Man With a Movie Camera

Creative Work
Publication Type: 
Technologies referenced: 
Description (in English): 

Classic documentary movie by the Soviet filmmaker Dziga Vertov with Elizaveth Svilova as editor and Mikhail Kaufman as cameraman. The movie camera is a central "character" in this visual archive of life. The movie is often seen as an example of the kino-eye which Vertov described in his manifestos. 

Pull Quotes: 

I am kino-eye, I am mechanical eye, I, a machine, show you the world as only I can see it…. My path leads to the creation of a fresh perception of the world I decipher in a new way a world unknown to you. (from Vertov's manifesto)

Situation machine vision is used in: 

Man with a Movie Camera (Animated movie camera)

Brief description: 

Towards the end of the movie (about 59:30 minutes in), we return to the movie theatre from the start of the movie, seeing the audience from above. The camera tripod steps onto the stage, moving without human assistance (stop motion animation), its three legs awkwardly walking to position itself in front of a bench. A case slides along the bench and the tripd adjusts its height down as the case opens and the movie camera comes out of the case and positions itself on the tripod.

The audience is still at first, looking seriously at the tripod, but they start to smile as the camera positions itself on the tripod, and laugh and talk as the camera spins around, spinning all its handles and dials in a little dance. The camera and tripod then "walk" off the stage, followed by the case, which slides off camera on the bench. 

The movie camera's dance is obviously done using stop-motion animation, but it is also implicitly compared to magic, through the parallel to an earlier scene in the movie where children watch a magician, and the cutting between the children's laughter and delight and the magic tricks (partly shown by an actual magician, and partly using stop motion animation) is very similar to the cutting between the animated movie camera and the adult audience. (This similarity is noted by Malcolm Turvey in his paper "Can the Camera See? Mimesis in Man with a Movie Camera, October 89, Summer 1999). The scene also comes immediately after another scene where people watch a performance of somebody playing music on spoons and hands on a piano keyboard. In this previous performance, there is no magic, but there are a lot of film tricks, as the spoons and piano keyboard merge in and out of each other in double exposures, and shots of the audience are intercut with the performance faster and faster. The cuts between the dancing camera and its audience are quite sedate in comparison - but both feature humans delighted by something automated or semi-automated.

Up until this point of the movie, the movie camera is always shown with a human operator. Often the human carries the camera, placing it in new positions. In this animated sequence, the camera moves by itself, although even here, there is a puppet-like quality to its dance, suggesting that somewhere, out of sight, a human operator is still there. This idea is strengthened by the parallel to the magic tricks earlier in the movie. And yet, we do see the movie camera moving, by itself. Not filming, not seeing, but dancing.


Brief description: 

A double exposure of the lens of a camera and a human eye. The camera lens closes, as the human eye closes. The lens and the eye are shown in parallel in many occasions in this movie, quick closeups of each suggesting an equivalence or at least relationship between the camera lens and the human eye. This scene appears to merge the two.