Man with a movie camera,  an avant-garde masterpiece


Man with a movie camera,  an avant-garde masterpiece

Very often cited in the “all-time best of cinema” lists, and seen as a visionary movie, Dziga Vertov pushes the limits of cinema with his experimental and innovative filming techniques. By depicting city life in the Soviet world, Vertov managed to become one of the pioneers of the “cinéma-vérité”.

Dziga Vertov, born David Kaufman in 1896, was a soviet documentary filmmaker. Vertov and his brother created the “Kino-Pravda” (cinéma vérité), a process that would not only allow a more accurate representation of reality, but would also reveal it more profoundly thanks to technology. It is therefore a question of restoring reality in a more complete way, of revealing parts of it that are inaccessible to the human eye. The brothers totally  rejected “staged” cinema with its actors, plots, and studio shooting. 

His filming techniques, especially the use of hidden camera techniques largely influenced the French “cinéma vérité” style as well as the Dziga Vertov group (composed of Jean-Luc Godard et Jean-Pierre Gorin), two politically active French filmmakers. 

Man with a movie camera (1929)
©The Guardian

We proclaim the old films, based on the romance, theatrical films and the like to be… mortally dangerous! Contagious!

Dziga Vertov
Man with a movie camera (1929)
©The Guardian

With the invention of the “Kino-Pravda” Vertov believed that it would contribute to destroying the old habits of viewing and build a more equal society.

Dziga Vertov with his camera ©Transmettre le cinéma

If Dziga Vertov’s experimental silent documentary still remains captivating after so many years, it is because of his futuristic and modern way of filming. His desire to grasp “life unexpectedly”, the “facts” in order to make the cinema more “real”, by putting forward  the power of montage, totally overturned the codes of cinema at the time. The juxtaposition of different filming techniques : superimpositions, jump cut, split screens, varied speed and rhythm; Vertov totally deconstructed the dramatic norms at the time.

His plan was to take possession of the techniques of recording, editing and transmitting images and sounds, in order to “organize” the sight and hearing of workers and make them participate in the new social order that emerged from the Revolution of 1917.

Vertov’s modern way of filming Soviet cities could be defined as a “city symphony” form, where elements of urban life are arranged impressionistically. With the modernity of its filming techniques and the creation of an authentic, international language of film, Vertov showed us the infinite possibilities of what cinema can be.

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