"Ray Bradbury once called Fritz Lang's seminal science fiction classic Metropolis a silly film."- Brenner,Paul. (2008).Film Critic.Metropolis
However, while watching it, one can clearly discern it's quality from the other films of it's time. Or as Nev Pierce would say, "It's dazzling"- Pierce, Nev. (2003). BBC Films Review. Metropolis (1927)
|Fig.1 Metropolis Film Poster|
The plot circles around a society that is divided into two divisions of the luxurious corporate class and the working class labourers.
The sets of the underground city of workers that house the labourers are massive with intricate detailing of the labrynthine Metropolis, which reviewer Pierce, describes as "...a credible image of hell, while the overground landscapes were a seminal influence on all subsequent science fiction." - Pierce, Nev. (2003). BBC Films Review. Metropolis (1927)
Mr. Fredersen, who is the owner of a massive company by the name of Babel. The headquarters of which is located in a tower called (funnily enough) The Tower of Babel. Fredersen is the commander, so to speak, of all the workers in the underground city. This scenario does put one in mind of the movie Tron(1982) where the owner of the company Keycom who is called Dillinger, uses his employees to run a virtual realm also known as The Grid.
|Fig 2. The City of Managers|
Since this movie is part of the silent era of film, it contained many frames with descriptive text. Many with rather fascinating onomatopoeia. The graphics were very apt for the sound that they portrayed.
There were at least six different fonts used (as opposed to the singular style found in The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari).
Freder, The son of Fredersen, is brought up without having to work for a single penny. While enjoying himself in a garden one day, he is interrupted by a woman who has with her, the children from the underground city. She is dismissed from the premises but Freder becomes infatuated with her and goes to look for her. When he reaches the workers' city, he is devastated by the condition in which they live. He witnesses the explosion of a machine known as the M-Machine as it kills the workers working within and around it.
The life of the workers puts the viewer in mind of the movie Equilibrium (2002) where their actions are monotonous and their existence is for a singular purpose.
Freder then finds the woman, who is considered a saint by the workers as she assures them that their savior will come for them very soon. Her teaching is 'The Mediator between the head and hands must be the heart!'
Meanwhile, Freder's father, Mr. Fredersen, spies on his son and learns of his affection for the girl in the city. He consults an ex-comrade by the name of Rotwang, to create a robotic double of the girl so that he may use her to convince the workers not to rebel.
Rotwang fashions a droid who holds a striking resemblance to C3PO from the Star Wars trilogies and the Cybermen of old from Doctor Who.
|Fig3. Hel(left) and Rotwang(right)|
Rotwang then kidnaps the girl (whose name is Maria) and uses her to transfer her features onto the robot. All this takes place while the she is still able to live. Hence, there are two Marias. The droid has heavily painted eyes which makes it easier to identify the two.
The evil Maria is called Hel, as the woman that Rotwang was in love with was known by that name. She left Rotwang for Mr. Fredersen and died at childbirth after giving birth to Freder.
Rotwang disobeys Mr. Fredersen's orders and configures Hel to rouse the workers into rebellion.
As she guides the workers through their fury, Hel's body contorts to portray her emotion and character to the audience. It is so distinctly similar to Gru from Despicable Me due to the hand gestures and the highly hunched back.As reviewer Simon Abrams rightly states, "Metropolis is arguably the pinnacle of Weimar-era cinema's tendency to visually abstract characters' mindscapes to the point where the human condition is so supra-humanly romantic that it's barely human at all." -Abrams, Simon. (2010). Slant Magazine. Metropolic
|Fig 4. Hel with her dramatic eyes.|
All the rebellion is carried out by the adults of the underground city, which means that the children are left in their houses. The adults, in a fit of rage, destroy the Heart Machine which causes the entire city to flood. Only after it is too late that they realize that their children are most likely dead. Due to this, they blame their actions on Hel and burn her at the stake, claiming her to be a witch. As she burns, she transforms back into a metallic robot and the crown is left wondering where the real Maria is.
Meanwhile, Maria and Freder rescue the children and are chased by Rotwang who is finally killed (as is the fate of all villains in movies)
This entire plot also reminds the viewer of the book City of Ember written by Jeanne DuPrau, where the protagonists live in an underground city in a post apocalyptic age and search for a way to escape.
|Fig 5. Maria as she attempts to rescue the workers' children|
In the end (the precursor to every spoiler) Freder is the heart that joins the head (Mr. Fredersen) and Hands (the workers).
With music, graphics, sets, concepts, costumes and props that were far ahead of their time, Metropolis is an entertainer for all eras and should be watched at least once in every human's lifetime.
Pierce, Nev. (2003). BBC Films Review. Metropolis (1927) Available online at: http://www.bbc.co.uk/films/2003/01/06/metropolis_1927_review.shtml (Accessed 26th October 2011)
Abrams, Simon. (2010). Slant Magazine. Metropolic Available online at http://www.slantmagazine.com/film/review/metropolis/4809 (Accessed 26th October 2011)
Brenner,Paul. (2008).Film Critic.Metropolis Available online at http://www.filmcritic.com/reviews/1927/metropolis/
Coffin, Pierre. (2010). Despicable Me.
DuPrau, Jean.(2003).City of Ember.London.Corgi Publications.
Wiene,Robert.(1920).The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari
Figure 1: Lang,Fritz.(1927).Metropolis Available online at http://www.kino.com/metropolis/ (Accessed 26th October 2011)
Figure 2: Lang,Fritz.(1927).Metropolis Available online at http://j-entonline.com/blu-ray-dvd-reviews/dvd-reviews-film-tv/metropolis-restored-authorized-edition-a-j-ent-dvd-review/(Accessed 26th October 2011)
Figure 3: Lang,Fritz. (1927). Metropolis Available online at http://tix.adelaidefilmfestival.org/session3.asp?sn=Metropolis%2C+Live+Score+by+the+New+Pollutants (Accessed 26th October 2011)
Figure 4: Lang, Fritz. (1927).Metropolis Available online at http://cinefantastiqueonline.com/2010/05/the-making-of-metropolis-actress-brigitte-helm/ (Accessed 26th October 2011)
Figure5: Lang,Fritz.(1927).Metropolis Available online at http://www.slantmagazine.com/film/review/metropolis/4809 (Accessed 26th October 2011)