Wednesday, April 4, 2012

Man With A Movie Camera

This film was a complete, head to toe lesson in cinematography, not only how to visually make a film, but how to visually look at the world around you. The first thing I noticed and the last thing that stuck with me were the beautiful frames of each scene. Vertov does not simply show a building perfectly framed in the center of the lens. Instead, we see rows and rows of windows rising above from a low angled shot. Or we see strong, steel, straight beams of the top of a building cut through the frame as another lower building below is just inside the lower thirds of the frame. I'm assuming that Vertov had very little to no time to set up each shot, which speaks to his brilliant, artistic, cinematic mind. I found myself realizing that while he is aiming to paint a true to life portrait of a single day in Russia, his work actually showing us how we SHOULD look at the world, not how we DO look at the world. Even though it flew by with a flash, my favorite shot was of a trolley car sliding vertically along the same axis of the camera, while another trolley car crisscrossed horizontally in front of the frame. Seeing the two trolleys flow against each other in such a way was absolutely beautiful. It's a way that I wouldn't have looked at them, but it showed me what I'm missing by not stepping into another vantage point.

I don't believe that Vertov's goal was to depict what daily life looks like, I think rather he was showing us how daily life is depicted through the lens of a camera, when we step outside our minds' eye to look at life from another perspective. We as humans do not often crouch low to look at train wheels speeding by. We don't often peer out over the city we live in, looking at the shadows cast by a low hanging tree. We don't often catch the beauty of following a reflection in glass versus staring at the subject itself. But we should.

Showing the eyeball in the lens, showing the camera sliding into the frame, is a great representation of  an ever-present eye. He calls it the "truth-eye." However, this film helped me realize that cameras don't always capture what we see. They don't always record what we witness. Instead, if the person behind the camera is aware enough, cameras capture events in life from the angles in which we wished we could have seen them.

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