He was born Lev Vladimirovich Kuleshov on 1 January, 1899, in Tambov, Russia.Young Kuleshov received exclusive private education at the home of his father who had a degree from Moscow Art College.
He studied the techniques of Hollywood directors, particularly D.W. Griffith and Mack Sennett and introduced such innovations as crosscutting in editing and montage into Russian cinema.
Although editing and montage have already been used in art, architecture, fashion, politics, book publishing, theatrical productions and religious events (just look at placement of icons in churches, or photos in books, or pictures at exhibitions), the use of such editing in silent films was innovative and eventually led to more advanced visual effects.
Lev is arguably the first Film theorist in the world. He created the first film school - Moscow Film School that has been documented. Lev was not the first person to be using the techniques for editing but he was the first in the Soviet Russia.
For his experiment. Kuleshov was cutting old silent films from the archives of Khanzhonkov, Bauer and other private studios nationalized by the socialist govenment. Kuleshov used the archives of old silent movies for his own cutting experiments and thus most of the film archives was destroyed. Kuleshov remained quiet about this part of his career when he experimented with editing technique. He focused on putting two shots together to achieve a new meaning.
He was a leader of the Soviet montage theory. This means that this man was developing theories into editing segments together. Before those of Sergei Eisenstein (fun fact he was a student of Kuleshov) and Vsevold Pudovkin.
Sergei, took the knowledge that he got from Lev and became a pioneer in the theory and the practice of montage. A few notable works of Sergei's are.
- Strike (1925),
- Battleship Potemkin (1925)
- October (1928),
- Alexander Nevsky (1938)
- Ivan the Terrible (1944, 1958).
Vsevold first started off as Lev assistant director. After a few failed attempts in advertising cinema. He directed a considered masterpiece of silent film Mother. Where he developed and displayed several montage theories that made him famous. The "Kuleshov effect" is using the Pavlovian physiology to manipulate the impression made by an image and thus to spin the viewer's perception of that image.
To demonstrate such manipulation, Kuleshov took a shot of popular Russian actor Ivan Mozzhukhin's expressionless face from an early silent film. He then edited the face together with three different endings: a plate of soup, a seductive woman, a dead child in a coffin.
The audiences perception believed that Ivan Mozzhukhin acted differently looking at the food, the girl, or the coffin, showing an expression of hunger, desire, or grief respectively. Actually the face of Ivan Mozzhukhin in all three cases was one and the same shot repeated over and over again. Viewers own emotional reactions become involved in manipulation. Images spin those who are prone to be spun.
Vsevolod Pudovkin, who claimed to have been the co-creator of Kuleshov's experiment, later described how the audience "raved about the acting... the heavy pensiveness of Ivan Mozzhukhin's mood over the soup, the deep sorrow with which he looked on the dead child, and the lust with which he observed the woman. But we knew that in all three cases the face was exactly the same." Kuleshov demonstrated the effect of editing that was successfully used in montage of such films, as Battleship Potemkin (1925) and The End of St. Petersburg (1927) among other Soviet films. Kuleshov's good education, as well as his connections among Russian intellectual elite also helped his career.
How this began the ground works for future films, with dramatic story lines.
In addition to his theoretical work, Kuleshov was an active director of feature-length films until 1943. Since 1943 Kuleshov was serving as the academic rector of Gerasimov Institute of Cinematography.
Lev Kuleshov helped kick start the the films we see now in the 21st century. Through his theories and his initial Kuleshov Experiment showed that cutting images together can make for a complex in depth array of emotions.