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On Editing

Film editing involves putting on the finishing touches. More than this, it is a process of breathing life into the work.’2

Editing is truly interesting work. When the rushes come up, I rarely show them to my crew exactly as they are. Instead I go to the editing room when shooting is over that day and with the editor spend about three hours editing the rushes together. Only then do I show them to the crew. It is necessary to show them this edited footage for the sake of arousing their interest. Sometimes they don’t understand what it is they are filming, or why they had to spend ten days to get a particular shot. When they see the edited footage with the results of their labor, they become enthusiastic again. And by editing as I go along, I have only the fine cut to complete when the shooting is finished.’1

No matter how much work the director, the assistant director, the cameraman or the lightning techicians put into a film, the audience never knows. What is necessary is to show them something that is complete and has no excess. When you are shooting, of course, you film only what you believe is necessary. But very often you realize only after having shot it that you didn’t need it after all. You don’t need what you don’t need. Yet human nature wants to place value on things in direct proportion to the amount of labor that went into making them. In film editing, this natural inclination is the most dangerous of all attitudes. The art of the cinema has been called an art of time, but time used to no purpose cannot be called anything but wasted time.’2

The most important requirement for editing is objectivity. No matter how much difficulty you had in obtaining a particular shot, the audience will never know. If it is not interesting, it simply isn’t interesting. You may have been full of enthusiasm during the filming of a particular shot, but if that enthusiasm doesn’t show on the screen, you must be objective enough to cut it.’1

Sources:

1 These notes were published by Toho Company Ltd. in 1975 as advice to young people considering a career in filmmaking. They are taken from: Kurosawa, Akira. Something Like an Autobiography. Translated by audie E. Bock. Vintage Books, 1983.

2 These are taken from: Kurosawa, Akira. Something Like an Autobiography. Translated by audie E. Bock. Vintage Books, 1983.

3 These notes are taken from: Richie, Donald. The Films of Akira Kurosawa. University of California Press, 1996.