Arch 443/646: Architecture and Film
Fall 2011

Man With a Movie Camera, Metropolis, Heart of the World, Avant Garde Shorts

man with the movie camera

Discussion Questions:

Please answer the questions below. Use paragraph form. The answer length will vary for grad and undergrad. The questions are all graded individually so extra effort in preparing your answer is rewarded.

Email me your responses in Word .doc format to: I will be posting these each week after the class. You should be prepared to deliver your answer in class -- but paraphrase, do not read it. Please only send to my sympatico address as I use this for the film course so that I run less of a risk of misplacing your answers.

Feel free to include internet reference links in your answers.

The answers are due in my Inbox at the end of the weekend following the in class discussion. (I generally spend the Monday before the film class assembling the web information for the next class and posting responses from the previous week).


updated Thursday, December 8, 2011 11:17 AM


1. Carlos Arce

Q: Using the films we have seen in the first two classes, differentiate between "effect" and "special effect" in terms of the film footage.




  2. Jennifer Beggs

Q: Using the films we have seen in the first two classes, differentiate between "effect" and "special effect" in the use of sound and music in the films, with particular note that voice is absent from the films.

A: Having music play over an acted scene leaves more for the imagination to imagine what the atmosphere of that suggested scene would feel like. The special effects - the loud beats and the sounds of things moving - give the viewer a basic idea of what the scene portrays, but does not give you a realistic picture of the movie. Instead, having the music play over the entire movie (without any audio dialogue) creates an effect of having a story being told to you. The special effects allow the mood and the feeling to become evident, however the effect of this is similar to a montage of a movie where clips of video are put together to music – you do not get the realistic feel for any one scene. However, enough is suggested that with imagination each and every viewer will be able to create the atmosphere for themselves in their head – all likely being very different depending on each and every one’s interpretation.

In certain ways the short (approximately 6 minute) artistic movies is very similar to the movies with people in that they are very abstract in nature. They each have a theme, just as the longer movies had plots, but the characters are not as relatable because we never hear their voice, and we do not know everything they say (the subtitles only summarize what they say). The music leave much for the imagination and interpretation.


3. Jaliya Fonseka

Q: Effects in films can be subtle or sensational. Discuss the film Un Chien Andalou with reference to the use of both subtle and sensational effects. How do the sensational effects make this film surrealist?

A: The film Un Chien Andalou utilizes many subtle and sensational effects to evoke a surreal feel throughout many instances of the movie.  Many of these effects rely on cutting to a close up of the same scene and using a false, double or doll figure to perform the effect. This is exemplified towards the beginning of the film where the camera shows a close up of a woman's face, cuts to a shot of a moon being "sliced" by a knife then quickly cuts back to the woman's face; this time with the knife slicing her eye. Strategically held for only a matter of seconds, this scene shocks the viewer into believing that the woman's eye was actually slashed through the use of quick cuts in between the scene, when in fact a fake or human made face could have easily been used to portray this unreal scene.

The movie proceeds to a scene with protagonist staring into his hand. However, it is not until the camera cuts to a close-up of just the man's hand (fake hand) that the viewer is able to see ants crawling out of it. This effect is executed in a subtle way such that the viewer is fooled into believing that the camera has zoomed into the man's actual hand.  Similarly, towards the end of the film a man enters the cyclers apartment, pulls of some of his clothes, throws them out the window and asks the cycler to stand against the wall with his hands up. The unknown man faces away from the camera throughout most of the scene and is revealed later as he turns around in slow motion after the words "seize ans avant"  is displayed. It is then that the camera exposes that the man is a splitting image of the cyclist. This sensational effect, executed by cutting to a black screen with text before revealing the man's face, confusing the viewer as to what is real. When in fact, two actors could have been used to carry out this scene as the entire faces of both men were never shown simultaneously. Following this scene, as the duplicate man picks up two books from a table, hands these books to the cycler and begins to walk away, the books suddenly turn into two guns. Again, a cleaver use of cutting the scenes quickly, this time by positioning the actor in the exact arrangement as he was holding the books, however, putting two guns in his hands.

The success of these effects is heavily relied upon their ability to shock the viewer. Once the viewer sees the ants crawling out of the man's hands, they are too caught up in the surreal act itself to realize that it may be something very simple. Also, the cut itself has to be done very carefully in such way that the viewer is in no way suspicious of the camera. Thus, smooth and clean cut transitions in between, will maintain the viewers' focus of the film itself rather than the camera movements or the film editing. When a viewer sees something that they know is not possible in real life such as the ants, a duplicate person or two books turning into guns, through the use of cleverly positioned cuts in scenes, a surrealistic feel is brought about. 


4. Miles Gertler

Q: Comment on the use of models in Metropolis in their employment in the special effects of the film. With particular reference to the "Machine" (Moloch scene). How does Fritz Lang's use of these sorts of effects compare to Man with the Movie Camera in terms of the effects in Vertov's film?

A: In the 1927 film Metropolis, and Man with the Movie Camera of 1929, Fritz Lang and Dziga Vertov achieve unique special effects through similar means. Lang relies heavily on models to create a city that at once generates a sense of strangeness and familiarity, which underscores the cautionary theme of his film. In Vertov’s work, the director splices otherwise mundane footage together to create something extraordinary from rather ordinary elements. Though Vertov’s effect is an ebullient strangeness in contrast to Lang’s ominous tenor, both directors develop their visions from familiar sources.

