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Cinemtagography of Man with a Movie Camera


Giulianna Hsu



12 September 2013

Cinemtagography of Man with a Movie Camera

Dziga Vertov created Man with a Movie Camera using truly original cinematographic ideas to portray the lives of one city’s population. In the film, Vertov experimented with distance, speed, camera positions, special effects like superimposition, and multiple-frame imagery. In all, Vertov’s film lacked a basic narrative but showed the audience of 1929 what film could really do.

In Man with a Movie Camera, Vertov contrasted various scenes with differences in distance. Extreme long shots showed the city first empty, then filled with people, and finally emptying after the day came to a close. Vertov established each setting through first use of extreme long shots then cut to medium shots and even extreme close-ups as if to enter the world of this city. Vertov mostly famously centered in on the eye through the lens of the camera at one point while also shot scenes from a medium shot such as the birth of a child. Once closer to the subject being filmed, Vertov toggled with camera angles to add a sense of surrealism to the film. In contrast to film at the time, Vertov not only showed subjects straight on but also sideways, diagonally, from above, or below. These alternate views allow the audience to see the city and its life from a different perspective. For example, city landscape shot from the tops of buildings was not a shot directly down at the streets below but a diagonal shot encompassing the building itself.

Like Metropolis, Man with a Movie Camera exposed the audience to the wonders cameras could do at the time. Special effects like superimposition appear in both films. The most famous in Man with a Movie Camera showed the director of the film standing on top of the city while filming. He is almost the same size as buildings and appears to be watching over the city. Another showed a public building in two segments side by side and then turning the structure to make it appear as if it was crumbling into the streets. This style represented more multiple-frame imagery. Various scenes involving the citizens of this town are portrayed side-by-side using this technique. During these scenes actions are rushed and the city started to resemble a beehive with the amount of activity presented on screen at once.

The speed of Vertov’s filming changed throughout the film. He added moments of stills and adjusted the speed of the certain scenes to hasten them. When showing the life of the city Vertov pinpoints specific segments randomly to stop for a short amount of time. His adjustment of the speed of the film affected the perception by the audience of city life.

Man with a Movie Camera toggled multiple aspects of cinematography. Dziga Vertov’s film used various techniques to provide the audience with knowledge of the different things a camera show. Unlike film of the era, Vertov experimented in almost every shot with different angles, distance, and special effects.


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