Man with a Movie Camera
SteelCity99 - wrote on 04/24/18
This man had a purpose, and a very specific one. Initially, a documentary had the aim of working as a reflection of reality. Dziga Vertov had as a main purpose to create a universal language through cinema that would be capable of connecting the most outstanding and respected art forms created by the human being. Chelovek s Kino-apparatom, a title that was translated as "The Man with a Movie Camera", is officially one of the most influential documentaries within the genre, not only because of the subject matter treated, but also because of its direction and filmmaking style. This is the kind of cinematic treasures I thank humanity for granting them to us during past periods. Certainly, Chelovek s Kino-apparatom is one of the most important feature films in cinema history and, arguably, the father of documentaries if not the best one that has ever been created in the history of mankind.
The first aspect I will highlight about Chelovek s Kino-apparatom is the music that was composed for its usage. There has been controversy regarding which is the most adequate version out of the two most famous ones that were initially composed for the documentary. One version was composed by "The Alloy Orchestra" in 1996, which is based on the notes that were originally thought up by Vertov and ended up being an extremely inventive soundtrack. This was the first version that incorporated sound effects in certain scenes and sequences, such as sirens, the crying of a baby and crowd noises. Nowadays, it still stands as a considerably inspiring masterwork for the human ear and fits perfectly into the nature of the documentary, adding intensity to various emotions transmitted to the audience and to the occasionally accelerated rhythm, so that is why this is, in my opinion, the best version available. As for the second version, the music was provided by "The Cinematic Orchestra" in the year of 2002, which had been originally made for the Porto 2000 Film Festival. The demand of this version has dramatically been accentuated for the past few years, but it wasn't as successful or effective as the original. The soundtrack composed by "The Alloy Orchestra" gives us a strong illusion of watching an epic story when, actually, the modern world (obviously talking about 1929, and that it still concerns nowadays actuality) is being shown to us in the most inspiring, complete and feedbackly constructive form that had ever been made.
Originally, cinema was born in France as little segments with an average length under half a minute that documented real life. It is inadequate to classify documentaries as a genre, since if it hadn't been because of the first still-existent samples of cinema, the cinema industry wouldn't even exist as we know it today. From documentation, fiction was born, cinematically speaking. Afortunately, Vertov kept that important fact in mind and he was basically responsible for the rebirth of a form of expression that, although was in its first stages, wasn't so frequented and was almost officially dead. Using Flaherty's form of directing movies (Nanook of the North ) and Eisenstein's techniques and narrative structure (Bronenosets Potyomkin ) including the editing and camera movement as his main inspiration sources, Vertov completely takes over the filming locations as an omnipresent being, which are basically the most populated and modernized cities of the Soviet Union, such as Moscow, Kiev and Odessa. Since silent films were already coming to an end, Vertov could have probably been one of the biggest inspirations for making movies in a different way. The universal language he clearly tried to create and even establish talks by itself, and the initial purpose it had can be explicitly seen during the first minutes, where it is stated to the audience that the use of intertitles, an acting cast and scenarios hadn't been necessary.
Vertov's ingenuity and filmic style are extraordinary. Genius at work. The initial shot shows a big camera from which a cameraman and a tripod camera of his size emerge. In other shots, the cameraman is shown literally standing above the whole city, an idea that I just find brilliant, since it denotes absolute perspective control. Chelovek s Kino-apparatom does not only portrays the daily life of the residents of the cities already mentioned while traveling from the most relaxing public places to locations that transmit a strong feeling of modern progress and industrialization in a world of constant modifications, but it also introduces a very original concept: the reaction of a particular audience when they see the documentary. Even the same editing of the feature film is documented, without having a reason of embarrassment that could cause the director to avoid showing the process of taking a feature film to the big screen. Chelovek s Kino-apparatom has different cinematic techniques that would be reused 53 years later by Godfrey Reggio in his documentary called Koyaanisqatsi; it also possesses a highly contrasted emphasis that can be found among different life conditions and the difference between social classes which would be reused in the documentary Baraka directed by Ron Fricke 63 years later. The freezing of certain takes, the use of silences, the quick camera and the hyperactive and accelerated edition were implemented by Vertov for the first time, assimilating the style of Eisenstein's Oktyabr (1928).
The importance of Vertov's eternal and influential jewel goes beyond any common rating standards, and its magnificence goes beyond words. It is a totally inspiring and reflexive experience, and that is why Vertov deserves full credit and respect from any filmmaker and documentary director that had existed (and that still exists) in future decades. It was considered as one of the best documentaries of all time according to the International Documentary Association in 2002, occupying the 19th spot. Eternal glory for Dziga Vertov!