Tuesday, January 30, 2007

Men With Time Machines

After the discussion in class, it was evident that Dziga Vertov’s Man With a Movie Camera has many themes such as the celebration of humans and machines, etc. However, the theme that made most sense to me, which takes into account all the different scenes that seemingly have nothing to do with each other is the use of the movie camera as a time machine to view events under different manipulations of time. Because H.G. Wells’ The Time Machine also deals with a time machine, we could explore the differences and similarities of the two works that we have covered thus far.

The obvious difference is that the manipulation of time that is the basis of Wells’ novel is theoretical. While the explanations of the Time Traveller to his visitors seem plausible, the fact is that no one can travel through time. On the other hand, as can be seen in the film, it is very much possible to use editing techniques to show even normal activities such as playing basketball or swimming distorted under altered versions of time.

Both Vertov and The Time Traveller intend their time machines as a way of rejecting the current state of affairs. In the Time Traveller’s case, this is easy to see because everybody believes that one cannot move across time. But as he explains, time is just like the other three dimensions that exist except for the fact that our consciousness moves along it. Due to this, he says that we can move across time just like we can move across space. Vertov was trying to show a way of filmmaking that deviated from the clichéd films filled with misplaced literary and theatrical elements that existed at the time. The movie camera can be seen as a symbol for a time machine because he uses it to to free himself from the constant flow of time that he sees as constraining (according to his manifesto regarding Kino-Eye).

Because they have time machines at their disposal, Vertov and the Time Traveller put them to use, in the process bypassing the governing elements of time as mentioned in class: linearity, irreversibility, and continuity. The Time Traveller essentially speeds up time to go to the future. Vertov shows many scenes that are either sped up or slowed down (the track athletes in slow motion, for example). These manipulations break the linearity of time. The Time Traveller states that theoretically his machine could also go back to the past, meaning that he can speed up time in the opposite direction as well. Vertov shows scenes that occur at different points in time and puts them together. For example, he shows a funeral, then a marriage ceremony, followed by the birth of a child. These manipulations break the irreversibility of time. The Time Traveller provides evidence that his time machine can break the continuity of time because he has the ability to speed it up. Vertov achieves this by drawing the movement of the film to a halt (still images) at certain parts of the movie.



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