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Man with a Movie Camera Case Study

Rob Miller | Tuesday November 01, 2011

Categories: A Level, EDUQAS A Level, EDUQAS A2, FM4, Section A: World Cinema, Analysis, Film Analysis, Films & Case Studies, World Cinema, Man With A Movie Camera, Genres & Case Studies, Classic, Documentary, Independent, Silent

Spectatorship and Documentary


Synopsis and Character Profiles

Man with a Movie Camera is an innovative silent 1929 Documentary, set in a number of cities in the Soviet Union, including Odessa (near where Eisenstein shot the iconic Odessa Steps sequence in Battleship Potemkin). Fundamentally, and on a manifest level, it is about a day in the life of a city and audiences are introduced to a city literally waking up – individuals washing and bathing, Tram Sheds opening, tramps waking up on park benches and men and women interacting with the machinery of modern life.

The film makes a deliberate, conscious attempt to utilise the latest film making techniques available, to the point that the Director, Dziga Vertov was accused by one of his contemporaries, Sergei Eisenstein of making a documentary using “hooligan camera tricks? - in a similar way that Orson Welles’ Citizen Kane was accused of exploiting the new language of cinema in the documentary, J’accuse Citizen Kane. The key feature of the Documentary was Vertov’s own involvement in the filming; Man with a Movie Camera is a film about a film, with a camera crew following Vertov around and filming him as much as Vertov filming the city.

Vertov’s presence within the narrative is significant; he is seen filming under a train, after digging himself a hole to lie in, and also ascending radio masts to achieve the aerial shots he wanted. Vertov’s role was described as ‘muscular film making’ with the Director taking remarkable physical risks to obtain the shots he needed. He wanted to show the camera could go anywhere, in one scene a woman even gives birth in front of his camera. The purpose of the film however was to challenge non-fiction film and the accepted format of linear film making; his wife, Elizaveta Svilova was tasked with editing the film - taking a random pool of images and making order from the significant footage he shot. Vertov worked within a Marxist ideology...

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