Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Metropolis (1927)

Metropolis (1927) directed by Fritz Lang is a very famous and highly influential German science fiction film. It is considered by many to be the first sci-fi film ever made. The movie takes place in a futuristic city (Metropolis), the working classes are forced to work in the under-city running the machines that keep the upper class living comfortable in the over-city. The son of the cities mastermind falls in love with a working class preacher girl who predicts the coming of a saviour who will bring equality to the city. An evil scientist creates a robot/cyborg that impersonates the preacher in order to insight violent rebellion. 

This movie is amazing, it is almost hard to believe that it was made in the 1920's. Right from the start it draws you in with the powerful music score and a montage of industrial pistons and machinery. It sets the tone and lets you know your about to see something special. Although this is a silent movie you can here some industrial sound effects. these sound effects compliment the music score well. So well in fact they almost become part of the music.

There are lots of optical effects and camera tricks that you wouldn't expect from a 1920's film. There is a POV shot of a hand picking up a ripped part of a dress that is particularly striking. There is also a transformation scene when the robot turns into the preacher girl that looks almost magical.
This is the robot transformation scene from the movie. 

I really loved the miniatures of the city. The attention to detail is breathtaking. There are little cars driving along the high rise motorways and planes flying in-between the buildings. some of the miniature buildings even have smoke coming from the chimneys. These little details gave me a vivid sense of the huge scale of the city. There are also huge impressive full size sets. The best use of these sets are in the scenes in the under-city. We see the workers marched around like enslaved robots operating huge machines until there almost dead. Some of these scenes were incredibly haunting because to me they had a resemblance to scenes of World War 2 concentration camps. Its like a horrible prediction of Germanys future were the reality turned out to be much worse. In fact you could apply that idea to the whole movie. You can see in the architecture of Metropolis a resemblance to modernist architecture which was a big part of fascist ideology.
Here you can see one of the fantastic miniature I have described. The buildings in the background are painted.
The workers of Metropolis changing shift. I have talked about how this to me has a haunting resemblance to images of WW2 concentration camps.

There seems to be a theme about the clash of ideologies. This makes sense because this movie was made at a crossroad in German history after World War 1. During this era there was lots of ideological groups fighting for control of the country. The main ideologies being Fascism and Communism. My interpretation of the movie is that its about the struggle for power between these two ideologies. The cities mastermind could be the fascist dictator, the workers the Communist rebels. And the scientist could be a Stalinist type figure who uses his robot (propaganda machine maybe?) to take advantage of the workers plight to take power for himself. However the movie does not take sides and seems to favore the preacher girl who has no ideology wants a peaceful resolution. Theres lots of different was you could spin this of course but that was may initial theory whilst watching the movie.




  1. Its interesting that you mention its like seeing the concentration camps and the future of Germany, because its rumoured to be one of Adolf Hitlers favourite films =S

  2. I didn't know that :-0. I think maybe he missed the point lol.