Lang’s vision of Metropolis is realized through physical model. Certainly after seeing the film, the images one has of the cosmopolitan city above and of the machines of the worker’s city below are of Lang’s enormous physical models. Without these scale models of Metropolis’ towers, Lang could not have filmed the opening scenes in such a convincing style; no skyscrapers even remotely like these existed in Europe at the time. Where an artist’s drawing would have appeared flat, and the towers of New York, where Lang is said to have drawn inspiration for his city (1), too familiar, his models seem real and suggest a plausible architecture of the future. This in itself is a special effect that subtly convinces the audience of the film’s environment and ultimately, of its message.

In the worker’s city, the models of machines are entirely plausible industrial devices from our own past and Lang’s present. The transformation of the M-Machine into Moloch is another example of Lang’s use of familiar iconography in a perverse form; the audience immediately understands the film’s cautionary subtext of a modernized society gone awry.

To sustain and even exaggerate the already frenetic pace of Man with the Movie Camera, Vertov superimposes, mirrors, and visually reorganizes elements of the urban environment he’s filming in. Trams pass by one another in impossible configurations; facades of buildings filmed at oblique angles from the back of a moving car fold into each other in shortened perspective; and the Man with the camera himself stands as a giant over the horizons of Moscow and Odessa, often in front of bucolic landscapes painted in the distance. The viewer is confronted with a volume of imagery that corrupts the idyllic nature of his otherwise familiar scenes and the more conventional special effects such as artificial backgrounds. If it is Vertov’s intention to make a film without a clear narrative, he is aided in this pursuit with the disorienting effect of these reconfigured scenes.

(1) Sutcliffe, A. 1984. Metropolis 1890 – 1940. London: Mansell Publishing Ltd., 1984.

5. Suzan Ibrahim

Q: Compare the use of music in Metropolis vs Man with the Movie Camera in terms of its employment as an "effect".

A: The music in both of the silent movies have a significant role in order to express the underlying relationships, atmospheres in which they inhabit and creating an active progression between the different scenes and environments within the films through the difference of tempo and tones.

The city of Metropolis is presented with its different cultural and social classes/ranks by the tone and tempo of the soundtracks which not only gives the viewer an idea of the city but also the different experiences and atmospheres for the inhabitants of it. The city consists of different levels expressed through the tempo of the music; from the dark and gloomy Worker's Underground consisting of nothing other and machines an dark alleyways, to the upbeat yet rhythmic Brother's Club into the whimsical Garden's occupied by dancers and beautiful women. The music allowed to enhance the living atmosphere of the different environments within Metropolis for its inhabitants.

In a similar way, the Man with the Movie Camera is filmed to show the urban life under one day in a Russian City during the communist era. The movie focuses heavily on the people's use of machinery and transport during one day which is expressed through a vibrant and fast paced music changing in tempo depending on the activity presented in the movie. However, the overall characterization of the movie and its progression is the constant representation of a ticking clock, leaving the viewer in constant attention of each scene, each part and its progression through time similar to the speed a machine provides.





6. David McMurchy

Q: Comment on the use of models in Metropolis in their employment in the special effects of destruction the film. With reference to the water damage to the underground workers' housing. Compare this to the success - within this film - of the use of the models for the cityscape.

A: There are two distinct building model types in the movie Metropolis:  The towering, elegant shapes of the city above and the rough rectangular obelisks of the workers’ city below.

The city of the planners is shown to be comprised of enormous buildings clad in white, designed in complex shapes with stepped balconies and impossible bridges.  The city is designed at a large scale, with boulevards full of moving cars at street level and elevated rail lines threading through the buildings.

The city of the workers is found deep underneath the city of the planners in large cave-like voids.  Built of what appears to be a rough stucco, the buildings are devoid of any identifying features and are perforated only by the front door and the rough rectangular windows.

Whereas the city of the planners is full of buildings of different proportions, angles and designs, the city of the workers is plain and monotonous, both in colour and in shape.  The models used to illustrate the two cities are themselves very different.  In the case of the city of workers, the model looks to be made of hard packed dirt.  When the city floods due to the stopping of the machines, the buildings crumble and collapse in the same way as a child’s sandcastle would under the assault of a wave.  Until the scenes of collapse and destruction, the buildings in the workers’ city can be imagined to be made of concrete and clad in stucco, but due to the materials used in the miniature models, the city shows that although it appears to be sturdy, it is constructed with no thought and no design. 

The city above is built to a much higher level of detail than the workers’ city and benefits from the many aerial shots showing the facades and movement of the citizens.   The model is constructed of some white material, which helps to define edges and details and suffuses the model with reflected light.

The use of different materials for the models helps to demonstrate the different classes of citizens who use each city.  The brown of the dirt along with its roughness removes any trace of individuality to the buildings of the workers’ city, while also demonstrating the frailty of things constructed with/for the hands without help from the brain.  The white, complex forms of the city of the planners shows off the power of the mind to create.


