Man with a Movie Camera (1929)

  • Not Rated
  • Genre: Documentary
  • Release year: 1929 (1929-05-12)
  • Running time: 68 min
  • Original Title: Chelovek s kino-apparatom
  • Voted: 20462
Chelovek s kino-apparatom is a movie starring Mikhail Kaufman. A man travels around a city with a camera slung over his shoulder, documenting urban life with dazzling invention.
1Mikhail KaufmanThe Cameraman
  • The reality of life. 5/7/2003 12:00:00 AM by emma502 7

    The Man with a Movie Camera by Dziga Vertov made in 1929 is a silent film that clams to break away from the use of film cards, actors, and all other theatrical aspects that the film industry had been using as it has been developing. To capture this break from the set standards Vertov filmed life over the course of five to six years then edited down the film and added a score. There is no specific cast, nor a specific narrative them that the film follows. From the very first sequence of images of this film the viewer is brought into a world that focuses on the association of man and machine; how man not only controls the machine, it's out put and maintenance but also how man is like a machine. Man is the driving force of modern society; man is the backbone behind production and advances. Vertov expresses this idea without words, but instead shows a city waking up and dependent on the labor force. The pace of the images flows this slower morning pace to more of a flowing fast pace where images fly past the viewers at such a high rate it is almost impossible to see all action that has taken place. He interlays people and machines in both paces, to show not only the technological advances of that time but to also show how production, machines, and people enjoyment/fascination never stop. There is always this sense of progress. He shows that there is always two sides to every part of life. He shows images of life and death, marriage and divorce, young and old age as well as work and recreation. To offset the impact of all the images of only a workforce life, Vertov shows how society also has sports, games, pubs, and the beach to entertain the masses. The main theme of The Man with a Movie Camera is political. The film shows a Proletariat dominated society under the rule of Lenin. It is a propaganda tool of the time. All scenes show people in mass enjoying and partaking in the same action, whether it be working, travel, or recreation. The film tries to express a feeling of grandeur and delight with a society that shares everything and one that is based on a large working class. The repetitious images of machines and lower class individuals expresses the idea of a structured society that must function properly like a machine; that each person must carry their weight due to the whole nation's as well as society's prosperity being dependent on them. There is no difference of the sexes in this work force. That all individuals work and all do similar jobs. This idea is a complete opposite from Hollywood films and America's mindset of the same era. Vertov created a film where the view felt as if they were being shown a special side of society that not all individuals see. Tricks in editing and in photography allow him to interlay images of the camera and the human eye, which in turn implies the camera is a window into a different world. He wanted to create a film that showed society at the time. A film that broke away from the theatrical mindset that all films of that era followed. He wanted to show how all aspects of society are intertwined and that there is an over all happiness and contentment within Russia under Lenin. This propaganda film was used to invoke emotion as well as a feeling of awe for the association of man and machine.

  • All hail Lord Vertov.... 4/10/2004 12:00:00 AM by bforbetty 10

    Although I had obviously heard of this before watching it, and had been told enthusiastically by all that it was incredibly interesting, I found it hard to believe that a film with a) no storyline, and b) no dialogue or intertitles could be so exciting. I am now more than willing to eat my hat.

    This is quite simply the most amazing thing I have ever seen. Probably best described as a documentary about itself (although by no means only this), this film and it's creator were way before their time.

    An interesting point to note: I've watched this twice, once with a traditional musical score, and once with a much more dynamic modern score, and it does have to be said that music can make the movie. I'm not a purist, so found the modern score much more interesting.

    One of the most essential movies of all time.

  • A revolutionary experiment in cinema 1/29/2002 12:00:00 AM by Oblomov_81 7

    Dziga Vertov's `The Man with the Movie Camera' begins with a prologue that explains that the director is attempting to stretch the boundaries of the cinematic medium, trying to achieve `a total separation from the language of literature and theater.' It accomplishes this by throwing out conventional storytelling and taking a non-narrative approach. Basically, the entire film consists of different series of shots that illuminate day-to-day life in Moscow and Odessa. The periods of the day- dawn, working hours, and resting hours- are represented by the activities of the ordinary people that make up the `cast' of the film, while the activities of certain citizens are contrasted with activities of others to create a panorama of Russian urban life in 1929.

    The first thing we see is a projectionist threading film through the spools of a projector. An audience pours into the movie theater as the seats magically flip out; this stylized movement establishes a sense of choreography that will frequently reoccur. The projector comes to life and images appear on the movie screen.

    Now we see the details of a woman's bedroom. The camera starts by focusing on her window, then moving inside and examining her belongings, such as pictures that hang on the wall and items scattered on her dresser. The woman herself rests in her bed. Then we gradually move outside to see the world in a seemingly frozen state; streets are empty, the parks and benches are unpopulated, telephones are silent, and the wheels and gears of the factory remain still. More people are seen resting in their beds. Then a solitary car moves out onto the street with a cameraman perched in it, and, as if the filmmaker was signaling the start of the day, the city comes alive. The woman wakes up, begins washing herself and attending to her appearance, and flickers the shades to her window. Intercut with this are the images of trolley cars leaving their stations and moving about in synchronized motion, as well as people arriving at factories to begin labor. The gears that were previously silent begin to shift and churn, and they grow more and more rapid in movement as the film progresses. Similarly, there are images of a train moving at high speed, quickly intercut with images of crowds in parks, cars streaming through the streets, and telephones buzzing with activity. They make the working hours of the day seem all the more hectic.

