The documentary Man With A Movie Camera (Dziga Vertov, 1929) is a media text which transcends it’s time, still remaining unique nearly a century later. It is panned widely as one of the major pioneers of the genre but also as one of it’s greatest fruitions, offering a ‘pure cinema’ experience as it delves, un-scripted and un-staged, into several cities under the charm of 1929 USSR.
Man is an experimental work, unsurprising as Vertov was apart of an early film movement called the Kinoks whom were opposed to all non- documentary film. The derivable experimental nature of the film is demonstrated for example by it’s use of double exposure and superimposing images over one another like in the scene where the camera man is superimposed to appear on a beer glass. Also used is a vast array of camera techniques which range from fast paced tracking shots of factor rotors and pistons plugging away to a close-up high shot of a typewriter being used to wide establishing shots of lively cityscapes. Vertov pioneers a whole roster of cinematic techniques in this picture, from slow motion to stop motion to split screens to jump cuts.
Inexplicably ahead of the times in technical terms.
For innovation alone, Man With A Movie Camera deserves every ounce of praise it gets but what is really impressive is how it gives us a kaleidoscopic insight into the everyday hustle-bustle of a variety of locations in 1929 USSR while managing to represent the camera as being hidden or at least unobserved, allowing the capture of a true life event unfolding right before us on film. And it communicates this almost entirely through cinematography and without the use theatrics (minus the inter-titles).