7. Benny Or

Q: How can the use of b/w versus colour be considered "special effect"? Does it matter if there is a technological choice - ie. in the present day b/w is a choice whereas at the time of the silent films it was the only option.

A: Black and white film was slowly replaced by colour film over a period of time starting from the 1930s. In fact, even though many studios had to capability to process colour film, it wasn’t very popular until much later on due to the fact that the technology at the time wasn’t able to produce accurate colour tones which distorted the quality of the film. It was also very expensive and difficult to create. Here, black and white was the chosen technique because of it’s accuracy and colour treatment was seem more as a special effect. The Academy Awards from 1944 till 1966 used to have separate awards for black and white films and coloured films recognizing the differences between the two techniques.

Nowadays. the use of black and white footage can be considered a special effect to infer the idea of a historical perspective because we as modern day viewers tend to associate black and white with old films. I find that films that are originally black and white tend to make the viewers more attentive to other aspects of the film such as the soundtrack or the action. Similarly, a black and white effect can be used in today’s films to heighten the viewer’s attention on other aspects of the composition.


8. William Pentesco

Q: Prior to the advent of "sound" in film, intertitles were relied on to convey speech. Comment on the use of intertitles in Metropolis vs Heart of the World. Which do you feel was used more as an "effect" and why?

A: The intertitles in both Metropolis and Heart of the World were introduced to convey narrative in a text based way to silent movies. Due to the nature of silent films directors only avenues to convey the complexity of story lines was through the expression of actors(body language, facial expression), location(architecture), music, and intertitles. To distinguish which movie used intertitles as an ‘effect’ I will classify an effect in film: something that is above normal, more showy, an enhancement. Also note that the filler text introduced into Metropolis after the reconstruction of the film are not considered as intertitles for this comparison.

The intertitles in Metropolis were used for the main purpose of conveying speech, but also to convey emotions of actors in the scene. Heart of the world uses intertitles in a similar context as Metropolis but in a very different style. They still convey a narrative; such as character names, speech, and also a description of the scene. However they are incorporated into the movie in a radically different way than Metropolis. The intertitles in Metropolis get written on a blank screen that is inserted into the film. The film stops and the intertitle is completely dependent on the music, facial expression of the actor last pictured and formatting of the text itself. In Heart of the World the intertitles are more graphically overlaid in a style that calls back to the original Batman shows that makes it seem almost cartoony. They come out as a flashy notice that is bombarding the viewer, for example ‘TWO BROTHERS!!!,’ which would be seen growing across the screen and in a heavy font with lots of exclamation points.

The intertitles in Metropolis also solidify the story. When the plot begins if helps build up the story, but as a rather slow movie compared to Heart of the World I find that the movie depends on them. Without the intertitles in Metropolis one would get lost in the story. In Heart of the World the whole movie goes by almost nauseously fast, but the storyline is fairly simple and basic to any modern viewer. To see Heart of the World without intertitles one would be able to understand the conflict the climax and the resolution of the story.

The fact that Heart of the World uses intertitles in a more graphical enhancement to the movie and that the movie could be readily understood without the intertitles makes me feel like they are used more as an ‘effect’ then in Metropolis.


9. Emmanuelle Sainté

Q: How do the effects used by Vertov in Man with the Movie Camera change the reading of the roles of the actors in the film when compared to the portrayal of the actors in Lang's Metropolis?

A: A comparison of the way the actors were portrayed in their respective films reveals their different nature. While the fact that Metropolis follows a narrative, and that Man with the Movie Camera is a visual non sequitur plays a major role in how the actors will appear to the viewer, the visual effects used by each director reinforces each characterization.

Part of the reason a storyline, or lack thereof, affects how an actor is portrayed, is that it affects the length of time they are onscreen, and how well we get to know them. While in Metropolis, the each character gets a fair amount of screen time, and one gains more understanding of them and how they think during the course of the film, in Man with the Movie Camera, one is offered fleeting glimpses into the lives of many diverse characters, without really gaining any understanding of their motivation. One is given a snapshot of peoples’ lives, and is present at their birth, at their wedding or divorce, at their workplace and place of entertainment, but that moment is all that one will ever see, and never enough to actually get to know them. Even the one recurring character, after whom the film is named, films such a wide range of events through such an impassive eye that although the viewer sees him many times, one actually feels more distant from him than from the rest of the characters, who are filmed displaying real emotion.

The visual effects used in each film serve to emphasize this difference. In Metropolis, for example, theater style makeup is used to emphasize facial features in an effort to make it easier for the viewer to read the actors’ expressions. This tool makes emotions that the characters feel come across to the viewer, and in turn draws the audience in. On the other hand, in Man with the Movie Camera, the rapidity of the action, and the wide range of characters and sequences seems to hold the audience at a distance, but also the occasional play with editing techniques that make what is on screen seem divorced from reality. For example the Man with the Movie Camera shows up on top of a camera, or in a glass of beer, giving these scenes a surreal aspect that adds to the aloofness of this character.

If one reads the camera itself as a character in the second film, this is the only instance where the detachment begins to break down. The viewer is for most of the movie, seeing through the eyes of this camera, and at some points, we see it almost react to its surroundings – refocusing, blinking its giant mechanical eye, the tripod dancing on its own at one point. Through these reactions, the camera begins to read as its own being, and this is reinforced by the superimposition at one point in the film of a real blinking eye over its lens.

