[For Film 220]
Even with the title card, Vertov and his Kino-Eye collective have been very clear about it: Man with a Movie Camera is a proclamation of victory of their movement’s program of “cleansing [the] kinochestvo of foreign matter – of music, literature, and theater…”(We: Variant of a Manifesto) and to establish a “visual (kino-eye) and auditory (radio-ear) class bond between the proletariats of all nations and lands on a platform of the communist decoding of world relations (Kino-Eye).” Other than an experimentation of form, more than what the disclaimer title cards would state, Man with a Movie Camera is an experiment of socialist praxis in cinematic language after Eisenstein’s montage dialectics – to finally realize in cinema what does it mean to be a proletariat.
Contradictions still persist even on recent readings of the film. The Kino-Eye process of filmmaking clearly tried to create a total separation of Cinema to the other arts – literature and theater – while even more recent reading of the film, or any documentary for that matter which would fall either close to Kino-Eye’s or cinema vérité, still tries to find “narrative structure” which the Vertov’s process tries to avoid. The Kino-Eye process and it’s products could be considered as a product of protest against traditional form of cinema production, which, in Vertov’s words, are “bourgeoisie’s hellish idea consisted of using the new toy to entertain the masses, or rather to divert the workers’ attention from their basic aim: the struggle against their masters (Kino-Eye).” The new cinema as a form of protest, to reflect the revolutionary life of the Soviet proletariat against the “vestige of the old world.”
The new cinema, of their then new world, seeks of a way of presenting its new realities. Marc Augé perceives the whole process of protest as “a quest for truth: what ought society to be…?,” that every protest seeks its bond to the society. “Every protest is a form of research.” This very quest never fall far from the Kino-Eye’s process. Man with a Movie Camera, far from a cinema driven by conventional narrative, is a part of the commencement of a progressive revolutionary research which aims to find a way to capture their then present realities.
This, then, places the filmmaker(s), Vertov and company, to the position of the Scholar. Their “film-objects” as data. Their data will be processed via Editing: Man with a Movie Camera greatly relies on editing and other film techniques for dialectical composition and presentation. Frames and footage do not just reflect the workers as is, but also highlights their mobility, activity, and interaction with other workers, which dictates their political position. In this sense, the workers were not just treated as mere subjects nor mere data, but an agency, the “machine” in which Kino-Eye love to focus on along with the spaces and duration the workers occupy.
The most important data/finding in which Man with a Movie Camera presented is when the frames pointed too to the cameramen and the editor – the filmmakers. To present the filmmaker not like how the bourgeoisie have appraised them – artists and dictators of high taste – but as themselves workers and one with the proletariat. This very stance cleared the notion of separation between theory and practice – and made way for a possibility of a progressive reality building and presentation/representation via cinema.
1. Variant of Kino-Pravda (film-truth) neologism of Vertov. (Kino-Eye)
2. Text from the Disclaimer Title Card – “The new experimentation work by Kino-Eye is directed towards the creation of an authentically international absolute language of cinema – ABSOLUTE KINOGRAPHY – on the basis of its complete separation from the language of theatre and literature.”
3. Marc Auge, “An Educational Utopia”, Chapter 5 in “The Future”.
Augé, Marc. (2014). The Future (2012). (J. Howe, Trans. 2014) London, UK: Verso.
Vertov, D. (1984). “Kino-Eye”. Kino-eye: The writings of Dziga Vertov (A. Michelson, Ed.; K. O’Brien, Trans.). Berkeley, Ca.: University of California Press.
Vertov, D. (1984). “We: Variant of a Manifesto”. Kino-eye: The writings of Dziga Vertov (A. Michelson, Ed.; K. O’Brien, Trans.). Berkeley, Ca.: University of California Press.