Saturday, January 27, 2007

Waking Up Cinema with a Man and a Movie Camera

(Even though I've checked it beforehand, I apologize for any spelling errors this may have. My laptop is in the shop and the loaner doesn't have Word, AKA spellcheck.)

I don't normally watch artistic or experimental films, so Man With a Movie Camera was a refreshing change from the same humdrum summer action blockbuster or romantic comedy. Because of this, I initially tried to derive a somewhat concrete plot, but then realized that the surface of the movie, or the visual itself, was the point of the film. The film, I found, was self-referential, as the "cameraman" would be sometimes shown on the top of an enormous camera or overlooking a cityscape on a rooftop, setting up his own camera. Sometimes the subjects of his film would notice the camera, such as the boy sleeping on the streets, and become more playful or embarrassed. One scene seemed to hint at the theme of the film, showing a camera coming out of its case by itself, setting itself up and filming without a human behind it - thus removing the man from the movie camera.


One scene I felt to be particularly jarring was the scene with a man kneeling on the tracks before an incoming train. The scenes before it were sleepy, slow, and showed many of the same things again and again. Many of those scenes showed no movement at all, as if time stood still and nothing could change. As the train approached nearer and nearer I felt a sense of impending doom for both the man and the film, but surprisingly the scenes after the train showed new life - such as the woman giving birth - and of people waking up and starting their busy lives. Though I am not sure what exactly the man is supposed to be representing, I surmise that he is the old, outdated form of using the camera, and once the train of "revolution," to use Dziga Vertov's word, takes him out, the tired art of cinema can finally have a rebirth.


Some of the other scenes I found to be meaningful were the cigarette factory segment, the salon/everyday task juxtaposition, and the blinking woman. The girls making and filling the cigarette boxes work slowly at first, then speed up faster and faster until they reach a dizzying machine-like pace. I interpreted this scene in two ways - one, that the camera (or rather, editing) can make humans seem like they are working at unnatural speeds, and two, that the machine is slowly taking over human labor in a more industrial era. The salon scene was simply interesting to me as Vertov used the film medium to relate the beautification of the human body with the advancement of Russia. Lastly, the blinking woman alludes back to Vertov's "Kino-Eye" manifesto, showing, albeit in a more exaggerated way, that to film exactly as the human eye sees would make movies an incomprehensible blur of images.

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5 Comments:

Anonymous Anonymous said...

I love how you mentioned the cameraman being on the roof top with an enormous camera. This made me remember the scene where the tiny cameraman comes out of the beer mug with a tiny camera on his shoulder. This is such a cool camera effect, considering the fact that it's from 1920s. These shots of the film reminded me of Alice in Wonderland. I also think the way the film ended is awesome. The last scene really ties the whole movie together really well. The way the camera lens shuts down with the human eye really emphasizes the concept of "Kino-Eye" and what the movie represents.

1/27/2007 11:12 PM  
Blogger Caroline Gibbs said...

I think you've touched on a number of important aspects of the film in terms of interesting scenes and their contribution to the greater theme of the movie itself. I too have little prior experience with movies of this genre and found it particularly interesting in its composition and techniques. I was unable to attend the screening and had to view it instead at the media center, so reading this response as well as the others has been very helpful in expanding my understanding of the movie.

1/28/2007 8:21 PM  
Blogger Nehal N said...

Initially I first thought of the contrasting pictures of life and death as examples of the great differences that occur in society. But with your interpretation of how each of these scenes show rebirth is intriguing and very true. I think that this film especially reveals that the new era of film has allowed a rebirth of artistic observation and expression. Though one thing I initially thought was odd was during the birth scene as I initially thought it was someone with a critical disease, but turns out to be the pains of childbirth. Nonetheless, it is a great interpretation of the these contrasting shots.

1/29/2007 12:10 AM  
Blogger Nina said...

Nahal: I also thought that the pregnant woman was someone with a serious disease, although I don't think it was an intentional comparison. You bring up a good point about the differences in society - maybe a commentary on the vast gap between different social strata?

Caroline: I have only a little bit of experience with "artistic" film/other media, so this was definitely new (and a little scary, to be honest) for me.

Silbi: Alice in Wonderland sums this movie up, I think. It's very random and disjointed, but all of the scenes are held together by an invisible thread - whether or not we can decipher this thread is another thing entirely, but the human mind will keep trying to bring everything together one way or another.

1/29/2007 4:18 PM  
Blogger Silbi Song said...

Irene and Josh! The first comment (1/27/2007 11:12 PM) was posted by me. Thank you! =)

2/07/2007 7:28 PM  

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