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The ‘Good Form’ of Film

The Aesthetics of Continuity from Gestalt Psychology to Cognitive Film Theory

Maria Poulaki


This article questions certain assumptions concerning film form made by the recent (neuro)psychological film research and compares them to those of precursors of film psychology like Hugo Münsterberg and Rudolf Arnheim, as well as the principles of Gestalt psychology. It is argued that principles of Gestalt psychology such as those of ‘good form’ and good continuation are still underlying the psychological research of film, becoming particularly apparent in its approach to continuity editing. Following an alternative Gestalt genealogy that links Gestalt theory with more recent dynamic models of brain activity and with accounts of brain complexity and neuronal synchronisation, the article concludes that psychological research on film needs to shift the focus from form to transformation, both in conceiving the perceptual and cognitive processing of films and in approaching film aesthetics more broadly.