Essay: Film Discussion Early View of Modern Cities

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Film Discussion Early View of Modern Cities

View of Early Modern Cities Through the Man with the Movie Camera and Modern Times

"And time marches on into the late afternoon," time always seems to pass us by at an incredible speed (Chaplin 1936). The dawn of the twentieth century speed up the rate of advancement for industry and urban growth. This had a tremendous impact on the various societies at the time, as seen in the two films The Man with the Movie Camera and Modern Times. Each film plays on the idea that the growing industrialism is essentially isolating the individual from the social and agricultural roots we all once had ties to, and thus has a seemingly negative viewpoint of the early modern city as dark, dismal, and often hostile.

The film that stands out the most in this analysis is Dziga Vertov's The Man with the Video Camera. Essentially, it is a telling testament of how the early twentieth century was dealing with combining the raw automation of industrialism with traditional connotations in society. The file The Man with a Movie Camera presents a very abstract view of the city, one which many of us would not expect from such an early silent film. It features many harsh, animated objects with no soul or mythical presence that is impacting the modern life of human beings in contemporary cities. The film features very hard lined cinematography that augments its themes of isolation. All the people are sleeping alone. In the beginning of the film, the city is empty. This highlights the idea that urban individuals are on their own within a harsh urban landscape. The empty streets and heavy contrasts make the film incredibly somber and serious, yet still in tune with its abstract nature. Such editing practices exaggerate the shadows and make the image of the early modern city both dark and unforgiving.

Yet still, the film presents themes which are essentially a mix of old and new traditions, showing how the early modern city was a combination of older out dated traditions and more innovative images of a modernized life. Here, the research states that this film presented a context "where images of modern life are juxtaposed to articulate the same narrative of socialist transformation," (Hicks 2007 p 58). Images of old and new happening simultaneously occur throughout the film. It seems as if every scene has elements of both the past and the future, but seems to lack a clear definition of the present. In this idea, this film shows the urban landscape as trying to mediate between an outdated past and a future that has not yet arrived. The film presents horses running alongside trolleys, showing the clear presence of both new and antiquated technologies present in the early modern city. Even more powerful are the images of the automated machines, which dominate much of the powerful scenes of the film. It is clear that there is a modern presence within developing urban landscapes; it is just unfortunate that this presence is an inanimate one. Machines are dominating the presentation of the modern landscape. Yet, there are still older images of more traditional city dwellers. The film shows instances of weddings and divorces on the same day. This represents the idea that the modern city is changing to a degree that will never stop. As soon as more new people and relationships are born within the modern landscape, just as many are taken away. It is an ongoing, vicious, and unbiased cycle that naturally happens in such large populations of people in concentrated areas. Moreover, there is a mix of new technologies and new innovative thinking in terms of artistic expressions. The film shows almost everything as automated. Even the chair seats in the theater fold down themselves. With this automation, everything looks the same. All the buildings and even the baby's cribs all look they were made all together. Nothing is individualized. People living within these modern cities are forced to live cookie cutter lives, where nothing is new or innovative within the context of their personal lives, yet they were living in a time of great technological advancements. The visions of machinery and type writers only increase the sensations of isolation via industrialism. There are many notable examples o this within the film, including the fake doll working at the automated sewing machine. The machines surround the individuals and isolate them which provides a sense of industrialism in a dark connotation. There is the memorable scene where the woman sits sleeping on the bench as the trolleys pass her by. As technology continues to advance, the working class that live within contemporary urban cities are being reduced to mere automated machines themselves.

In this sense, the film does see industrial cities as painful. There is a scene where a man is getting run over by the train as he sits trying to get the perfect shot for film. Essentially, in this element, the film is dissecting human life as it had once stood and thus isolating us beyond repair. The pipe is disposing of pollution into the air, and therefore contaminating the natural environment in the name of technological advance that is not even truly benefiting the people that participate in it. This presents the painful image of the shirtless workers in a mine, where industry and city life is hard fought for but has little benefits for the individuals who fought the hardest for its survival.

Even the artist fights within the context of the new urban environment. The artist as fighting the elements to get a realistic picture of city life and traversing across great distances with no regard for self-worth or needs. The film shows a director who is willing to endanger himself to get the proper shot. Moreover, the film is one of the first to highlight the shooting the cinematographer as he is shooting. It is a statement on the art making itself, and not just the subject of the art alone. Thus, it represents a strange layering of artistic visions, which tends to parallel the experience of living within the urban landscape at the time. There are video recordings of individual shots of the film which provides an intimate viewing of the cinematic process in order to give greater authenticity to its design and process.

Overall, the film presents a changing landscape that is both hostile and lucrative, depending on which ranking one holds within society. The first glances of empty streets are then staunchly contrasted with images of overcrowded ones that cramps the mind. The film climaxes with the sense that too much going on. Births and deaths, weddings and divorces all occur simultaneously. All is happening at the same time, and so individuals within this modern cityscape have little time to adjust to the changes that are taking place right before their eyes. People are coming and going and the mind is being bombarded with all of these events. This then "gives a sense of the bustle of the city and motion towards the future, and the feverish activity of the present which is building it," (Hicks 2007 p 43). This theme is at the very heart of the film itself.

Also, this film highlights the growing social divide which is occurring within the social landscape of the new urban environment. There are extreme differences between rich and poor. There is the luxury of the rich vs. The pain of the poor. The working class works while the upper class gets pampered in salons. The film highlights the monotony of lower class work, as seen in the scene of the telephone operators and cigarette packers. This is juxtaposed with a sense of freedom in nature. The physical elements of the film show that more… [END OF PREVIEW]

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