The following is one of the entries from my 100 Greatest Films from the Soviet Union, Russia, Ukraine and Eastern Europe list, which I invite you to visit on this site if you haven’t already done so. — Dennis
As Dziga Vertov, Polish-born Denis Abramovich Kaufman pioneered the newsreel in two series: Kino-Pravda (Cinema Truth, 1922-25); Novostni Dnia (New of the Day, 1944-54, the year of his death). Committed to a cinema of fact, Vertov—with the assistance of his brother, cinematographer Mikhail Kaufman, and his wife, cutter Elisaveta Svilova—created Kino-Eye. Vertov’s aim was to capture the myriad reality of the unfolding Soviet experience.
Largely following “Young Leninists,” an educational troupe of activist children, Kino-Eye cross-identifies, in terms of freshness, wholeness, health and freedom, the following: the Soviet Union; the idealism that guides this revolutionary nation; cinema—cinema, that is, once it is liberated from its theatrical and reactionary origins. Vertov’s work surely was far removed from the Russian heaviness that overtook Soviet cinema as the Soviet Union receded farther from claims to any sort of idealism. Kino-Eye in fact displays delightful camera tricks—for instance, passages of reverse motion that in the process of analyzing various activities and events suggest also sheer possibility and fresh beginnings, but with an ironic hint, too, of determinism. Indeed, no film in creation more seamlessly and unexpectedly darkens in complexion, shifting from being celebratory to exposing the threat to the collective welfare—a threat imaged in grotesque animated silhouette—posed by entrenched individual habits such as excessive drinking of alcohol and tobacco use! For Vertov, his new nation is not a done deal but remains vulnerable, and therefore he urges his audience to see analytically, to grasp causality and their joint responsibility in the Soviet adventure. Vertov wants to open eyes to everything good and everything bad that is happening, and he plans on keeping his own eyes open as well.
Discrediting plot-driven movies, Vertov also exhorted fellow filmmakers to show instead “the chaos of visual phenomena filling the universe.”
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