Man with a Movie Camera (1929)

Eyes of a camera, unexplored | 68 minutes

Movie Info


The creation of post-revolutionary Russia, Man with a Movie Camera reflects that era’s excitement with films. The creator Dziga Vertov’s silent era experimental documentary convey a visual phenomenon without the aid of titles, conditions, actors, or studios resulting Vertov’s experiment into a grand cinematic masterpiece, constructed and conceived the un-conventions, auspice of the pictorial canvas in depicting the antiphons of the real world and what the cinema is capable of.

The weight of cinematic history bears heavily on the keyboard of anyone offering their opinion of 1929 Soviet classic Man with a Movie Camera. Many of cinema enthusiasts and film scholars throughout the decades have dissected, lectured and written volumes on this influential silent feature. Vertov gives the film the structure by using the format of the city symphony films of the mid 1920s, he refers the visuals to the cinematic process and the main protagonist is the camera person, a Picaro travelling through the city, connecting himself in the daily routine from dawn to dusk happenings, spotting the details from all walks of life through the eye of his camera. The camera eye receipts on a persona of its own by turning frequently to the audience as though addressing it.

Never had I known that these mechanical noises could be arranged to sound so beautiful. Mr. Dziga Vertov is a musician,” specified Charlie Chaplin after he first witnessed Vertov’s earlier film Enthusiasm in London. Vertov took the language of sound to an even greater level when making his masterpiece Man with the Movie Camera that is looked at as one of the greatest revolutionary silent films ever made.

Polish-born Vertov (his real name Dennis Kaufman) had years of experience as a newsreel man in Stalinist Russia when he single-handedly advanced the art of cinema several leaps at once with his daring, unorthodox approach to the jubilation of Russian life. He was instrumental in substantiating the cinematic canvas with metaphors and trying out every non-linear technique he could think of. Vertov incarnate us the world that someone who can actually experience. In an almost dazzling performance of camera and editing techniques, the audience is treated to superimpositions, animation, split screens, fast motion, unpredictable camera angles, trolleying and dolling, quick cutting, montage, and prismatic lenses, completely in a rapid succession and generating the film into an intrinsic energy.

The experience of this film is very unique, and for someone who is fascinated to the glorious turn of the early 20th century, the making of communist Soviet Union is incensed in the connexion of shots of labourers at a factory and bourgeoisie at a salon. The camera shows the woman worker’s face covered in industrial grime and her eyebrows blackened. The industrial images come in the early part of the film followed the other half are the Russians at play, their work days. We see Russians at the beach, Russians throwing discs, Russians racing bicycles, riding carousels, drinking beer playing games. These are perhaps been about their glory, or the verve of the Soviets. Besides being sure, one must feel a scene and the pretty, precise thing does not really infer any such political message or propaganda nor preaches any message. The film highlights the series of montages and what marks incredible is that the subject inevitably recollects those visuals and stags them as circumstances, and as an audience, the effect not only change your mind, also sustains those formations of conception

Employing such a wide variety of experimental camera techniques that many modern movies to this day still appear demure and uninspiring in comparison.  This film has been a yardstick to many film-makers and this 1929 Russian silent montage documentary is an effort to show the breadth and precision of the camera’s recording ability, many similar films were produced in the rest of the world later and even to this day Vertov’s 1929 masterpiece still looks stunning. Vertov succeeded in transcending the conventions of film and opening up the possibilities of the medium for generations of budding movie-makers to come.

Vertov is always been the front runner in illustrating the recipe of dramatic aesthetics. He is first to my mind able to find a mid-ground between a narrative media and a database form of media. He shot all the scenes separately, and had no intention of making the film into a regular theatrical movie with a traditional storyline. Instead, he took all these random clips that he photographed and put it in a database that his wife Svilova later edited. The narrative and editing part of this process was all done by Vertov’s wife, as she had to go and sort through the random clips her husband shot, edit them and put them together in some form of structural order and the best part that made the finest sense of excision that made the most sense. The purpose of this was that Vertov wanted to break the traditional mould of a linear film that the world was comfortable in seeing and is similar to what Jean-Luc Godard had done in 60’s, and in the 80’s Coppola or Spielberg used up and Quentin Tarantino again in the 90’s and to this date, many have been trying the best out of it

Man with a Movie Camera was originally titled “Chelovek s kinoapparatom”. This movie remains among the most radical, and imitated, films in cinema history. It makes you think. It is a film about its own creation, about the material process of work, about cinema as a means of transforming perception and spatial-temporal relations, about the power of kino-pravda (“film-truth”). Dziga Vertov’s experiment grew out of his belief, shared by his editor, Elizaveta Svilova, his wife and his cinematographer brother, Mikhail Kaufman, that the true goal of cinema should be to present life as it is lived. To that end, the filmmakers offer a day-in-the-life portrait of a city from dawn until dusk, though they actually shot their footage in several cities, including Moscow, Kiev, and Odessa. Thus illustrates the simple transposition of images, the intellectual possibility of film is all too often forgotten and in choosing to document the ever-smiling ordinary man and women of the streets reminds us that it is the moments we experience and define us every day with our friends, family and co-workers. A revelation that is stark and profoundly moving.

Having watched great number of movies, my only impression has been of progress in film’s technical capabilities. Of all the movies I have seen, not one poses the problem of cinematic form as such, inherently peculiar to film. Instead the recent innovations in films fall entirely into the more general plane of pictorial problems. Thus the problems made up in painting have come to be the problem of cinematic art as well. Vertov does not rationalise or justify a camera or any such machines, he shows the movement itself. Thus in the essence, the camera lens towards the unexamined dynamics of metallic, industrial, socialistic life, we may glimpse a new world, as yet completely unexplored. By far, this has been the evolution and beginning of the motion pictures

Film Crew

  • Written and Directed by Dziga Vertov
  • Cinematography: Mikhail Kaufman
  • Release dates: 8 January 1929
  • Run time of 68 minutes
  • Country: Soviet Union
  • Language: Silent film and no intertitles

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Eyes of a camera, unexplored

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