Michael Nyman and his band return to the Royal Festival Hall on 17 May, performing live scores to two fascinating films that contrast the light and dark sides of Soviet life in the 1920s and 30s. Man with a Movie Camera (1929) is an upbeat celebration of the impact of machinery and film technology in ordinary lives. Directed by Dziga Vertov, the film documents the full spectrum of 1929 Soviet urban life with dazzling inventiveness. The avant-garde film heralded the last grasp of artistic freedom before Stalin's crackdown and is particularly notable for its radical and witty editing, wild juxtapositions and multiple exposures. The film is accompanied by the UK premiere of Michael Nyman’s score.
The Commissar Vanishes, Nyman’s collaboration with filmmaker Chris Kondek and journalist David King, explores the enforced participation of Soviet Citizen’s in the obliteration of ‘discredited’ artists, politicians and others, from personal photographs and books. Commissioned by the Barbican and Warwick Arts Centre and premiered in 1999, Commissar Vanishes is based on original photographs from the 1930s uncovered by David King in the Soviet Union. The multi-video film chillingly portrays how Stalin sought to advance his own political careers, driving ordinary citizens to censor their personal collections of photographs and records by hand, thereby attempting to erase memories of his victims and create a new, censored history.