Manden med kameraet
”Celovek s Kinoapparatom”, in English: ”The Man with The Movie Camera”, is a movie like no other. At least I have never seen anything like this before.
There is no progressive story, no characters, except for the observer, and no specific drama. Instead it shows us the reality as it is seen by the observer. Reality is here understood as all the small and big things happening in a city over the course of a day as they can be observed with a camera. And that is a lot!
From the quietness of the morning, the homeless waking up on the benches, people going to work, traffic, activity, eating, industry and in the evening entertainment and nightfall. At times it gets so hectic that you can feel the pulse of the city, the sum of all the people living and working there and more, a synergetic effect that makes the city more than its constituent elements.
Usually the observer, us, represented by the cameraman, is hidden from view, but not here. He is very much part of it. This is as much a movie about him, us, watching the city through the lens of the camera (which of course means that there are at least two cameras involved). I am not entirely sure what that is the significance of that except the apparent, that this is a movie about observing as much at the observation itself.
This could all have been awfully dry and arty, but it is not. First of all the pace is very high. We are talking Eisenstein high, music video high. Sometimes I get almost dizzy with all the action around me, especially the parts that emphasize the dynamic pulse of the place. Secondly there is a love for the subjects clearly shown in the way people are portrayed. It is an honest but caring portrayal, not exposing them, but presenting them. He likes this city and the people in it. Thirdly there is a playfulness that at times gets outright funny, like the shots of the cameraman riding a bike while filming, which looks very clumsy indeed. Or in the smelter where the cameraman gets very (too) close to the furnace. He is like the cat that must examine everything, getting really close to a child birth or just following people at high speed.
The soundtrack on my copy was by Michael Nyman and is thus a recent addition. No complaint about that though, it fits the movie perfectly.
Really I have no complaint about “Celovek s Kinoapparatom” except maybe that 80 minutes without an actual story or characters seem a bit too Eisenstein and may be better enjoyed in smaller doses. But in the right mood this movie is exactly right. On both viewings I saw in one go and was not even inclined to splitting it, something I often do with the more difficult silents.
Thank you to the list for introducing me to “The Man with a Movie Camera”.