The film's obsession with the camera and the art of filmmaking is clear throughout the film - the opening shot of the film is a film camera, which then reveals a smaller man with a smaller film camera climbing atop it. The opening sequence, that of an empty theater slowly filling up with people, the seats unfolding as if by magic, brings a great anticipatory magic to the demonstration of film. The hard-working technician poring over his film projector is shown with loving reverence, as is the orchestra pit, with its closeups of instruments echoing the fetishistic shots of the film camera itself. During many of the vignettes, there are just as many shots of cameras and lenses as there are of the things those cameras are capturing. Some of the film's more interesting shots seem to be a showcase of the capabilities of filmmaking, such as the intercutting of a focusing camera lens with the focus-pull shot of a field of flowers. Another shot intersperses the blinking eyes of a woman with window shutters, then cutting to a camera lens, demonstrating all of these examples' ability to stutter vision and create the illusion of motion. In this way, human capabilities are linked to those of the camera, and film is shown to have the capability of capturing anything.
In conclusion, Man with a Movie Camera is a fine example of an avant-garde film that is difficult to evaluate in normal narrative film theory. The film itself is about filmmaking - not through plot, or through characters, but through a demonstration of what film can do and capture. Filmmaking is celebrated as an omnipresent, infinitely capable art that seeks to capture everything from women getting dressed, to childbirth, to men nearly being killed by trains. The film spits in the face of traditional narrative, instead offering a presentational, bold series of scenes created and edited to elicit emotional responses in the viewer. This documentary was ahead of its time, and saw a dramatic departure from narrative film that told a concrete story that could be analyzed. With Man with a Movie Camera, the story that is on display is film and its capabilities - what film can show us.
Vertov, Dziga (dir). Man with a Movie Camera. 1929. Film.