Short Review: Man With a Movie Camera (Dziga Vertov, 19209)
I recently watched Man With A Movie Camera, the 1929 Soviet silent masterpiece from director Dziga Vertov. Utilizing a distinct avant-garde style, the film is comprised of an incredible encapsulation of individual shots that document humanity's interaction with the machinery of modern life in Odessa and other Soviet cities. At various intervals throughout the film there are shots of a cameraman setting up his camera at different locations, and the footage we are viewing I took to be the captures of this man. The random collection of footage, which feels strangely narrative-like in it's construction, is spellbinding. The often startling intensity of the captures and the brilliant editing (by Vertov's wife Elizaveta Svilova) sends you into a trance-like state. Utilizing a series of cinematic techniques that could very well have been invented by Vertov, the film is a stark, experimental journey. The version I saw was accompanied by the soundtrack by The Cinematic Orchestra, and I thought it worked perfectly. While the images are a marvel in their own right, I think the experience was certainly enhanced by the audio accompaniment. Man With A Movie Camera is a must-see. Much like Eisenstein's brilliant work in Strike and The Battleship Potemkin, early Soviet cinema and the use of montage editing by their filmmakers has proven to be one of the most groundbreaking achievements in cinematic history.