Man Machine

I am an eye. I am a mechanical eye. I, a machine, I am showing you a world, the likes of which only I can see – Dziga Vertov


To continue my series of posts dedicated to cinema classics I want to say a few words about David Kaufman, aka Dziga Vertov, an avant-garde documentary filmmaker whose vision of films was 80 years ahead of his time.

According to Russian film theorist Mikhail Yampolsky, the image of a man, as portrayed by cinematic language, differs decade to decade. In the 1920’s during the Soviet times modernism and futurism dominated the artistic language. From this came the chopped style of Vladimir Mayakovsky poetry, the idea of free music invented by Nikolai Kulbin, and the non-narrative cinematic expression of Dziga Vertov.

Roger Bert in his website (  said The Man With a Movie Camera (1929) was an explicit and poetic astonishing gift made possible by cinema, of arranging what we see, ordering it, imposing a rhythm and language on it, and transcending it.

In fact, Vertov revolutionized the way we perceive motion pictures by finding: double exposures, freeze frames, jump cuts, Dutch angles, extreme close-ups, stop motion animation, to name a few, which were only re-invented much later in the 70’s.

Dziga Vertov lived in a very tumultuous period when industrialization had revolutionized the way man interacts with machine. Montage was invented by Russia filmmakers like Vertov and Einstein who viewed the pieces of frames as parts of bigger machinery that can be cut and spliced in various ways to invoke a greater emotional response from their audience. When Vertov says that he shows you a world through his mechanical eye, he is giving the audience a glimpse of a fabricated reality constructed from the ordinary things of real life; the rhymes and rhythms that appear from raw material and create his cinematic poetry.

Interesting fact: Dziga Vertov’s wife, Yelizeveta Svilova edited The Man With a Movie Camera from about 1, 175 separate shots, most of which consisted of separate set-ups.

Below you can follow a small lecture about The Man With a Movie Camera that Sight and Sound film critics defined one of the best films ever made.

I like this silent movie with particular soundtrack by British minimalist Michael Nyman known for scoring Peter Greenaway’s films. In my opinion, this score reflects Vertov’s intentions to portray time and a man in it.

To watch the entire movie follow the links:


About zinasemenova

Russian filmmaker and blogger at

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