A RESTORED VERSION OF MAN WITH A MOVIE CAMERA BY DZIGA VERTOV TO OPEN MESSAGE TO MAN 2017
“What we were shown before was not real Vertov, it was but a stump of Vertov.” The festival’s competition programs director Alexey Medvedev will present a restored version of Man with a Movie Camera, which is completely different on many levels, conceptually, ideologically and practically. This re-discovery will open Message to Man 2017.
'А restored version of Man with a Movie Camera is completely different on many levels'. The festival’s competition programs director Alexey Medvedev told us about the new version.
Alexey, so we’ve heard that this year the festival will show a full version of a legendary film by Dziga Vertov Man with a Movie Camera, restored and issued by the Dutch EYE Film Institute?
Yes, this is what we plan to do. Many companies and institutions contributed to the restoration of this film, which was finished in 2014. In 2015 they issued the first blu-ray copy in Europe. But they used the actual film stock copy only for several screenings. So for the first time over dozens of years we’ll be able to watch this outstanding work of Vertov just like the first viewers could have watched it in 1929.
In your profound article in The Art of Cinema you analyze the film’s logic and philosophy. Could you summarize what makes this new version so different? Why is this a sensation?
You can hardly call my article profound. It was just a set of points, a first draft that is yet to become an analysis. When you talk about the differences that are present in this version... It’s a paradox: they’re both huge and barely noticeable. To see them you need to compare shots from the old copies and the restored version. And you will see that copying and re-issuing the film resulted in losing about 30% of the image! And some sections were reversed, most likely due to inattentiveness while fixing film ruptures. Which means that we were shown before was not real Vertov, it was but a stump of Vertov. The restored version is full frame, so nothing is cut, hidden behind black margins, squeezed into any format. And since we used a copy that Vertov gave to the Dutch Filmliga society (formed by an outstanding documentary filmmaker Joris Ivens) in 1931, we can be sure we’re close to the original vision of the director now.
Another difference is in numbering of sections, which does not only serve technical purposes, but also splits the film conceptually, marking the gradual escalation to the new levels of introspection. Man with a Movie Camera is not just about our reality. It’s a film about making, cutting and watching that very film.
And the last thing – once the numbering was restored, it became clear that in most cases the transition between parts happens when a camera is focused on another camera, lens to lens. These ‘short circuits’ of the cinematic narration seem to be particularly important to me.
Do you already know the time, date and place of the screening?
I hope this will be more than a standard screening. I have several thoughts on how we should commemorate the returning of the film to Russia. But I won’t tell anything just not to jinx it. It’s decided though that for one of the screenings we will use 35 mm film copy. By the way, good news for all Soviet cinema lovers, and for those who like Vertov in particular. This autumn a fundamental research Dziga Vertov: Life and Work by John MacKay will be issued in the USA. Perhaps we’ll have the chapter dedicated to Man with a Movie Camera translated and organize a small conference on Vertov.
Do you think Vertov managed to create cinematic discourse that would equal verbal discourse? Are his experiments still considered revolutionary? Why?
I already wrote that in my view an example of a perfect combination of visual discourse and written text, titles, would be A Sixth Part of the World (1926). It might seem unusual, because this was an advertising video, created on request of Gostorg to publicize Soviet export. But the true goal for Vertov was not to prove that visual is no less than verbal, it was to state that visual is independent from verbal. To peel off the verbal shell without removing the core meaning. So that the visual could transfer and develop the meaning. This is a utopian goal, but once he managed to reach it. It was the Man with a Movie Camera. This film is definitely still on the front edge of today’s experimental filmmaking and many other spheres of art. Transferring certain meaning which would not be static, but would be in the process of creation and recognition of itself is an artist’s dream.
How are this year’s pre-festival arrangements? Do you have many applications?
Thousands and thousands. By the way, it’s only three weeks until the deadline, so if any filmmakers are reading this - hurry up! This year we decided to accept three full feature documentaries for the main competition in advance. I can’t tell you which ones yet, but the geographical coverage is pretty broad - they’re from Georgia, the Philippines and the USA. I think in these films we’ve heard the notes that are very true for today’s documentary filmmaking. Let’s see if they will sound in or out of tune!
Published on: May 16, 2017