Therefore, in each film, the directors use visual imagery and effects to emphasize the roles that the actors are playing in the story.


10. Tristan van Leur

Q: With reference to any of the films from the first two weeks, comment on the use of camera angles to create special effects (as a variation in mood or narrative from a static eye level point of filming).

A: In the 1920s, film became an intriguing medium for artists to experiment in.  It allowed for a development in ways to convey narrative through different techniques.  One of the most crucial ways for artists to convey their mood or narrative in the film was through varying camera angles. Dziga Vertov and Salvador Dali construct their films with clever use of different angles.  Varying from the human static eye level, the viewer is informed of mood and details that they could otherwise miss.

In Dziga Vertov’s 1929 film A man with a movie Camera.  Vertov uses extreme close-ups and Dutch angles to simultaneously convey both an implied story and a mood.  His consistent use of close-ups allows the audience to track the specific aura of the city, and of the individual component that forms the city.  He focuses on aspects such as the face of a homeless man sleeping on a bench, who open his eyes, which then starts a series of images where the city begins to come alive. Streetcars start, people leave their houses, and the day begins.  He also manages to convey mood with his angles.  His selective use of a Dutch Tilt is used to suggest franticness and a feeling of insanity throughout his film.  It is often used in short edits, spliced between many quickly transitioning images, allowing for the feeling of the many pieces of the city ticking around you.   Vertov also cleverly suggests a sense of insanity in the shot of a woman’s eye following by several panning flashes of skewed details spliced with flashes of the eye in between.

Salvadori Dali and Luis Bunuel largely use close-ups of a technique to allow them to suggest the surreal in their film Un Chien Andelou. The film starts off with a clever use of the close-up to allow for the woman’s eye to be cut open, providing for a shocking confusing beginning.  He proceeds to use close-ups as a way to cut to a hand with ant’s crawling out of it, making possible their vision of a surreal montage of images.

In both A man with a movie camera and Un Chien Andelou the use of distinct camera angles which vary from a static eye level point of view allow for them to create mood and narrative within their films.


11. Benjamin Van Nostrand

Q: Compare the use of camera/film effects in Ballet Mecanique to Man with the Movie Camera and Un Chien Andalou. Which might be seen as a simple "effect" vs a "special effect"?

A: With specific regard to the pre-CGI world of cinematic effects, the hard dividing line between 'effects' and 'special effects' can be loosely defined as the physical interface of the camera lens against the world, or the difference between 'in-camera' and 'on-set' effects. Effects which are orchestrated on stage, in the dressing room, in the more-or-less physical world, fall into the category of 'special effects'. Effects which are orchestrated entirely in the developing tank, or within the bowels of the camera, in the sort of mad-scientist nightmare of the editing room and the cameraman's mind, fall into the category of 'effects'.

Much more interesting is the softer definition of the 'loudness' of the presence of an effect in the film. Visually impressive technical achievements like the stop-motion animation of Vertov's movie tripod shout out their own presence quite blatantly, demanding wonderment and almost defying the audience to resolve their mystery. This I would classify as a 'special effect', and it influences the mood or tone or pace or feel of the film by grabbing the audience by the eyes and shaking them violently. Similarly, I would classify Un Chien Andalou's erotic crossfades and anthill stigmata as special effects, because the primary execution of technique took place in the stage-set world, in front of the camera, and without much concern for subtlety.

In contrast, then-experimental techniques as subtle as the pace of editing or the specific camera angles can have similar (or even stronger) influence on the mood of the film, but do little to call attention to themselves as overtly as 'special effects'. The hour-long acceleration of the average speed of cutting in Man with a Movie Camera ends up producing a high-energy, frenzied feeling, but not in such a way that the source is immediately noticeable. One cannot glance at a set of shots and define immediately what has produced the exact feeling of the film at that point. Ballet Mechanique's juxtaposition of repetitive organic motion (woman smiling, swinging) with repetitive mechanical motion (abstracted kaleidoscopes of metal objects) made me feel uneasy, but it took quite some time before I was able to identify specifically what about the film was giving me that feeling.

The one major exception to this extremely generalized rule would be high-visibility composited shots. While the magic takes place entirely in the photo lab, far away from even the half-reality of a movie set, the intent of these 'magical' shots (like Man with the Movie Camera's rotoscoped superimposition of a cameraman in impossible locations) is undoubtedly to awe and there is really nothing subtle about them.


12. Richard D'Allesandro

Q: There are numerous iconographic references in Metropolis. How can iconography be seen as a "special effect"?

A: The simplest act of filming only entails creating a record of actual events, the quality and effect of which are essential to film.  Film, as a simple medium unto itself, is capable of capturing a multitude of images successively between unperceivably small intervals.  These images are captured and then played back between intervals so small, and at such an incredible rate that they will effectively recall the temporal quality of an event.  This is the essential and inseparable effect of film.  In playback, while there is no subject actually moving, we are able to perceive motion and a passing of time.  Any result of the immediate process of filming too, and the power of control that it grants the cameraman over the frame and visual limit of the record, can be considered, for all intents and purposes, an essential effect of filming and thereby an effect that is native to film.

