the power of juxtaposition

In his famous interview with François Truffaut, Alfred Hitchcock details the power of placing two images beside one another:

[Pudovkin] describes an experiment by his teacher, Kuleshov. You see a close up of the Russian actor Ivan Mosjoukine. This is immediately followed by a shot of a dead baby. Back to Mosjoukine again and you read compassion on his face. Then you take away the dead baby and you show a plate of soup, and now, when you go back to Mosjoukine, he looks hungry. Yet, in both cases, they used the same shot of the actor, his face was exactly the same.

Hitchcock continues using his own film, Rear Window, as an example:

…let’s take a close-up of Stewart looking out of the window at a little dog that’s being lowered in a basket. Back to Stewart, who has a kindly smile. But if in place of the little dog you show a half-naked girl exercising in front of her open window, and you go back to a smiling Stewart again, this time he’s seen as a dirty old man!

This is the great trick of filmmaking–placing different images side by side for the sake of eliciting a reaction. But the same could be said about graphic design, photography, collage, or even written storytelling.

“Mom, Cousin Bruce is being weird again…”

To a certain degree, all creation is a process of assembling puzzle pieces, deciding what to place side-by-side for the sake of creating a feeling.

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