The first time that I ever saw Man With the Movie Camera
, was with my boyfriend. We had a couple hours to kill before going into town to see Spider-man 2
, so we opted for this artsy, underground film.
One word of advice: Never watch any Hollywood production after viewing Man With the Movie Camera.
Man With the Movie Camera (or Man With a Movie Camera or Living Russia), directed by Dziga Vertov, is a silent film made in 1929 Soviet Russia. A documentary of sorts, this film depicts a typical day (from morning to night) in the life of an average, working-class citizen, in 1929 Russia.
The documentary combines still shots with motion, while using some of the more modern filming techniques of the day. Some film is laid over other film or played backwards. Vertov even played around with stop motion animation. All these methods of projection, filming and editing were still being experimented with, at the time of the making of the movie.
The film is rich with nostalgia, and infested with urban scenes of Russia. Yet, any movie that includes numerous scenic shots will disengage the viewer, just as a slide show of your Aunt's month-long solo hike in the Alps will bore you to another helping of peach cobbler. To prevent this problem, sprinkled among the scenic shots are many extreme close-ups of laborers and loungers, such shots maintain the human spirit throughout the film.
My favorite of these extreme close-ups is a shot of a girl working in a cigarette factory. At the beginning of the shot she appears bored with her work. However, as the scene continues she smiles, laughs and talks, the viewer becomes exposed to this vivacious and fluttery character. It's just another form of characterization.
I, myself, have found it hard to define the plot or gist of this film. Others have argued that it is purely communist propaganda, while some claim it to be an innocent experiment with the filming process. It is obvious, from the beginning titles that this film was made as a sort of experiment, whether Vertov's intentions were for politics or beauty, remains unsolved.
However, the visual only comprises one half of this film, the other half is audio.
Vertov left notes as to the generality of the music that would be played during the film, yet he left no complete pages of music.
Thus, there have been several different goes at it. In 2002 The Cinematic Orchestra recorded a soundtrack for the movie, including not only instrumental sounds, but also street noises, and some turntable and computer generated cacophonies.
The blending and uniting of the audio and visual make for a mind-blowing experience. The film is heartbreakingly beautiful, and is unpretentious in what it is and stands for.
On a subjective note, I believe this film is pure beauty. The nine movements recorded by the Cinematic Orchestra, inspired by the notes of Vertov, fit the imagery perfectly. The experience is well worth the online search, and the money.
Incidentally, I am well aware that there are and have been many different scores recorded for this film. Honestly, I have not had the pleasure of enjoying the other recordings, yet I am wholly satisfied and in awe of the work that The Cinematic Orchestra did for the latest release.