The Man With the Movie Camera

‘The Man With the Movie Camera’ is an experimental 1929 silent documentary film, with no story and no actors, by Russian director Dziga Vertov, edited by his wife Elizaveta Svilova.

This film is famous for the range of cinematic techniques Vertov invents, deploys or develops, such as double exposure, fast motion, slow motion, freeze frames, jump cuts, split screens, Dutch angles, extreme close-ups, tracking shots, footage played backwards, stop motion animations and a self-reflexive style (at one point it features a split screen tracking shot; the sides have opposite Dutch angles).

I was really blown away when I saw this film – it just seems so unbelievably ahead of its time! The pace is so fast, the framing is wonderful and the editing remarkable. Whats also interesting is the fact that the moving footage is so stable. No stedicam, just a heavy wooden tripod held down by assistants. This is a beautiful film and in an age of cgi overdose its like a breath of fresh air.

This film has really inspired me to compose my own music scores to the films I make. That way I can have complete control over mood, pace, temp etc. I’ve been thinking about experimenting with piano music as its the most easily accessible to me and the instrument I can play the best.

He shot all the scenes separately, having no intention of making this film into a regular movie with a storyline. His wive then had to go through it all and do the hard part of making it into some sort of loose narrative. This reminds me a lot of the process I went through when making my 16mm film on the Jonas Mekas Diary Film project.

His film also reminded me slightly of the filmmaker Eisenstein. He believed that editing could be used for more than just exploring a scene or movement, through a ‘linkage’ of related images. He also felt that the ‘collision’ of shots could be used to manipulate the emotions of the audience and create film metaphors. He believed that an idea should be derived from the juxtaposition of two independent shots, bringing an element of collage into film.



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