    Another interesting aspect of Vertov's editing is the way he contrasts the upper-class members of society with the lower-class. One scenario involves the residents of a barber shop: women get their hair primped while men sharpen razor blades for shaving. This is intercut with images of workers in a factory: women get their hair dirtied as they shovel coal, while men sharpen axes for chopping. Shots of trolleys moving about in various directions are placed in almost every sequence, to convey the idea of people moving constantly, anywhere at anytime.

    When the working hours end and the resting hours begin, the gears come to a sudden halt and, moments later, we see people's bodies at rest, this time on the beach. Athletic events are photographed in a way that makes them seem energetic, but still allows for slow-moving photography to show that such activities are intended to be relaxing. We see a buff athlete jumping a hurdle; his expression is very animated, but his body moves with slowness and ease. We see families on a merry-go-round intercut with bikers on a motorcycle track. Eventually, we are back in the movie theater, where the audience watches joyfully as stop-motion animation shows a tripod and camera moving about on their own.

    There is no actual `story' to Vertov's film. It is an attempt to use the camera to capture things other mediums of entertainment, such as books and plays, cannot. It is fascinating for its dazzling technical skill, and noteworthy for its movement towards a new cinematic direction.

  • A Day in Russia (Shot Over the Course of Many, Many Days) 7/19/2011 12:00:00 AM by gavin6942 8

    A cameraman (Mikhail Kaufman) travels around a city with a camera slung over his shoulder, documenting urban life with dazzling inventiveness.

    This film is said to be a document of Soviet life, with Vertov "working within a Marxist ideology" striving "to create a futuristic city", but I think that is just too narrow a view. While there are aspects of Soviet Russia here (since that is where it was filmed), this is really just life in general. The scenes of the "Lenin Club" and the bust of Karl Marx make it clear we are viewing a Communist society, but the scenes of life in a working class country basically look the same in all industrial countries at this time, regardless of political ideology. The film is a time capsule of the human race at this point in history, and it is beautiful.

    The camera shots and angles and movements are to be commended, and I think if I were to list all the creative uses of the camera I would be going on for a few pages. While we have to give credit for the "unchained camera" to the German Karl Freund, my cinematic hero, we can see here that the Russians (or at least one Russian) had some thoughts of his own on the camera's limitless potential. (I am told that although "Berlin: Symphony of a Great City" came first, the techniques used in this film had already had their prototype in Russian film reels.)

    We could debate the idea of "cinema truth" and whether or not what was shown is an accurate portrayal of unscripted life. I think that debate is largely based on exaggerated criticisms, however. Yes, a few scenes were staged. And yes, some clever editing made certain scenes not strictly "real". But the bulk of the film had people doing what people do without acting and in many cases not even knowing they were being filmed. This is about as real as film gets (aside from, say, a tape retrieved from a security camera -- but is that a "film"?).

    The New York Times review written by Mordaunt Hall lamented that the film "does not take into consideration the fact that the human eye fixes for a certain space of time that which holds the attention." Indeed, the average shot length of the film is 2.3 seconds compared to the contemporary standard of 11.2 seconds. Yet, this is a key component in what sets the film apart from its peers. The film works by interspersing several sequences together, cycling through them. A longer shot length could have happened, but would not have forced the viewer to meld the various scenarios together in her mind. Whether Vertov knew it or not, he was creating new thoughts through juxtaposition.

    Absolutely crucial to this film is the score. While there are any number of scores out there and your preference may vary from mine, I can say that watching this film with any music is better than watching it without. There is no dialogue, there are no characters, and there are no intertitles (with is a gross departure from his previous film, "One-Sixth Part of the World", which had excessive intertitles). Trying to stay focused without words or sound is a feat, and one I advise against.

  • One of the greatest documentary films 6/8/2004 12:00:00 AM by yearz 7

    Dziga Vertov's "Cheloveks Kino Apparatom" is one of the greatest documentaries to come out from Russia or from anywhere, anytime. It is a silent experiment in cinematography and editing or as Vertov put it - a film without a script, without any inter titles etc. His wife, Yelizaveta Svilova edited the film and his brother Mikhail Kaufman photographed it. Kaufman is actually the "man with the movie camera" in it.

    When Kaufman saw the edited film he wasn't happy at all. Two brothers had a fight and never worked together again. Kaufman didn't agree with Vertov's style and his statement against cinema that was too dependent on literature and theater. Vertov's aim was to create a different language and he certainly succeeded. "Cheloveks Kino Apparatom" is a delightful work and it is too incredible for 1929 when it was made. I saw it with many different soundtracks and one of the most interesting ones is by Alloy Orchestra. By the way, Vertov's other brother Boris Kaufman won an Oscar for On the Waterfront. Some other documentaries I loved were Nanook by Flaherty, controversial Olympia by Riefenstahl, Last Spring on Sergei Paradjanov, and Sorrow and Pity by Ophuls.

1Pierre Henrycomposer
2Nigel Humberstonecomposer
3Konstantin Listovcomposer
4Michael Nymancomposer
5Dziga Vertovdirector