BFI Recommends: Man with a Movie Camera

A projectionist recommends: the stunningly inventive and self-analysing Soviet classic Man with a Movie Camera, chosen by Alexa Raisbeck.

Alexa Raisbeck

Man with a Movie Camera (1929)

Man with a Movie Camera (1929)

As a film projectionist my movie preferences have always gravitated towards form over content. I prefer a film that explores and challenges its medium (in this case celluloid) and its own creation or existence. The ways in which Man with a Movie Camera display this are numerous, and at several intervals the film manages to document itself being edited and even exhibited. I love these scenes and particularly the back and forth between the cinematic image and its version in structural form.

That being said, the film is much more than its self-reflexivity – on display are some of the first editing techniques and effects ever used in cinema, which would later shape the history of our visual culture and cinematic language. It is silent (the musical track was carefully composed and added later), but without speech or even title cards there is a rhythm, a flow of movement that carries the viewer from start to finish through everyday Soviet scenes.

It’s part experiment, part documentary, with active filmic inquiry and yet a passivity that allows for playfulness and light-hearted viewing. If you haven’t seen it – do. I can guarantee you’re in for a cinematic treat.

Alexa Raisbeck
Technical Supervisor

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