Inserts and Cutaways

2020 - 2021

An "insert" is an editing term for a shot of some other thing that exists in the same space as the content of the master shot.

A "cutaway" is a shot of something spatially and even temporally different from the master shot. 

I have been looking at the way the insert and the cutaway are used as a device to deal with the unthinkable. Scenes of violence, sex, trauma cannot unfold naturally as they would make the viewer too uncomfortable, too close to the action. These two editing devices allow the viewer to feel the traumatic thing while dissociating, "looking away". Often the insert is a point-of-view shot from the perspective of the person who is actually enduring the trauma. In a sense, the cutaway is also a psychic point-of-view shot, giving the viewer a clue into how the person is processing the unthinkable, showing you where their mind is going. 

I think these shots are also a director's instantiations for painterly tableaux. The cutaway, a psychic pathway to escape trauma, is also a perfect reason to show the viewer a seascape. The insert, which emphasizes the inanimate object's indifference to our traumatic experience, is also an alibi for a beautifully composed still-life. To be clear, I use the word trauma loosely to refer to any extreme experience of pain or pleasure from which a subject might dissociate. This idea draws on the psychoanalytic reading of fetishes being formed through the aversion of the gaze.

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