This is how that, for every way in which this initial record is treated after the act of filming, these treatments may be regarded as effects.  Treatments commonly used on film are cutting, splicing, and reordering sections of film, despite the original order in which they were recorded.  The effects of these treatments, though not essential to film, are necessary devices for building a narrative.  They are but basic implements, however, and they never alter original subject or context of the record.  This is where the line may be drawn between effect and special effect.  A special effect then may be defined as any effect of film that is resultant of treating or subjugating an essential quality of the original record.

Iconography or ‘image writing’ as it literally translates from Greek, refers to the presence of consciously crafted imagery in the world or, in this case, an artistic medium like film. In the iconographic image, or in the aggregate forms and figures of the image, is an idea which is intended to impress upon the viewer, subliminally or not, a meaning beyond any literal significance of what’s there.  Conceptually then, iconography is a construct and a type of fiction.

The story being told in Fritz Lang’s film Metropolis is a monumental fiction.  Lang imagines a city full of exaggerations and unfathomable extremes of our own existence.  But through the use of iconography and archetypical characters, he connects the viewer to these extremes by appealing to their own comfortable familiarities and buried anxieties; being suggestive about mankind and perhaps even alluding to our own future.  The most glaring example of iconography’s employ here is the image of the city itself.  The story is set against a metropolis but its characters were never filmed within the context of actual buildings or city streets.  The city resembles no city in the world, yet it is immediately recognizable to all.  It is Lang’s carefully constructed icon of a city exceeds the effect of one particular and literal recollection; the record on film.  Instead, his special effect evokes the metropolis. To everyone, it is no city and every city.


13. Michelle Greyling

Q: Many of the images in Man with the Movie Camera make use of day to day activities that could be seen as "nothing special". How does Vertov's use of film effects elevate these into an artistic state? Does this level of artistry still hold for the film when viewed in the present day of CGI? Why or why not?

A: In "Man With the Movie Camera", Dziga Vertov celebrates filmmaking through his perception of a typical day from dawn to dusk in the city of Moscow. Vertov viewed filming in a new way and voiced the quote, "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". In this film Vertov's focus is on the soviet worker, displaying various juxtapositions and the connection between man and machine. He uses "Kino-Glaz" (Cine-Eye) as medium to portray man as a more controlled, machine like character. Vertov noted in 1923 that the Kino-eye as machine is more perfect than the human eye as mechanism to capture visual imagery. This statement is empasized when Vertov use stop-motion at the end of the film to present the camera as a living being when the camera gets out of the box, sets itself up.

The "Man With a Movie Camera" is composed of nine parts and each part is composed using various cinematic techniques combined with juxtapositions and rapid-fire editing. Vertov cuts each scene rapidly and combines it with a musical sequence to follow the same rhythm. Each sequence elevate toward a climax and the film continue to elevate in the intensity created by Vertov.

Vertov does not portray the city of Moscow in a realistic manner but elevate the content to an artistic state with the use of exceptional cinematic techniques and state of the art editing. Vertov's intention was to create a film with a new cinematic language that was not derived from anything ever seen before. This new language was composed of rhythm and the movement of objects in the city. Vertov use mediums such as music, sound, imagery and various techniques such as rhythm and the manner in which a scene is cut to introduce the thesis of the film. Vertov was known as a "peoples' artist" and wanted to capture and syncronize the worker with the mechanical in a joyful relationship. He emphasizes that work is joyful and use imagery to display the rhythm of the workers and the machines. An example of joyful labour is displayed in the emotional expression of a woman working at a machine folding cigarette boxes.

Essentially Vertov has an adoration for the power of film and camera to compose new realities. Many of the cinematic techniques used by Vertov in "Man With the Movie Camera" were either developed or invented by Vertov himself. The camera plays an essential part in the film and in a sense takes on the role of the narrator. The camera also takes the audience to places where they could not go. The camera has a view of people and objects in the city that the human eye would not have had the ability to give the audience. The camera takes us to underneath the train, and provide the audience with the extra-ordinary views. Vertov opens the door to a new manner of cinema using techniques such as dissolves, split-screen effects, extreme close-ups, camera speeds, jump cuts, angles, freeze frames, double exposure and the use of prismatic lenses.

Vortov used imagery to reinforce similar movements or motions. In a scene he switches back and forth to the merry-go-round and the cars speeding around a circular track. He uses rapid cuts and double exposure while switching fast between scenes of similar composition to create a new way to compose frames in films. A good example of this is where he dissolves the images of photo negatives to the buttons of the telephone switchboard.

Vertov use stop-motion to amuse the audience when a chinese magician appear to a crowd out of nowhere. The use of Freeze frames create artistic photographic images and capture the detail of the emotive state of the people moving through the city as well as the bodily composition of the athletes. Extreme close ups, of ordinary duties and objects such as brushing of teeth and machine controls occur throughout the film. In these close ups, the rhythm and detail of the objects are displayed. At one point a circle with the reflection of the human eye proposes the connection between human and the mechanical in the camera lens. Vertov create artistic compositions when displaying the detail and essence of a chosen object. Andre Kertesz, a celebrated photographer of the time, used similar methods to elevate the artistry of his photographs taken of ordinary people. With the use of split screen Vertov combines three to four scenes in one caption creating multiple scenes without the use of a theatre or actors.

