Man with a Movie Camera
An impression of city life in the Soviet Union, The Man with a Movie Camera is the best-known film of experimental documentary pioneer Dziga Vertov.
“It made explicit and poetic the astonishing gift the cinema made possible, of arranging what we see, ordering it, imposing a rhythm and language on it, and transcending it.”
Roger Ebert, Chicago Sun-Times, 2009
A decade into his career as both filmmaker and theorist, Dziga Vertov made his best-known and most widely distributed film. This narrative-free portrait of city life – three unidentified cities provided the locations – is propelled by an effervescent delight in the possibilities of film, with its unexpected angles and clashing juxtapositions.
Vertov deliberately shunned what he saw as hidebound theatrical conventions such as intertitles and actors – the film’s only real protagonist is the cameraman himself. This could easily be an indulgent mess, but Vertov’s grasp of his medium is so philosophically sure-footed that it’s just as stimulating many decades later.
Vertov’s film has inspired numerous imitators, from contemporary ‘city symphonies’ to the cheerful experimentalism of the various 1960s European New Waves. Many composers have written scores for it, including Michael Nyman.