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A smash cut is a technique in film and other moving picture media where one scene abruptly cuts to another for æsthetic, narrative, or emotional purpose. To this end, the smash cut usually occurs at a crucial moment in a scene where a cut would not be expected. To heighten the impact of the cut, a disparity in the type of scene on either side of the cut is often present, going from a fast-paced frenzied scene to a tranquil one, or going from a pleasant scene to a tense one, for example.
A clichéd use of a smash cut is in a murder scene: the killer brings a knife plunging down into his victim, and just before the blade pierces the skin, the scene is suddenly replaced with a non-violent use of a cutting edge, such as the chopping of vegetables. Smash cuts are often used when a character wakes up from a nightmare to simulate the jarring nature of that experience.
Smash cutting can also be used to comedic effect: for example, directly after a prediction is made, cutting to the future showing the prediction to have been humorously, and often outlandishly wrong. One specific variety of smash cut is known as a Gilligan cut, so named for the TV show Gilligan's Island which frequently depicted a given character resolutely declaring his or her intentions immediately before a cut to a scene depicting the character doing the exact opposite.