Vertov invents a technique where he combines the use of tracking/split screen and dutch angles on both side of the screen with trains, streets, cars,buildings and people to create an artistic visual narrative. In a specific scene the buildings on both sides of the frame seem to be falling and trains seem to collide in an interesting artistic display of Vertov's perception. With the use of double exposure, dissolve, split-screen and editing techniques, Vertov displays a train on top of a crowd of people while the train is moving through the space. Vertov seek to create a sense of harmony between man and machine. He displays that machine could occupy space in the same manner as humans would which further emphasizes the connection between man and machine. Vertov use slow motion, fast motion, extreme close-ups and various other techniques to study the image in an attempt to reveal its true nature. Vertov continue to amuse the audience with his artistic composition and unexpected events when he manipulates the visual narrative by using double exposure and rapid cutting to create an artistic composition of spoons, bottles and piano keys. Even though there are no actors, theatre, script or intertitles in the film, the camera manipulates the production to make each person and object in the film seem to fit as an actor would.

In conclusion, the film is a true example of the avant-garde style with little limitations to what is possible. The film passes over the invisible boundaries set by previous films and Vertov creates a new language of film. With the use of a second camera, that is constantly in view, the audience is lead to experience film in a new way. In the same manner Vertov includes a scene in the film of an audience watching the film, while another audience is viewing in real time. Another example is where Vertov superimposed a cameraman on top of a massive camera and in another scene the camera man is placed in a beer glass.

Question (Part 2): Does this level of artistry still hold for the film when viewed in the present day of CGI? Why or why not?

CGI influenced the film industry in notable ways and motion picture special effects have gone through many changes since the introduction of CGI. To display whether this level of artistry still hold for the film when viewed in the present day of CGI, I took a look at "Rome – engineering an empire". The film, released in 2005, was a leader of its kind in CGI.
To differentiate between old and new technologies, I took a look at digital compositing in comparison to optical compositing which is photographic effects.

Optical compositing where films are created by photographic means by cameras confines creative freedom to some extend when placed in comparison to digital compositing. Digital compositing allow the technician more creative freedom and the opportunity to design new realized characters and more detailed models.

When viewing the film "Rome-engineering an empire", I noticed that although the entire movie has been made using CGI various of the cinematic techniques used in the man with the movie camera was still visible.

Fast motion views of the skies and slow motion camera tracking to create movement through buildings were used to dissect the detailing of buildings. The narrator of the documentary was filmed using a Dutch angles. Various buildings is filmed using dutch angles and scene transformation and similar scene cutting is very evident. Close up views showing detail of buildings is used often with more advanced techniques showing the very structure of the building as if it were see-through. A technique similar to camera tracking is used to show movement up the stairs and the use of double exposure or dissolve announces a new scene.

Several effects such as fly by, zoom, close up of detail (3D sonor views) etc. were advanced techniques.

I noted that a downfall to CGI documentaries lie in the level of accuracy achieved by the technician to recreate or reproduce existing buildings or objects.

My answer to the question "Does the level of artistry displayed in man with the movie camera still hold for the film when viewed in the present day of CGI" would be yes.

I don't believe that using CGI could replace the artistic manouvres of the "camera" or Kino-eye in man with the movie camera. In Man With the Movie Camera the ordinary is elevated into an artistic state by the perception of a very talented film maker Dziga Vertov. CGI is just a medium and the task to elevate normal everyday scenes to an artistic state would still mean using CGI in the same manner that The Man With the Movie Camera used his camera.

In the same manner an architect that used to design buildings on a drawing board would still have to apply the same amount of skill and creativity to design a building when using CAD based 2D- 3D software.

INTERNET REFERENCE LINKS: -FULL 3D CGI production for WW II. documentary films


14. Shane Neill

Q: Compare the "impact" of Heart of the World with Un Chien Andalou. How are they different/the same?

A: An affect is a non-conscious experience of intensity; it is a moment of unformed and unstructured potential (Shouse).

By examining the conveyance of affect, one can judge the intended ‘impact’ of a film on an audience. Because an affect is prepersonal, the messy array of audience emotions and feelings about a film need not enter the discussion. Wherever one lies on the spectrum from squeamish to oculophile, the affect of the eye-slitting scene in Un Chien Andalou is the same: to disconcert.

The overall affect of Un Chien Andalou is one of the surreal. Surrealism is the juxtaposition of an exceptional occurrence or something unbelievable in an otherwise established or conventional setting. A surreal affect therefore is one of unsettling, displacement, or vertigo.  “Whereas an Expressionist film ... would manipulate the mise-en-scene to create a visibly stylistic manifestation of the feeling to be expressed, Surrealism depends upon the believability of most key elements in the frame to highlight the element that doesn’t quite fit into the picture” (Goto). This not-fitting-in undermines the understanding of the surreal element’s setting and creates a pause or break in the development of the narrative. Because an audience will attempt to construe a narrative out of almost any sequence of occurrences, narrative must be continually subverted. The original surreal element must either resonate over the changes in frame, or successive frames must employ new instances of surreal elements. Through dislocating, unexpected and unexplained shifts in time, place, character and direction of action, Un Chien Andalou is an accretion of fragments. Nonetheless, even with the undermining of narrative, the film holds together as a singular cohesive work. Between disjunctive scenes, there is a continuation of at least one element. In an unexpected shift in location or time, at least one character’s presence is maintained. In an unexpected shift in character, the location is maintained.

