Sunday, 20 February 2011

Человек с киноаппаратом

Man with a Movie Camera
That's the original film poster of this great avant-garde Soviet film from 1929. Last year, I watched another experimental timelapse film, Koyaanisqatsi, which I definitely drew comparisons to.

I think the difficult thing about watching this film is the lack of sound. And that's why there are lots of music scores to accompany it. I was lucky, the version I picked up contains The Cinematic Orchestra playing, which is a limited print.

I think the music plays a vital component in this film. The first 5 minutes or so were total silence, a guy setting up his camera, people entering a theatre... I actually struggled to respond to it. Then, as soon as the orchestra kicks in, the film comes to life. Not only is it a fantastic soundtrack, but it synchronises beautifully with the film. Like the film was released originally, there was usually live music in theatres, and the musicians that have supplied music for this film have been known to play live at showings around the globe.

This - I think - is what I would call 'pure cinema'. There are no actors, there is no plot. It depicts the life in the city, and the people living in it. The camera and the shots here speak in their own artistic language. Most of the cinematic techniques were invented and developed in this film, so for anyone with an appreciation of film and cinematography this should be on the list.

However, it's not just a historical, academic film. Nor is it totally off-the-wall experimentation. It's an extremely engaging look into Soviet life. Film as an art form is completely spontaneous. You'll watch cameramen setting up in exciting, dangerous places.. and in beer glasses; women getting out of bed, giving birth, miners, tram drivers, horse and carts, married and divorced couples, men and women working with industrial machinery... all at a pace which leaves you regretting every time you blink.

Isn't it ironic that a film without a script, no plot, and no characters managers to have more depth and artistic merit than films 80+ years later? Enthralling, surreal, and the genuine language behind the art form.

Clocking in at 1 hour long, this film is bound to be the best lunch break ever.  Of course, 1929 is a long time ago, where copyright is left to expire. So that makes it a free lunch. Download it here. I have no idea what soundtrack that version is though. Of course, you could also watch the whole film, with soundtrack of your choice, on YouTube.

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