The history of editing as sketched in this article examines the theory of vernacular modernism proposed by Miriam Hansen in 1999. Taking stock of physical, optical, and temporal limitations imposed by the medium of film on actors, playwrights, and directors leads to a system of continuity rules, the staple of classical Hollywood film narration. Soviet montage theory emerged in an attempt to adjust continuity rules from American screenwriting manuals in the 1910s to discontinuous and extranarrative experiments in filmmaking by avant-garde directors. Contrast rather than continuity, cuts sooner than shots, form instead of function—such, among others, were parameters of style emphasized by Soviet montage theorists throughout the 1920s.

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