Man With a Movie Camera Term Paper

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A perfect example of this is located in Chapter three. Chapter three opens with the camera zooming steadily in on a window. The shot then cuts to a shot of streetlights, establishing the time of day as early morning. Even though simply not enough of the room is exhibited to demonstrate what exactly exists within it, the shot following the streetlight is of a woman in bed, strongly suggesting it was her bedroom that the camera was stealthily creeping up to in order to peep through the lace curtains unbeknownst to the sleeping woman.

This voyeurism keeps going even as the aforementioned woman gets up, washes and dresses in various sequences interspersed in chapter three. Vertov's camera cuts from the sleeping woman to the painting on the wall of an old man, located and leering as if he too were watching her sleep.

This voyeurism is further emphasized by the subsequent cut to a film poster which the subtitles later identify as "The Awakening [of a woman]," a German film about the sexual awakening of a young woman. The eyes of the man in the poster are, of course, also directed to look in the presumed direction of the woman. The shots of various men sleeping are not surrounded with suggestive images.

Vertov himself believed wholeheartedly that film was capable of showing what he called "kinopravda" (film-truth). He writes, "...the newsreel is organized from bits of life into a theme, and not the reverse. This also means that Kinopravda doesn't order life to proceed according to a writer's scenario, but observes and records life as it is, and only then draws conclusions from these observations" (Vertov, 1984: 45).

Very critically, Vertov does not call this theme "truth" in the absolute sense, but film-truth, literally confessing the creative/manipulative possibilities even in documentary filmmaking. Ultimately, "The Man with a Movie Camera" is a film that champions the artistry of film by intermixing images of both the process and the product of filming a day in the life of a Russian city.

Closer Examination of Montage in the Film

As Vertov revealed the joys of work in "The Man with a Movie Camera," the rhythm of workers and machines, he also believed that filmmaking (as a largely technological medium) was also an integral portion of that stark mechanical reality.

In the sequence in "The Man With a Movie Camera" of a cigarette worker and her machine, Vertov also splices into the mise-en-scene his wife and editor, Yelizavela Svilova. As shoes are shined and a woman gets her hair cut and fingernails polished, an edit reveals Svilova rubbing emulsion off the film strip, suggesting that polishing the beauty of cinema is synchronous with the peoples' visit to the beauty salon. More critically, Svilova's appearance stitched into another montage (a woman sews, fabric linked with thread, while Svilova edits, film threaded through a splicer) strongly hints that filmmaking is workmanlike, the perfect analog to the worker's life.

Here again, Vertov utilizes the montage concept to highlight his solidarity with the Communist manifesto and the socialist way of life. He believes fervently that men must work together in socialist means to create success and the betterment of fellow man.

This is apparent nowhere more than in the creation of a film where every single individual is so integral to the creation of that film - cameraman, director, actors, set designers, etc. He refuses to make a film wherein the only focus is on the actors or the scenes - the behind the scenes work for Vertov is absolutely integral to the understanding of the film for any audience, whether educated or ignorant of film's morays and techniques in general.

Tracey writes, "Besides celebrating workers, machines, and filmmaking as constituting Soviet reality, Vertov uses kino-eye to transcend the very reality he celebrates. In a 1923 manifesto, Vertov wrote "I am kino-eye, I am mechanical eye, I, a machine, show you the world as only I can see it." And he boldly asserted: "My path leads to the creation of a fresh perception of the world I decipher in a new way a world unknown to you." Again this ground-breaking film brings to fruition Vertov's earlier vision of what cinema should be. His camera, in the hands of brother Mikhail Kaufman, is never static; it travels where we can't -- up smokestacks, under train tracks -- and through continuous explosions of cinematic trickery -- variable camera speeds, dissolves, split-screen effects, the use of prismatic lenses, and tightly structured montage -- Vertov transforms not only reality, but traditional narrative cinema. He moves outside of Hollywood storytelling (three-act structures, goal-oriented characters), and closer to an absolute language of cinema that he seeks." (Tracey, 2005)


Indeed, Tracey's point is well-taken - this is not Hollywood storytelling; rather, Vertov chooses montage and other techniques to reinforce not just fiction but the fact that filmmaking is and only can be a socialist endeavor, one both fraught and bolstered with man's reliance upon his fellow man.


Barnouw, Erik (1993) Documentary: A History of the Non-Fiction Film. 2nd ed. New York: Oxford University Press.

Barsam, Richard M (1973) Nonfiction Film: A Critical History. Bloomington: Indiana University Press.

Beller, Jonathan L (1999) Dziga Vertov and the Film of Money, Boundary 2: An International Journal of Literature and Culture. 26 (3). Duke University Press.

Guynn, William (1990) A Cinema of Nonfiction. Rutherford: Fairleigh Dickinson University Press.

Mulvey, Laura (1975/1999) "Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema." Film Theory and Criticism. 5th Ed. Eds. Leo Braudy and Marshall Cohen. New York: Oxford University Press.

Petric, Vlada (1987) Constructivism in Film: The Man with the Movie Camera, A Cinematic Analysis. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Tracey, Grant.…[continue]

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