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Man with a Movie Camera (1929)

Chelovek s kino-apparatom (original title)
A man travels around a city with a camera slung over his shoulder, documenting urban life with dazzling invention.

Director:

Dziga Vertov

Writer:

Dziga Vertov (scenario)
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1 win & 1 nomination. See more awards »

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Cast

Credited cast:
Mikhail Kaufman Mikhail Kaufman ... The Cameraman
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Storyline

This playful film is at once a documentary of a day in the life of the Soviet Union, a documentary of the filming of said documentary, and a depiction of an audience watching the film. Even the editing of the film is documented. We often see the cameraman who is purportedly making the film, but we rarely, if ever, see any of the footage he seems to be in the act of shooting! Written by George S. Davis

Plot Summary | Add Synopsis

Taglines:

The Greatest Documentary Ever Made.

Genres:

Documentary | Music

Certificate:

Not Rated | See all certifications »

Parents Guide:

View content advisory »
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Details

Country:

Soviet Union

Release Date:

12 May 1929 (USA) See more »

Also Known As:

Living Russia, or The Man with a Camera See more »

Filming Locations:

Kharkov, Ukraine See more »

Company Credits

Show more on IMDbPro »

Technical Specs

Runtime:

Sound Mix:

Silent

Aspect Ratio:

1.33 : 1
See full technical specs »
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Did You Know?

Trivia

Director Dziga Vertov cast his own brother Mikhail Kaufman as the film's main actor. Kaufman also handled cinematography duties. See more »

Crazy Credits

At the beginning there is a long explanation of what this film is about and that it is of experimental origin. See more »

Connections

Featured in The Comic Kino-Eye (2013) See more »

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User Reviews

 
Poetry in Russian Motion
3 March 2007 | by Igenlode WordsmithSee all my reviews

I liked this film -- I very nearly liked it very much indeed -- which I would perhaps not have expected, given that its reputation appears to be as a technical and philosophical experiment, and my own interest in film lies in character, story and entertainment. But "Man with a Movie Camera" avoids the cardinal sin of experimental film-making in that it is almost never boring: there is no story as such, but the overlapping montage of events from a single day contains both cinematic beauty and human interest, plus a saving dash of humour (I loved the moment where the car passengers being filmed react to the camera's intrusion by making cranking gestures in return). And it does, very effectively, convey the sense of a city waking up and progressing throughout the day to the golden leisure of a summer's evening. It is at the very end that it becomes overtly experimental, breaking down altogether into whizzing images instead of winding down its city-character back into sleep, and it was at this stage that it began to lose my interest and some of my enthusiasm.

To the modern eye, of course the film is also a fascinating document of 1920s Russia: or at least Russia as she wished herself to be portrayed. History books are full of plots and counter-plots, coups and massacres and ideals, but they tell us nothing of motor-buses trundling down streets, of the sun slanting through blinds, of everyday detail that was worth no-one's while to censor or to preserve. (Ironically, the decidedly graphic sequence of a woman giving birth would probably be censored for modern sensibilities!) Like any silent film, this one relies on 'found titles' -- the text on a shop window, the caption on a form -- and I suspect that a basic knowledge of Russian/Cyrillic probably helps to render the picture both more interesting and easier to follow. It helps if one can at least manage the Russian for 'bus' or 'beer': knowledge which the original audience naturally took for granted.

At its best, the film reminded me of the city sequences in "Sunrise", as a dazzling symphony of images, beauty in the ordinary and a kaleidoscope of everyday perception. There is no conscious plot-line, just the gradually perceived shift of time in the quality of the sunlight and the rituals of the day. The intermittent presence of the camera, whether made manifest in trick shots as an animated creature, brought to our attention in split shots or sudden freeze-frames, or interspersed in 'candid' sequences showing the filming going on, keeps the deliberately artificial nature of the whole enterprise to the forefront: this is Art, not a documentary. But oddly enough, those glimpses of the cameraman at work -- very ordinary, perceived and accepted by the people around him -- also seem to humanise what could have been a sterile experiment and give us the sense that we are indeed seeing what he is seeing; perceiving the world through his camera's eye.


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