulate that process to invoke an acute response. (If this sounds a bit like the primary basis of all film theory, you’re not far off base by any stretch, in fact it can be argued that all films rely on some form of montage or another to tell a story).
Montage relies heavily, if not entirely on the theory of gestalt, the psychological process of closure or filling in information. This effectively makes montage a study of relationships, one cannot close an event with a single image; thus, each image in a sequence is only as meaningful as the image before and after it. Traditional continuity editing is much more forgiving and forthcoming, more likely to spoon-feed the message of the event, whereas complexity editing through montage allows for a more precise manipulation, we can objectively force a viewer to intake information through different emotional and psychological filters than those which may be used in a more traditional form of presentation.
Although complexity editing can be effectively contrasted with continuity editing in the aforementioned ways, it should be said that the principle concept of continuity in film can never be abandoned completely. We do not want to burn a viewer’s mental map, we just want to provide them with an alternate means of reaching their destination.
For the purpose of this assignment, I’ll be examining the elements of analytical montage. Analytical montage, as the name would imply, seeks to analyze an event based on its principle thematic and structural elements. Utilizing these elements, one has the option then to organize the selected information one of two ways, sectionally or sequentially.
In a sequential montage the images presented will not be perceived as continuous, but will in fact follow the order of an event along its horizontal time line. Adhering to the characeristics of a montage, this information is broken up so that the viewer is provided with the...