Men with Two Movie Cameras

DATELINE: MOVIE MASHUP

movie camera men

Dziga Vertov’s Soviet documentary Man with a Movie Camera was filmed in 1929 and is not what you might expect. Its politics is overt only once or twice, and for the rest of the Stalin-era film you have something experimental on the lines of Koyaanisqatsi: Life out of Balance, the 1983 film with the Philip Glass music score. After ten minutes you realize that the Russian director used all those techniques 50 years earlier.

The film may surprise with its modern sensibility. It moves and has quick pace. You may not expect a film with attention deficit disorder from the silent era. The narrative power is completely unexpected in a silent film.

On top of that, the film uses devices and special effects that would not be seen until computer generated graphics became the norm in the 21st century.

Vertov actually presents one summery day in the life of the city of Moscow in 1929. It is fascinating as a sociological document and as documentary history. Filming a cameraman in jodhpurs filming the movie actually helps to present a double vision, presenting everything from racing trains to women giving childbirth to athletic high jumps.

What became more impressive as the 68-minute film moved closer to its finish was the increase in the speed of the telling.

Vertov insists in the beginning that there is no screenplay, no actors, and no plot. He is disingenuous. This film is carefully created with editing and deliberate selection of images. Though he wanted to separate his motion picture from literature and theater, like all experimental filmmakers, he really falls smack into the pack of literary and theatrical movies.

Like the pulsating Koyaanisqatsi, the film has a certain feel like a sewing machine gone amok. And the music doesn’t separate it from Reggio’s movie, but increases the parallel. And, the music was added by Kino’s reissue.

Nonetheless, we found it hypnotic—which can also mean a sledgehammer to our attention, ponderous and incessant, yet intriguing all the way. For discerning film buffs.

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