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Man with a Movie Camera (1929)

Chelovek s kino-apparatom (original title)
Not Rated | | Documentary, Music | 12 May 1929 (USA)
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

Production Co:

VUFKU See more »
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

Although seemingly set in one city, the film was actually shot in Moscow, Odessa, Kharkiv and Kiev (although part of the Soviet Union at the time, the latter three cities are now in the Ukraine. 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

References Die grüne Manuela - Ein Film aus dem Süden (1923) See more »

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User Reviews

 
A Day in Russia (Shot Over the Course of Many, Many Days)
19 July 2011 | by gavin6942See all my reviews

A cameraman (Mikhail Kaufman) travels around a city with a camera slung over his shoulder, documenting urban life with dazzling inventiveness.

This film is said to be a document of Soviet life, with Vertov "working within a Marxist ideology" striving "to create a futuristic city", but I think that is just too narrow a view. While there are aspects of Soviet Russia here (since that is where it was filmed), this is really just life in general. The scenes of the "Lenin Club" and the bust of Karl Marx make it clear we are viewing a Communist society, but the scenes of life in a working class country basically look the same in all industrial countries at this time, regardless of political ideology. The film is a time capsule of the human race at this point in history, and it is beautiful.

The camera shots and angles and movements are to be commended, and I think if I were to list all the creative uses of the camera I would be going on for a few pages. While we have to give credit for the "unchained camera" to the German Karl Freund, my cinematic hero, we can see here that the Russians (or at least one Russian) had some thoughts of his own on the camera's limitless potential. (I am told that although "Berlin: Symphony of a Great City" came first, the techniques used in this film had already had their prototype in Russian film reels.)

We could debate the idea of "cinema truth" and whether or not what was shown is an accurate portrayal of unscripted life. I think that debate is largely based on exaggerated criticisms, however. Yes, a few scenes were staged. And yes, some clever editing made certain scenes not strictly "real". But the bulk of the film had people doing what people do without acting and in many cases not even knowing they were being filmed. This is about as real as film gets (aside from, say, a tape retrieved from a security camera -- but is that a "film"?).

The New York Times review written by Mordaunt Hall lamented that the film "does not take into consideration the fact that the human eye fixes for a certain space of time that which holds the attention." Indeed, the average shot length of the film is 2.3 seconds compared to the contemporary standard of 11.2 seconds. Yet, this is a key component in what sets the film apart from its peers. The film works by interspersing several sequences together, cycling through them. A longer shot length could have happened, but would not have forced the viewer to meld the various scenarios together in her mind. Whether Vertov knew it or not, he was creating new thoughts through juxtaposition.

Absolutely crucial to this film is the score. While there are any number of scores out there and your preference may vary from mine, I can say that watching this film with any music is better than watching it without. There is no dialogue, there are no characters, and there are no intertitles (with is a gross departure from his previous film, "One-Sixth Part of the World", which had excessive intertitles). Trying to stay focused without words or sound is a feat, and one I advise against.


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