The Man with the Movie Camera (Chelovek S. Kino-apparatom)


Dziga Vertov

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The Man with the Movie Camera (Chelovek S. Kino-apparatom)

Dziga Vertov. The Man with the Movie Camera (Chelovek S. Kino-apparatom). 1929. 35mm film (black and white, silent), 65 min. Gosfilmofond (by exchange)

The Museum of Modern Art, MoMA Highlights, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, revised 2004, originally published 1999, p. 110

As The Man with the Movie Camera begins, the cameraman climbs out of the "head" of the camera. The film then takes its viewer on a kaleidoscopic, humorous ride through Soviet cities, while drawing parallels between the moviemaker and the factory laborer, and exposing the filmmaking process. At one moment, Vertov presents a man riding a motorcycle, and then, surprisingly, shows us shots of the cameraman filming the motorcycle, then shots of the editor editing these shots. By making use of all filming strategies then available—including superimposition, split screens, and varied speed—Vertov created a revolution in cinematic art with his defiant deconstruction of moviemaking and dramatic norms.

Vertov, whose name is a pseudonym meaning "spinning top," stated: "We proclaim the old films, based on romance, theatrical films and the like, to be . . . mortally dangerous! Contagious!" Under the influence of Futurist art theories and the movement's confidence in the machine, the medical student Denis Kaufman renamed himself and began experiments with sound recording and assemblage. After the Bolshevik Revolution, along with his wife/editor and brother/cameraman, he made films and developed polemics that called for the death of filmmaking and relied on artifice and drama. Like others of his generation, Vertov wanted to replace the human eye with the kinoki, an objective cinematic eye, in order to help build a new proletarian society.