The Red Screen: Politics, Society, Art in Soviet Cinema

By Anna Lawton | Go to book overview

CHAPTER 4

Cinematic Abstraction as a Means of Conveying Ideological Messages in The Man with the Movie Camera

VLADA PETRIC

As a filmmaker who repeatedly advised his kinoki to "explore the economic structure of society… [in order] to understand the phenomena of life surrounding them", 1 and who insisted that "life-facts" be recorded with a critical, analytical eye, Vertov emphasized that in cinema "truth must be obtained by means of truth alone", 2 But, above all, he contended that "Film-Truth" must be "achieved by cinematic means", 3 through the use of the "Film-Eye" method-"the documentary cinematic decoding of the visible world as well as the world invisible to the unarmed [naked] human eye". 4

The accomplishment of such a complex goal, that is, to expose Truth by genuinely cinematic means that would reflect the hidden socioeconomic contradictions of a given environment-particularly one whose political atmosphere was characterized by rigid party control and Stalinist threats-was doomed to failure. Yet Vertov succeeded in conveying his ideological views despite their being at odds with the official attitude. In his early newsreels Vertov presented direct criticism of specific political conditions through an intrepid disclosure of unpleasant "life-facts", which were often concealed by other media. In his masterpiece, The Man with the Movie Camera, however, he imparted the same ideological points by employing a sophisticated method of cinematic abstraction-namely, the dialectical integration of ideas, concepts and messages through visual signs.

Social criticism in The Man with the Movie Camera can be easily

-90-

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