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The story is about a young rich kid without a care in the world who becomes concerned about the way that society (Metropolis) was run by his father, John Frederson, the master of Metropolis. He lives in a Pleasure Garden' high above the level of the workers', and he worries about what would happen if the huge number of workers were to turn against his father, given the terrible conditions under which they live and work. Some of the best scenes in the film take place in the underground mines, showing the workers portrayed as little more than components on a gigantic, sinister looking machine. The scene where the machine overheated even contained some impressive stunts, as well as interesting cinematography as the machine transforms into a giant devil-looking monster. After countless workers are consumed by it (no wonder this was Hitler's favorite film), they are immediately replaced by other workers, who go right to the same spots that the previous men left and resume their robotic movements. If some of these scenes, men can be seen being carried away on stretchers after having been injured, and the rest of the workers keep right on working, hardly even noticing.
The way that the workers are portrayed as lifeless machines is one of the more potent elements of this film, as well as the most revealing about the directors intentions. When his son complains about the tragic things that go on in the mines, Frederson replies that such accidents are unavoidable, but his son still insists that they deserve credit for building the city. This is the kind of content that foreshadows some serious mutiny, and at the same time it shows what may very well happen when large groups of people feel mistreated. `Never underestimate the power of stupid people in large groups' is a saying that doesn't necessarily only apply to stupid people, as Metropolis suggests. Fritz Lang brilliantly portrays this very complex story with extremely limited dialogue, and the result is still compelling today. The special effects in this film are decades ahead of its time it even resembles The Fifth Element in many ways (except that the two films can hardly be compared) and the acting and especially the elaborately created sets are stunning to say the least. An excellent film, Metropolis is one of the few that should never be forgotten.
"Metropolis" is a fantastic futuristic view of the fight of classes. When "Metropolis" was shot, it was a romantic revolutionary period of mankind history, with socialist movements around the world. Fritz Lang directed and wrote the screenplay of this masterpiece certainly inspired in this historical moment and defending a position of agreement and understanding between both sides, showing that they need each other. I wonder how this great director was able to produce such special effects in 1927, with very primitive cameras and equipment. The city of Metropolis is visibly inspired in New York. The performance of Brigitte Helm is stunning in her double role, and this movie is mandatory for any person that says that like cinema as an art. My vote is ten.
Title (Brazil): "Metropolis"
I don't think any movie after this one have gotten so much out of the available effects of the time as this one. Nowadays they have super computers generating special effects. Sure they look good, but it's no big deal making them. Back in 1926 computers weren't even invented yet, all effects had to be done by hand or in simple editing. And when you take a look at all the thins that have been done in this movie, it's impossible not to get impressed. Huge buildings, explosions, flooding, picture phones (however did he come up with the very idea?), transformation sequences, robots and so on. No movie has ever pulled the limits of special effects as much as this one. Star Wars and Jurassic Park are also known as limit pullers in special effects, but they don't even come close.
Then you have the filming. Everything is perfect. The use of body language is tremendous, the light setting perfect, everything well timed and perfectly captured by the camera. I've never been witness to such a treat in filming other places.
And the story!!! Perfect in every detail. Intriguing, exciting and thrilling with lots of religious undertones and tyranic leaders. No wonder Hitler liked this movie...
I don't know how the original music of the film was, but the new music for the restored 139 minute version I saw was really good and moodseting.
All in all. This is one of the most perfect movies of all time, and it deserves anything it can get. Never has a 10/10 been as secure as for this movie...
Although written by Fritz Lang's wife Thea von Harbou, 'Metropolis' was originally Lang's idea: he was inspired by the sight of New York's skyscrapers when he sailed to America in 1925. During his American trip, he visited the set of 'The Phantom of the Opera' and met Lon Chaney! Too bad the encounter wasn't filmed.
