Man with a Movie Camera

Topics: Soviet Union, Camera, Photography Pages: 7 (2582 words) Published: October 30, 2011
“I think people talk too much” Antonioni. Write an essay on two films on the course that champion images and/or music over words

Film does not simply function to entertain; it is created to make suggestions about the wider society. Furthermore these suggestions and themes are not simply stated, but must be tactically revealed through filmic devices. Whilst traditionally, dialogue is the driving force of cinema functioning to reveal relationships and themes, some directors have gone against this tradition, and championed images and music over words as their primary filmic device. It should be noted, that although images and music can function alone, there are complementary devices, and when used in conjunction can often be more effective (Flinn, 2000). Vertov’s 1929 Man with a Movie Camera is a multi-linear documentary whilst Melville’s 1967 Le Samourai is a fictional crime thriller. Although completely contrasting narrative types, they both employ this idea of using images and music as their primary filmic device rather than words and dialogue. The central themes in Man with a Movie Camera are the progression of the Soviet Union, celebration of film, as well as the relationship between man and machine. Le Samourai similarly employs devices of images and music to reveal ideals of isolation and solitude, existential ideals of freedom in death and motif’s of the city as a jungle. In analysing the differences and similarities in their use of images and music to reveal their respective themes and idea’s, over two completely different types of film, one can understanding the potential power of these devices over words and dialogue.

Vertov’s Man with a Movie Camera is a non-speaking, non-linear documentary which makes extensive suggestions about the progression of the Soviet Union, which all must be attributed to use of image and music. The first way this is done is through juxtaposition of images, as we see the abacus give way to cash registers, manual sewing replaced by the sewing machine and manual labour’s give way to machines. These images are underscored by fast, brass-based music which is never static, which further gives the impression of the positive, fast, stalwart progression of the Soviet Union. These is a function of music and images that advance all dialogue, no words or dialogue could obtain as well as continually sustain this degree of pace throughout the film. Furthermore, Vertov positions viewers to see this progression as positive, with continually upbeat music complemented by the joyful images of Soviet inhabitants.

"It is far from simple to show the truth, yet the truth is simple." (Vertov, 1929)

Vertov understood the complexities of presenting something to be true. At the time, not only Russia but all of Europe was ripe with propaganda and Vertov recognized that people were becoming to trust words, and what they were told less. He therefore tried to portray the camera as neutral and unbiased as possible. Vertov also gains trust for the camera, by also including sequences exploring the sadder realities of Soviet life. An example of this is the sequence of a couple going in to sign a wedding registration which is juxtaposed by a shot of a traffic signal changing. The next shot is of a couple filling out a divorce registration. Another way he does this is by using shots of people who are unaware of the camera’s presence. An example of this is the man who breaks his leg and thus in no condition to act, is quickly aided by several workers. This is a perfect example of the power of images as it works on two levels; firstly to gain trust for the camera, as well as explore the true strength of the unified Soviet people. Man with a Movie Camera cleverly uses high-speed imagery underscored by fast, upbeat music to make suggestions about the progression of the Soviet Union.

Melville’s Le Samourai introduces the central theme of isolation and solitude with differing functions of camera and image than...
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