Most frequently, the surreal element is revealed by what Deleuze coins an “affection image,” a close-up frame that conveys a disconcerting transmutation. Like the film’s eye-slitting scene, further mutations of the human form like the sudden appearance of the armpit hair on the man’s mouth, the couple buried in sand, the severed hand on the street, the ants crawling out of the hole in the man’s hand, are all revealed by the affection image. This perspective of affection image is intended to place the viewer in a first-person point-of-view thus the transfer of the affect’s potential is direct. The juxtaposition of the viewer with the close-up affection image eliminates competing figures and occurrences so that the affect’s transfer is unhindered. Of the the most powerful surreal instances of the film, only a few are revealed by what Deluze calls “action images,” those where the movement of bodies disturbs the environment. The most notable action image of the film is where the man pulls the pianos laden with rotting donkey corpses. Interestingly, this action image is alternated with affection images of the woman’s horrified reaction as she is cornered by the advancing cacophony.  

Whereas Un Chien Andalou seeks to undermine the formation of narrative, the overall affect of The Heart of the World is one of gestalt. It is a [parody of an] Expressionist film that montages rapid gestural frames that exploit the affect potential of the mise-en-scene. Whereas the surreal mise-en-scene are largely ordinary, The Heart of the World relies on the reading of the tone, materiality, and deployment of mise-en-scene that reach back to early futuristic industrial German and Soviet Era science fiction. Extremes of angle and pan are juxtaposed in split second action shots where the movement of bodies about the objects of the scene transfer a blurring sense of frantic agitation. For example, the orgy crowd, once they’ve been calmed by the Jesus brother, squeeze together and jump up and down in a wide angle frame shot from above amongst industrial props to create a sense of teaming. This is juxtaposed with low-angle close up shots of the crowd’s feet when scurrying frantically. The build up, extreme brevity ,and rapidity of the frames creates a powerful gestalt. In terms of Deluze’s framework, there is an unconventionality about Maden's use of affection images. Rather than showing still closeups of emotive faces as is typical of affection images, the closeups often focus on action; feet scurrying, hands flailing, the tussle of clothes, shaking props, etc.

Ultimately, these two films portray the power latent at the extremes of amassing and dismantling narrative.

Goto, Taro. “Reality and Paradox in Un Chien Andalou.” UC Berkeley - Film 151, Spring 1998.
Shouse, Eric. "Feeling, Emotion, Affect." M/C Journal 8.6 (2005). 05 Oct. 2011


15. Ketul Shah

Q: Some of the early avant garde films experiment with animation. In what way might animation be considered an "effect" or "special effect"?



16. Jamie Usas

Q: In looking at the various Avant Garde films, a significant amount of of simple abstraction and use of extreme close ups was used. How does this differ from Man with the Movie Camera which was not really classed as one of this genre? Can you identify aspects of what was once considered Avant Garde that is now fairly mainstream in terms of the present use of f/x?

A: Man with the Movie Camera employs the use of extreme close ups for emphasis.  Vertov’s magnified images add a dramatic valence to the editing of the sequence, much like an exclamation point punctuates the end of a sentence.  A sequence of a woman disrobing is punctuated by a close up of her hand unstrapping her bra, leading the viewer through a linear sequence of events. While effective in it’s own right, the use of close ups in the Man with the Movie Camera is at times limited to a generally literal interpretation.  A frame filled with the criss-crossing of telephone operator cables, while visually interesting, suggests an interpretation inherent in the visual construction of the image itself; an iamge of “complexity”.  This can be contrasted against the early Avant Garde cinema; typically using the extreme close-up as a way of abstracting an image into near obscurity, allowing for a less rational and more phenomenal interpretation of an image.  An object, viewed through extreme magnification is removed from its context and interpreted as a flow or movement beyond the signified object.  This use of abstracted objects through close-up images, first established by the Avant Garde, has been adapted as a convention of the modern “title sequence”.  Many contemporary films employ these same methods of abstraction to add a level of “artistry” to an otherwise structured, linear and conventionally styled film.


17. Maryam Abedini Rad

Q: Comment on the use of "simple f/x that take the ordinary into the extraordinary". Speak to the avante garde films as well as Man with the Movie Camera to explain how this is done and whether or not you feel it is effective.

A: Experimental film or experimental cinema is a type of cinema and this kind of film is an artistic practice relieving both of visual arts and cinema. Its origins can be found in European avant-garde movements of the twenties. Experimental cinema has built its history through the texts of theoreticians like P. Adams Sitney (and others film critics in different countries), and its distribution process through non profit organizations like The Film-Makers' Cooperative in New York, and similar cooperatives in many others countries through the world.
The most famous experimental film is generally considered to be Luis Buñuel and Salvador Dalí's Un chien andalou (1929). Hans Richter's animated shorts, Oskar Fischinger's abstract films, and Len Lye's GPO films would be excellent examples of more abstract European avant-garde films.

