Metropolis is set in the future in which society is divided into two groups: the thinkers and the workers. Freder the son of the leader of Metropolis finds himself visiting ‘the depths’ where the workers are stationed and is introduced to Maria a peaceful leader who spreads the word of a mediator who will join the thinkers and the workers. However after Maria becomes kidnapped she is replaced by a robot with her features who spreads the use of violence in a ploy for her creator to become the leader of Metropolis.
For a 1920’s film Metropolis is a masterpiece the set design is incredible and very inspirational and the plot is even relatable in contemporary times. The differences between the two groups of society are well put together, in which all the tasks that the workers are doing to keep the city running are choreographed and from what we are shown is that much like a machine if one part fails the whole of the system generally fails with it. This choreographed movement of the workers mirrors that of the machines in the sense that it is repetitive, slow and jarred at times removing individuality in which the thinkers seem to have. Kimberly Gadette also looks into the workers movement and writes: ‘Filmmaker Fritz Lang gives us a shockingly prophetic view of armies of downtrodden workers, all clad in the same baggy uniform, their capped heads bent, shuffling in perfect choreography as they descend to the depths of their workaday hell.’ http://www.indiemoviesonline.com/reviews/metropolis-aka-the-complete-metropolis-2010-restored-version-090910
The set design of Metropolis is beautiful, mainly made up of miniatures, it is a genuinely believable Science fiction setting and works so very well. The buildings and technology are so far ahead of the time and linked with the German expressionism which was all the rage at the time in which plots would deal with themes of madness, insanity, betrayal and other themes rather than that of hollywood’s action-adventures or romantic films. Even though this was one of the most expensive films of the time Metropolis used the technique of painted background to create some of the incredible settings which make a much better alternative to proper city scapes and enhance the realism of the portrayal of ‘future’. Dan Jardine makes note of the surreal images on screen by saying: ‘Director Fritz Lang's HG Wells-inspired tale is a surreal and occasionally incomprehensible storyline (though many narrative problems have been solved by rediscovered footage) is sometimes overwhelmed by a visually spectacular exercise in German expressionism. Master cinematographer Karl Freund fills the screen with an array of stylized shadows, oblique camera angles, geometric images, and nightmarish labyrinths.’ http://djardine.blogspot.com/2010/07/metropolis-germany-1927-fritz-lang-set.html
The Machine-man robot is a brilliant spectacle of the film as the actress who also plays Maria nails the movement and jars of a machine brilliantly. The ever lowering eyelid, freakish hip movement and genuinely terrifying smile create a believable performance and adds a slight horror to the character. This design again is an incredible feat for its time and has influenced the character design of C3P0 in George Lucas’ Star Wars series. The machine-man is not the only character to influence cinema through the years, Rotwang’s appearance has become a cliché for that of evil scientists by the gloved hands and such. Sean Axmaker makes a relation to Dr Caligari in comparing the machine-man’s movement and states: ‘Brigitte Helm’s robot incarnation of the fake Maria seems to be channeling John Barrymore’s Mr. Hyde by way of Dr. Caligari and Renfield, all twisted and contorted and gnarled, her face twisted and her body arching and her hands becoming claws in her mania. She stands out by body language and performance alone, a creature not of any human providence.’ http://parallax-view.org/2010/07/25/sfsff-2010-metropolis-restored-and-the-restoration-reconsidered/
In a nutshell Metropolis has now become one of my favourite films and is outstanding in being able to compare to modern day films because of its contemporary style. I have wanted to see this film for a while and it didn’t disappoint, even being in a silent movie format I was still compelled to inhale the spectacle that it is and admire the superb cinematography.