Constructivist Cinema served as an objective depiction of the world, a put-together purposeful mediated reality, and not just a creative personal artistic endeavor.
Constructivist Cinema began in the Soviet Union in the 1920’s. Soviet Constructivists formed the Left Front of the Arts, a group of avant-garde writers, photographers, designers and critics. They produced the journal LEF, which ran from 1923 to 1925 and later on as Novy Lef from 1927 to 1929. The journal’s goal, as written in one of its first issues, was to “re-examine the ideology and practices of so-called leftist art, and to abandon individualism to increase art’s value for developing communism.” For them cinema was more than just a visual narrative, and could serve a purpose. They were dedicated to upholding an avant-garde cinematic medium.
One of the important figures in Constructivist Cinema was David Abelvich Kaufman, more known by his pseudonym Dziga Vertov.
Dziga Vertov was part of a group of filmmakers known as the kinoks, whose goal was to eliminate non-documentary filmmaking methods. Like his comrades, the documentary film and newsreel director believed that filmmakers had the obligation to chronicle the truth and to produce material that served a specific function.
Man with a Movie Camera
Vertov was recognized as one of the most influential yet unorthodox artists of his era, as seen in his masterpieces. One of his most famous creations is the silent documentary film Man with a Movie Camera.
It was a cinematic experiment that made use of fast and slow motion, freeze frames, split screens, jump cuts, extreme close ups, tracking shots, stop motion animation, footage played backwards, self-reflexive, and double exposure techniques. It had no real story and no real actors. The scenes were shot individually without following a specific plot, and put together by Vertov’s editor-wife Elizaveta Svilova. These methods were considered highly conventional unconventional at the time.
So what was so extraordinary about the film? For one, it used bizarre scenes that involved superimposing the image of a cameraman setting up his equipment on top of a second mountain-sized camera or placing the cameraman inside a beer glass. There were even scenes with footage that were played backwards, instead of the usual chronological sequence. The use of double exposure and seemingly hidden cameras and non-plotted scenes made the film seem more like a surreal montage rather than a traditional, linear motion picture narrative.
The film is strongly constructivist in the sense that it served as an objective depiction of the world, a put-together purposeful mediated reality, and not just a creative personal artistic endeavor.
Man with a Movie Camera was a silent film when it was first released in 1929 but accompanied with live music when shown in theaters. It has been re-released several times with different soundtracks. Below is one of the film’s versions.
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