"Man with a Movie Camera "is also an experimental silent documentary film (1929), with no story and no actors and it is directed by Russian director Dziga Vertov.

This film is famous for the range of cinematic techniques Vertov invents, deploys or develops, such as double exposurefast motionslow motionfreeze framesjump cutssplit screensDutch angles, extreme close-upstracking shots, footage played backwards, stop motion animations and a self-reflexive style.

This movie is showing the inhabitants through the eye of a movie camera. Its actors are the machines and people of the city photographed in all sorts of situations with the camera following all of their movements.

"Man With a Movie Camera" was an effort to show the breadth and precision of the camera's recording ability, and similar films were produced in a few other European countries. The film is a succession of images supposedly showing the audience what the camera eye is seeing. Vertov's brother, Mikhail Kaufman, is the cameraman, and at times another movie camera follows "Man with a Movie Camera" on the street and in other places. In one sequence some women in a cab notice the cameraman smirk and gesture at the camera as they ride through the streets of Moscow.

In fact, it is a vital document of a time and place - a day in the life of Moscow. Running for six reels without a single intertitle, the film visualizes the ordinary, from passengers racing through the streets in horse drawn carriages and factory workers, to the extraordinary, like a dramatic representation of childbirth and a visible corpse in a funeral procession, wedding registration or divorce, tears and smiles.

In order to use the cinematic apparatus to full advantage, Vertov experimented wildly with his camera, strapping it to motorcycles and to trains, using multiple exposure, time lapse photography, still imagery, dissolves, superimposition, and making the camera an obvious participant in what is being filmed. It can be called "Purposeless Camera".
Images recorded from real life, but especially his use of montage/editing to turn fragments of celluloid into meaningful duration. The Man with a Movie Camera shows Vertov in love with the power of film to control and compose realities. For the spectator, the experience of viewing film is conditioned by the fact that we watch a single flat screen for a continuous period of time. This is the film object's necessary, inevitable singularity of space and time.

Shots of the inside of the cinema, which frequently recur, similarly draw our attention to the fact that we are watching a movie. In addition to the scenes of the prologue in which the cinema was readied for entertainment, Vertov uses several shots of the projector's light beam cutting through the dark auditorium and audience reaction shots. In particular, there is an interesting sequence consisting of five shots, jumping from a view of an audience in a cinema to Kaufman readying a tele-lens cameragun. Here there is an eyeline-matching cut to three planes flying in formation across the sky, back to the cameraman, only to jump back to the cinema where the just filmed planes now magically swoop across the screen. Vertov's use of these cuts is remarkable for the elegance of the motion and the economy of means with which he both fools the audience and draws attention to artifice.

They break through the smooth coherence of the world represented by the film, the "external" world of social and industrial activity in the city, of humans and machines that is ticking along from dawn to dust, from awakening to work, to leisure. On the level of diegesis they represent an interruption because they are necessarily outside the time and space of the film's story. Independently of our knowledge that the whole film is assembled out of scenes that come from different cities and seasons and depict unrelated events, the main part of the film defines a single diegetic continuum, it tells the story of an ordinary day in the life of a city.

I personally think every single frame of the film isa effective when we follow camera`s movements and see what the camera eye is seeing. In fact, we are changing our perspective and let the camera be the eyes of ours! And we sometime see the camera to believe this story. Generally speaking, the filmmaker tried to show an ordinary routine of life of a city, from early morning until the night, and make the viewers see these events (from another perspective) as an extraordinary by the eye of camera which moves in the private and public spaces, birth or death situation, wedding or divorce conditions and etc...during the film. The most amazing part is the very last scene that the diaphragm closes to feel the end of the film and figure out this was just an amazing film!



18. Taleyah Hamidya

Q: Comment on Fritz's oration that begins with "Pointing a camera is like pointing a weapon". Is the camera itself a device that precludes the capturing of "reality"?

A: Once a person picks up a camera, an intention is implied in signifying a subject. The act of filming, whether it’s to tell a documentary or a build a fantasy, applies a new meaning to the existing.  The act of shooting a film does not preclude the “reality” per se in an eliminating manner implied by shooting a weapon, but it rather forms a whole new meaning for what is known as “reality”. In Heideggerian hermeneutics the relationship between the communicated medium and the receiver is defined in a reciprocal circle, one that involves the evolution of “reality”. A person inscribes what he or she thinks is real, but it alters immediately as the audience receives it. This process of mutation, from text to context, is also applicable to the relationship of the camera to what it is shooting.  By act of signifying one thing through shooting a film, very similar to processes of language, one is inevitably including certain meaning and excluding others. What was known once as the reality is challenged and ultimately and inevitably changed into something else by the act of being received (perceived) by the camera and the audience.

Film is a language liberal on its take and representation of “reality” and is a constant experiment and interplay between what is a culturally and socially regarded as real in one moment with what is imaginary. It has the power to produce new “reality” by virtue of story telling.  Things that might seem unbending reality, concrete and everlasting, can change into a dream and a blip of fantasy by the way depicted in a film. It is this extreme power of film in altering reality has made it an influential medium in propaganda and advertising. Things most frivolous, detergents or insurance, can indeed gain such heightened significance as to define the objectives and values of a family and murder other “real” values.



updated 08-Dec-2011 11:17 AM

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