MAN WITH A MOVIE CAMERA directed by Dziga Vertov (Russia, 1929)
Michael Wood’s Short Introduction to Film which I blogged about yesterday prompted to plug a major gap in my movie knowledge by watching this silent classic.
This is a film I previously knew about only through two soundtrack albums which I own – one is a dreamy and beautiful ambient piece by Biosphere (aka Norway’s Geir Jenssen) released as part of a double CD set with his masterpiece Substrata.
The other is a jazzier affair by Britain’s Cinematic Orchestra and its with this music that I watched the film on You Tube. There are occasions when the music doesn’t seem entirely in synch with the images but on the whole it works pretty well.
The movie has a remarkably modern look and the director’s wife, Elizaveta Svilova, who edited the shots should take the credit for the dynamic juxtaposition of scenes of urban life filmed in Odessa and other Russian cities. There is no story but it is structured in such a way that it shows that cities have their own narratives.
At times the fast editing of sequences like operators at a telephone exchange and workers on a production line have the same feel as Godfrey Reggio’s Koyaanisqatsi. However, Vertov’s intension does not seem to show a life out of balance but to show life in motion to encapsulate people at work and play.
Already the mechanisation of daily activities is shown to have a major impact on the speed of life but there’s nothing that shows this to be directly dehumanizing or alienating.
In essence, the film is a celebration of modernity which, only when seen from a 21st century perspective, shows the shape of things to come.