Cross-cutting is an editing technique most often used in films to establish action occurring at the same time, and usually in the same place. In a cross-cut, the camera will cut away from one action to another action, which can suggest the simultaneity of these two actions but this is not always the case. Cross-cutting can also be used for characters in a film with the same goals but different ways of achieving them.[1]

Suspense may be added by cross-cutting.[2] It is built through the expectations that it creates and in the hopes that it will be explained with time. Cross-cutting also forms parallels; it illustrates a narrative action that happens in several places at approximately the same time. For instance, in D.W. Griffith's A Corner in Wheat (1909), the film cross-cuts between the activities of rich businessmen and poor people waiting in line for bread. This creates a sharp dichotomy between the two actions, and encourages the viewer to compare the two shots. Often, this contrast is used for strong emotional effect, and frequently at the climax of a film. The rhythm of, or length of time between, cross-cuts can also set the rhythm of a scene.[3] Increasing the rapidity between two different actions may add tension to a scene, much in the same manner of using short, declarative sentences in a work of literature.

Cross-cutting was established as a film-making technique relatively early in film history (a few examples being Edwin Porter's 1903 short The Great Train Robbery and Louis J. Gasnier's 1908 short The Runaway Horse); Griffith was its most famous practitioner. The technique is showcased in his Biograph work, such as A Corner in Wheat and 1911's The Lonedale Operator.[4] His 1915 film, The Birth of a Nation, contains textbook examples of cross-cutting and firmly established it as a staple of film editing. Mrinal Sen has used cross-cutting effectively in his agit-prop film Interview which achieved significant commercial success. Christopher Nolan uses cross-cutting extensively in films such as Interstellar, The Dark Knight and Inception - particularly in the latter, in which sequences depict multiple simultaneous levels of consciousness.[5] Cloud Atlas is known for its numerous cross-cuts between the film's six different stories, some lasting only a few seconds yet spanning across hundreds of years in different locations around the world. Its cuts are eased by the similar emotional tone depicted by each side's action.

Cross-cutting is often used during phone-conversation sequence so viewers see both characters' facial expressions in response to what is said.[6]

See also


  1. "cross-cut - definition of cross-cut in English - Oxford Dictionaries". Oxford Dictionaries - English. Retrieved 28 August 2017.
  2. Van Sijll, Jennifer (1 August 2005). "Cinematic Storytelling". Michael Wiese Productions. Retrieved 1 November 2017 via Google Books.
  3. Rosenberg, John (11 February 2013). "The Healthy Edit: Creative Techniques for Perfecting Your Movie". Taylor & Francis. Retrieved 1 November 2017 via Google Books.
  4. "Lonedale Operator: Part 2". Retrieved 28 August 2017.
  5. "cross-cut - definition of cross-cut in English - Oxford Dictionaries". Oxford Dictionaries - English. Retrieved 28 August 2017.
  6. " Intercuts". Retrieved 1 November 2017.


  • Bordwell, David; Thompson, Kristin (2006). Film Art: An Introduction. New York: McGraw-Hill. pp. 244–245. ISBN 0-07-331027-1.

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