Dziga Vertov’s compelling documentary, Man with a Movie Camera, about the inner workings of a city and what keeps it going, a film that has been named the greatest documentary of all time by 2014s Sight and Sound poll, is to be released on Blu-Ray and feature special features that will certainly whet the appetites of many fans.
Vertov introduces the film with the only real type of dialogue throughout the entire picture, there is no talking and no storyline, the film, as Vertov puts it, speaks for itself. As you watch, you understand how much dialogue is actually not needed within this film, you can deduce your own story line and interpret it in any way that you want. Michael Nyman’s incredible score definitely helps you to decide the tone of the film.
We begin in a movie theatre, where a film is being set up and an audience is being ushered in, as they wait for the picture to start it appears as though we are also one of these patrons about to view the same film as them.
It begins, a city waking from its slumber, and all of the mechanical cogs start to roll as people get ready for work, trains fire up their engines and the city streets begin to crawl with civilian life. The film has been split into parts, with the first being named ‘The Awakening of a Woman’ which fits well with the opening as the city jumps into action.
The 1920s were a bleak age, although the world was on the brink discovery everyday, the Soviet Union still presented a difficult life; and Vertov shows us that. Every part of the city’s populace is displayed in the film, the highs and the lows, from the poor and the weak, to the rich and the privileged. It really gives you a feel for how people went about their daily lives in the 1920s.
What really captures the feel of this film though is the score from Michael Nyman, it seems that he really knew the ideas that Vertov was trying to put across to his audience, because the music fits in so well. Just like in the picture, there are happy and sad portrayals, and Nyman captures this beautifully with a bleak sombre tone when such things as a man being bandaged up by a doctor is on-screen, and then using light almost party-like jive music with a scene in which many women are getting their hair washed and having a laugh.
Vertov has created a documentary that looks at all walks of life: birth, employment, marriage, divorce and also death. Vertov himself is also present throughout the film, dotting in here and there with his movie camera, going about his daily life like everyone else, being a man with a movie camera.
Dir: Dziga Vertov
Scr: Dziga Vertov
DOP: Mikhail Kauffman
Music: Michael Nyman
Run time: 68 mins
Man With a Movie Camera is available on Blu-Ray and DVD now via the BFI