Saturday, January 27, 2007

Film Terms Put in Action

In Dziga Vertov’s Man With a Movie Camera, Vertov attempts to make a bold statement about film making through his various filming techniques and styles that seemed almost futuristic and too fragmented for its times. I was honestly shocked because I had never seen a movie like this. I am much absorbed by popular culture films and movies known as “chick flicks,” so this movie was drastically different for me. After starting out confused from all of the different and random scenes flashing across the screen, I slowly started understand their significance to his film.

Since I did not understand the movie and its composition at all for the most part while watching it, my notes consisted of scenes and thoughts that could possibly play a role in the entire meaning of the movie. Now, as I look through my notes and after some research, I see that the scenes represent all the usual happenings that could occur in a day in the Soviet Union. The flashes of random sights showing people, benches, and other objects such as typewriters depict a quiet morning that became livelier with the beat of the music.

What is more interesting than what is happening in the frames is how they are shot. Reading the glossary terms for film analysis before the movie was helpful because I started to notice filming techniques more instead of simply the content of the film, which I believe to be one of Vertov’s purposes. For example, I noticed that there were low-angle shots when the man was filming the feet, and there were also high-angle shots when there was a view of the street from up above. There were frozen shots that seemed like photographs and they froze upon framed photographs. I also noticed that the camera itself was not moving very much. The people and objects that the camera was filming moved, but the machine itself did not tilt, pan, or zoom. If the camera was moving, it was because the machine itself was on a moving object, such as a car. Other techniques that Vertov utilized were fast forwarding, reversing, splitting scenes vertically and horizontally, slow motion, point of view shots, and super-imposing images on one another, such as the first scene in which the man with the camera was setting up on top of another mountainous camera.

The significance of these techniques comes from looking at them as a whole instead of individually, because many of them, especially put together, were ahead of their times when placed in that movie. This could reflect Vertov’s view of the state of the Soviet Union at the time, since the country was going through a rebirth and attempting to take strides beyond other countries to be ahead of its times technologically, economically, and even cinematically. Scenes of industry, cars, and machinery depict the industrialization of the Soviet Union. Moreover, the showings of marriage to divorce, death to birth, and old technology to new technology display the underlying transition occurring to the Soviet Union at the time.

Most importantly, the many various filming techniques contribute to Vertov’s view of how films should be made, especially documentaries. He created a montage through splicing the thousands of scenes together in different ways, but it still depicted an overall image of a day in the life of the up and coming Soviet Union. This follows his views about how the Kino-Eye deletes all of the unnecessary images that the human eye sees and pieces together the most important scenes to create one impression for the entire audience to react to.

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4 Comments:

Blogger Nina said...

I, too, appreciated the way Vertov used different film techniques. The spliced scenes were particularly interesting and fun. His contemporaries probably regarded the camera as something like a dead fish - they flopped it around because they didn't think it could have a life of itself. Vertov, however, seemed to just let the camera run and do its own thing.

Also, I think that Vertov didn't use techniques such as zoom because (and anyone can correct me if I'm wrong) it was either awkward or impossible with the technology available back then. If not, then perhaps Vertov has another reason for his reluctance.

1/27/2007 10:56 PM  
Blogger Ifan Wei said...

You touched on the fact that the film captures a time period of technological transition. I was fascinated by the diverse forms of transportation that cluttered the street. There was an abundance of automobiles, cable cars, pedestrians, and horse-drawn carriages. When filming a horse-drawn carriage from a moving automobile, Vertov asks the audience to ponder a means of transportation that is losing its practicality. He even focuses on the head of the moving horse for emphasis. Vertov's cinematic treatment of the horse gave me the impression that there was pressure to keep up with a fast-paced society where technological advancements were rendering previous norms obsolete.

1/28/2007 4:36 PM  
Blogger Danica said...

I agree with the way you approached watching this movie. I believe that for meaning the movie needed to be looked at on the whole, and the individual scenes needed to be looked at for what they meant, in cinematic terms.
I believe that Vertov was trying to capture the everyday life in the Soviet Union through this new way of using a movie camera. He focuses on so many normally ignored things, like the worn-ness of the women's bra and thread being spun, as if he is saying a movie camera can capture what an eye cannot. When taken as a whole, I think this point comes across.

1/28/2007 8:58 PM  
Blogger Akshay said...

I agree with the concluding statement that the Kino-Eye seems to consciously select what the audience sees. However, I am not sure that it is intended to portray a day in the life of a city in Russia; there is an entire segment of the film devoted to showing universal experiences such as birth and death in all their naked detail. Vertov was extremely interested in making a universal language of film with his Kino-Eye, so these scenes may instead have been part of such communication. In my opinion, Vertov may as well have titled the movie "Experiments with a Movie Camera," because the level of pure experimentation in search of this universal language is startling, and perhaps does not mesh with the idea of conveying the daily life of the city (large sections of the film are not even in real time).

1/29/2007 2:09 AM  

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