Art

Washing Dishes is What We are Left With

“If writing a script is the cooking side of filmmaking and shooting is the eating, editing must be equal to washing dishes.”

Story by Max Power - max.power@citizenbrooklyn.com Photos by photo Dziga Vertov
photo © Dziga Vertov

Experimental Film photo © Dziga Vertov

Once interrogated on his film practice, a famous Hollywood director stated: “If writing a script is the cooking side of filmmaking and shooting is the eating, editing must be equal to washing dishes.” This is the classic attitude towards editing in Hollywood films, where editing has to be as transparent as possible; an invisible technique that has, in its magic, the ability to disappear.

photo © Dziga Vertov

Non-Narrative photo © Dziga Vertov

In the history of editing, it has not always been like this. In 1929, Dziga Vertov, a genius of the Russian film school, defined a new form of montage that was dismantling the Hollywood construction, opening the film experience to new interpretative horizons.

photo © Dziga Vertov

“The Man With The Movie Camera” photo © Dziga Vertov

Dziga went out in the early morning with his movie camera. He started stumbling around the city, stealing real life shots: a drunken man smiling while passing out, trains passing by, beautiful girls drinking beer in bars, weapons, machines and so on; an archive of footage that didn’t make any linear/narrative sense. Some scenes were fictionalized, others where driven by curiosity as though the eye of the camera was held by a curious kid.

photo © Dziga Vertov

“The Man With The Movie Camera” photo © Dziga Vertov

Then he got home at night. He was destroyed and drunk. He left all the film rolls on the table and went to bed. The morning after, around noon, he woke up and breakfast was ready in the kitchen: coffee and a masterpiece. While he was sleeping, Svilova, his wife, talented editor and chef, decided to edit the film herself using her husband’s footage, some random found-footage and a couple of eggs. The final result was a masterpiece that forever changed how we can relate to moving images.

photo © Dziga Vertov

“The Man With The Movie Camera” photo © Dziga Vertov

For Dziga, the montage became the vehicle of his poetry. Films became real adventures. Like a poet, Vertov wasn’t confined by the limitation of traditional grammar rules when writing and editing. He was free to experiment with new forms of cinema. He was a dreamer and through playing with his footage and his wife’s editing, he introduced a huge range of cinematic effects for the first time in cinema history, such as double exposure, fast motion, slow motion, freeze frames, jump cuts, split screens, extreme close ups, tracking shots, footage played backwards, stop motion animation and a self-reflexive style.

photo © Dziga Vertov

“The Man With The Movie” Cameraphoto © Dziga Vertov

Today, based on new forms of visual communication on the web, we see how ahead of its time the work was. Working with moving images, whether you are an artist, filmmaker or just a social networking freak, you have to face the problem of how to organize, reorganize and communicate your visual production. New formats, new devices and new paradigms.

photo © Dziga Vertov

“The Man With The Movie Camera” photo © Dziga Vertov

It also brings about questions of authorship. Is the film masterfully shot, or just masterfully edited? If the real strength of the film is in the arrangement of images, maybe the editor is more of a director/author then the shooter. Maybe it is her name that should be historically relevant.

photo © Dziga Vertov

Soviet Cinema photo © Dziga Vertov

With this short story, I wanted to build a bridge between Vertov’s experience and today’s new art cinema formats that are growing on the web. Choose the way you want to tell stories yourself, but be sure you have the right wife!

See the full film “The Man With The Movie Camera”.

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