Dziga Vertov makes Man With a Movie Camera, USSR
“I am kino-eye, I am mechanical eye, I, a machine, show you the world as only I can see it.” Dziga Vertov
“This experimental work aims at creating a truly international absolute language of cinema based on its total separation from the language of theatre and literature.” Foreword to the film.
At the time of its release, Dziga Vertov’s Man with a Movie Camera revolutionised the way editing was used to construct narrative in cinema.
In the style of a ‘city symphony’, the film attempts to record a typical day in Moscow from dawn until dusk using Vertov’s ‘kino-glaz’ – an objective cinematic eye. It follows a cameraman (played by Mikhail Kaufman, Vertov’s brother), as he energetically scales buildings and hangs off trains, exploring and documenting the soviet city and its people at work. The film uses a multitude of experimental editing techniques, including montage, fast and slow motion, freeze frames, flicker effects, superimposition and split screens, as well as shots of the cameraman with his camera, and factory labourers with their equipment, in order to communicate the communist ideal of man in harmony with machine. Vertov also includes images of the film-strip being edited and manipulated, (by his wife, Yelizavela Svilova), emphasizing the sense of filmmaking as both a mechanical process and a collective enterprise.
After its first screenings, the film’s experimental approach to editing meant that it was accused by the Stalinist regime of putting aesthetics ahead of ideology. It is now seen as a key example of early avant-garde or experimental documentary making that exemplified Vertov’s rejection of Hollywood storytelling in favour of what he saw as ‘kino-pravda’ – cinema truth.
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