Thursday, January 25, 2007

Cine-Eye in Man With A Movie Camera

NOTE: I've never blogged before, and I hope this is in the right place. If not, I'm sorry Irene and Josh, but I need help.

In Man With a Movie Camera, Vertov creates a visual replication of the ideas presented in his 1923 manifesto, “Kino Eye.” Ironically, the main argument in Kino Eye was against filmmakers who “leaf through the pages of literary works in search of material suitable for adaptations” (90); the film was a replication of the paper, even though it took a different approach to the argument. Unlike the manifesto, which was written from Vertov’s perspective, Man With a Movie Camera articulates the power of film by using the Cine-Eye to show the beauty and drama of simple daily life.

- Vertov, in the beginning of the film, explains that he wants to show the "absolute language of cinema" that is "based on its total separation from the language of literature and theater,” clearly repeating his call for new film techniques in Kino Eye. Unlike most modern films, the camera gives the audience a sense of perspective, making the camera itself the film’s main character. In the first scenes of the movie, for example, we are shown a dormant Soviet Union, with empty streets, stationary cars, and sleeping people. The music and pulsing of the camera light, however, give the sense of perspective, as if we are watching from someone’s view besides our own.

- Although the film does not have a plot, the theme of Eyes appears in each segment of the piece, reminding us of the Cine-Eye. While the rest of the film fragments show the evolution of stationary objects (for example, the sleeping woman awakens and then dresses, the factory wheels are introduced as still but then are shown turning), the eyes are always shown in a similar, up-close view. Especially at the end of the film, images of one or two close-up eyes breaks up the montage of different video clips that all feature the fast-paced city life.

- Another Eye image that is often shown in the film involves the reflection of both the “man with a movie camera” and the eye on the camera’s lens, creating what appears to be a very large eye with legs and a camera tripod. Similarly, the closing shot of the film shows the reflection of the eye on a camera lens, again reminding us of the Cine-Eye.

- The film is focused on following the man and his camera to wild perspectives, but the images he shoots are never included in the movie. Instead, Vertov chooses to always include the man in the shots that have the most extraordinary perspectives, emphasizing that the film’s perspective will always trump man’s. For example, when the man with the camera films the waterfall from a basket hanging over it, the Cine-Eye shows him doing so from an even more unbelieveable angle. The movie also showcases different filming techniques such as split screens or playing clips backwards, emphasizing the immortal powers that Vertov wished more filmmakers would implement. A clip as simple as men clearing a checkerboard, when played backwards, makes it look like they magically arranged the board with the slide of their hands.

- Finally, Vertov uses his film to insult photography by inserting still shots into his series of film clips. At a very high-energy scene featuring a running horse and fast-paced music, the film abruptly stops and shows a still image of the running horse. Its affect is clearly not the same as the moving scene.



Blogger Felix Wong said...

Very well said Megan. I too felt that this movie was basically Vertov's own experiment to test the ability of the Cine-eye. You said that the shots from the man who was filmed never appeared in the film. I do believe some of those shots were in the film. For example, the train flying past the camera, the camera stationary in the busy traffic, the scene of the family in the car. All these shots were in the film and could have been from the man being filmed.

1/26/2007 1:40 PM  
Blogger Phoebe_A said...

The film does mirror Vertov's manifesto. In the shot where he used to portray the Cine-eye by a close-up shot of the camera lens superimposed on the human eye, Vertov portrays the idea that there is a person who "not merely directs the movements of the camera but trusts it with experiments in space and in the future" (93). As you said Megan, this shot reminds us of the Cine-Eye, and also reminds us of the Cine-Pilot. The shots of the man who was filmed can also be a reminder that there is a person who is shooting each perspective shown. In choosing to shoot the most difficult perspectives, or unbelievable angles, such as the water, Vertov shows the different ways people could experiment with space and perspectives the Cine-Eye can create.

1/27/2007 9:12 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I absolutely agree that the film is Vertov's experiment of "Kino-Eye." I really enjoyed reading how you linked the film with the manifesto. Also I really appreciated all the scenes representing "Kino-Eye" that you mentioned. It was very refreshing to read and remember Vertov's genius camera work. It was intereseting that you noticed how the audience never got to see the shots from the cameraman in the film. Although I think this is a valid argument, I also think that we might have seen some of those shots taken from the cameraman. When the camera focuses on itself and turns into a movie screen, we become the audience in the movie theatre in the film. I think the movie they were watching in the theatre might have been produced by that cameraman. But I could be wrong. I think it is all about perspective. It all depends on how you interpret the film just like "kino-Eye" does. "Kino-Eye" is the window to different ways of interpreting the world.

1/27/2007 10:56 PM  
Blogger Jane said...

Though it was mentioned in the beginning that there would be no plot, I found myself still searching for one as I tried to make a story out of the images that I was seeing. Looking back, it reminds me of abstract art and am learning to just appreciate the work. One thing that kept entering my mind was how we were mainly watching these daily life routines and the man with the movie camera through the lens of another camera. Contrary to Meegan, I thought there were a few scenes where we as the audience were able to see through the camera of the man (ie, filming the young man who awakes from sleeping on the ground and smiles when he realizes that he is being filmed). Overall, it was interesting to see Vertov's creativity in this work.

1/27/2007 11:59 PM  
Blogger Stephanie Chien said...

I also noticed the still shots that Vertov uses in the film. I agree with you that it is a clear insult to photography and its inability to fully capture the essence of the moment. For example, by showing just the image of the horse or the old woman, you would not fully grasp the scenario they are in. It provides no context. After a series of still shots, Vertov eventually puts these individual shots together to make a moving scene. Here, film essentially encompasses a series of still shots, making a moving scene that provides more for the viewers than photography. I saw this as Vertov's statement that film and cinema overpowers and almost engulfs other technology, such as photography. Its effects and power are unparalleled.

1/28/2007 6:33 PM  
Blogger Devaansh Shah said...

Without many pleasantries exchanged, here a few "random" comments on this piece.

Firstly, I was disappointed when it was suggested that this movie is contrary to its stated goals an "adapted" movie. The manifesto doesn't serve as platform on which the movie is built, but is simply a dissertation on the movie itself.

Secondly, I agree with the presumed assumption that the camera is the only known protagonist.

Thirdly, knowing that an argument can be made for it, I frown upon the suggestion that this movie lacks a plot. The plot is simply the daily life of an idustrial worker of the Soviet Union.

Lastly, one should not be ignorant of the fact that this is, to the nth degree, a propoganda film. This idea is reflected in your last argument where you clarify that Vertov is trying to insult photography.

1/29/2007 2:54 AM  
Blogger Robert said...

The film is clearly a presentation and celebration of the Kino-Eye, and I think the quality that best relates it to the manifesto is its propoganda and social commentary.

Amid the heavy experimentation are various nods to communism, including a picture of Lenin and various discrepancies between the classes of people represented. For example, Vertov contrasts a poor, thin, homeless boy sleeping on a bench with a rich, stout woman sleeping in a town house.

1/29/2007 10:40 AM  
Blogger Silbi Song said...

Irene and Josh! The third comment (1/27/2007 10:56 PM) was posted by me. Thank you! =)

2/07/2007 7:30 PM  

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