Tuesday, 6 October 2015

Film Review: Metropolis (1927)

Fig 1: Metropolis Poster 1927
Metropolis (1927) is a futuristic distopia sci-fi movie directed by Fritz Lang. One of the first science- fiction and disaster movie of its kind. Metropolis dealt with issues of classism, showing a massive devide of the party lives of the rich to the hard working lives of the poor with its moral being that the Head (the Master) and the Hands (the Workers) do not work when the Heart (Love) fails. The film used a miniture set for the city, which has a mix style of both futuristic and art deco, and with the clever use of mirrors they were able to reflect the actors onto the set for big scenes set in the city roads. The editting in the film is much more apparent when compared to the likes of The Cabinet of Dr Caligari where the camera was mostly in a still mid shot, presented in a stage play like way. In Metropolis however there are more dynamic shots used, close ups, trakking, establishing and many more. This gave the film a much more theatrical feel and it shows a great improvement in cinematography over the course of 7-8 years.
"The film's futurism is still breathtaking, from its Art Deco titles to the neon spiral in Rotwang's lab: this is surely must be the first film to imagine people communicating by video screen."- Jonathan Romney from the Independant

The film is set in 2026 and focuses on Freder, the son of the master of Metropolis, Joh Fredersen, falling in love with a worker girl called Maria, who was showing children the ways of the rich before being forced to go back underground. He then follows her down into the worker class area below Metropolis into one of the machine rooms that power the city and witnesses a terrible accident of one of the workers collapsing from exaugion, leading to the deaths and injures of many. Freder then hallucinates the machine turning into a giant mouth, eating the poor workers in a sacrificial manner. The man then storms into his fathers office to question him about the goings on of the city and the poor standards for the worker below.

Fig 2: Still of a scene from Metropolis despicting Rotwang and the robot Hel/Maria

Through out the film, there are Biblical references that corrolate to the story, such as the Tower of Babel relating to the way Metropolis is a magnificiant city built on forced labour and suffering. As well as the tower, the Whore of Babylon is heavily reference in the actions and portrayal of the "evil" Maria, and so is Death himself and the Seven Deadly Sins in the Church towards the end of the film. The comparisons between the bible references to the story of Metropolis, helps in ellaborating on the plot and the meanings behind some of the characters actions, such as the "evil" Maria and the structure of the city and its history as well.

Due to lost footage over the years, the full 153 minute film of Metropolis has not been seen outside of its first audiances back in 1927. However due to findings of lost footage over the years the diced down 87 minute version gained over 30 minutes of additional footage over the course of 4 years of work with the lost footage. This helped on elaborating on sub-plots and secondary characters and their motives even if there still had to be frames of text explaining the still missing scenes.
"There are still some sections missing, but new intertitles sum them up, and a 65-piece orchestra fills in the original Gottfried Huppertz score on the soundtrack. It took the German restorers four years to ready this print using dupe negatives and old prints found in archives around the world. Their work speaks for itself. Each frame of this classic is drop-dead stunning, the more so now that the movie no longer hiccups its way across the screen."-Jami Bernard from The New York Daily News.
Overall, Metropolis is one of the first sci-fi films and one of the greatest in the sense of scale and crativity used for the minitures, set design and the design of the robot. In fact, her design is reference by the character C3PO from Star Wars and it was one of the main factors of his actor, Anthony Daniels, in taking up the role. As well as this, even though the pacing of the film is slow for the majority of the film, the way its filmed gives the scenes more off an impact, especially the action packed long shots towards the end of the film with the mob chaing Maria and the way the miniture of the city gives of a sense of being compact but vast is still very amazing to see, even when movies of the modern era depend more on CGI to achieve the same effect.

"Its scenes bristle with cinematic imagination, with hordes of men and women and astounding stage settings. It is hardly a film to be judged by its narrative, for despite the fantastic nature of the story, it is, on the whole, unconvincing, lacking in suspense and at times extravagantly theatric."- Mordant Hall from The New York Times.

fig 1: https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Metropolis_(1927_film)
fig 2 and Johnathan Romney: 
Jami Bernard: 
Mordant Hall: http://www.nytimes.com/movie/review?res=9A05E2D8143BE13ABC4F53DFB566838C639EDE

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