Despite its epic power, 'Metropolis' makes very little sense. The two major male characters are a father and son named Freder and Fredersen, so why is the one named Freder*sen* the father (not son) of the one cried Freder? Why does the master of Metropolis deliberately connive to destroy the city that he built? Why is Rotwang's crude little cottage the only pre-Fredersen building that wasn't demolished during the construction of this city? (Von Harbou's very long and unwieldy novelisation of her script establishes this fact but never explains it.) How and why did Rotwang's high-tech laboratory manage to get constructed BENEATH that cottage without disturbing it?
For modern viewers, some of the plot's incoherence can be blamed on missing footage, particularly in American prints. The distributors for this film's original Stateside release commissioned playwright Channing Pollock to translate the German titles. A major subplot of the backstory features a deceased woman named Hel, who was married to Rotwang but left him to marry Fredersen and give birth to Freder. This unseen woman's name could not easily be changed for the American version, due to a couple of shots of her memorial, engraved with the Teutonic name HEL. Apparently, Pollock feared that American viewers would be offended by this word's similarity to 'Hell', so he simply excised the entire subplot from this long movie.
The real-life drama on the set of 'Metropolis' must've been quite interesting in itself. Mad scientist Rotwang (alias Doctor Strangeglove) is played by actor Rudolf Klein-Rogge, who had been married to scenarist von Harbou before she left him to marry Fritz Lang, the mastermind of this film. In 'Metropolis', Rotwang's wife left him to marry the master of Metropolis. I'd love to know how Klein-Rogge felt about the fact that his real-life marital (and sexual) situation was the inspiration for key plot elements of this movie ... and I wonder how Klein-Rogge felt about knowing that the entire cast and crew knew this as well.
Most astonishing about this gargantuan production is the fact that nearly all of 'Metropolis' was actually built to scale, with just a couple of miniatures.
Trivia tidbit: actress Brigitte Helm was cast in the dual female role largely because she was flat-chested, and therefore she could easily fit inside the mechanical suit for the Robotrix. A more busty actress would have suffered constant discomfort inside those galvanised bosoms of the metal costume. I learnt this more than 20 years ago from an eldery Austrian stagehand who worked on the film.
For all its flaws, 'Metropolis' will always be my favourite movie. I've enjoyed writing all these reviews for IMDb. The joy of posting my reviews on this site has brought me many friendships and a few enemies. Well, you can't win 'em all.
Nitrate film stock doesn't last forever, and all good things come to a happy ending. This is my last review here. I'll keep watching movies, but other passions are important to me as well. Thank you, IMDb, and thank you to everyone who has read my reviews. I will happily rate 'Metropolis' a full 10 out of 10.
H.G.Wells criticised the film for its adherence to arty image over scientific rigour, and as a piece of coherent science fiction it's certainly as lacking as he claimed. The machines exist to appear awesome and to torment their workers rather than to perform any apparent task, and there is no explanation of how this society functions, how it evolved or how it is sustained, let alone of the incongruities that must surely lie behind such anomalous locations as the catacombs and the cathedral. But Wells' own futuristic film, "Things to Come", conceived in direct riposte to Lang's 'unscientific' approach, is tedious and talky as a result, didactic in its heavy-footed philosophy and explanations, and lacking in artistic vision: "Metropolis" may be 'soft' SF, but its approach undoubtedly makes for better cinema.
I am not, however, impressed by it as a film. Masterpiece of Modernism it may be -- but great design and special effects can't save today's big-budget clunkers from deficiencies of character and plot, and they don't save this one. Ironically, I suspect that its reputation has benefited greatly from its being the only silent film many of its viewers have ever encountered: reading through the IMDb pages, I see well-meaning comments like "Great -- when you consider how primitive cinema was in 1927" and "once you get used to the fact that it takes about ten gestures to convey one sentence..." It wasn't -- and it doesn't!
As silent films go, this is in many places agonizingly slow and repetitious, marred by clumsy acting, tendentious titles and overwrought gestures. By the late 1920s, cinema had progressed far beyond this laboured pantomime: in Lang's case the heavy stylisation may have been a deliberate choice, but compared to the fluidity of contemporaries such as Sjostrom's "The Wind" or "The Scarlet Letter", Asquith's "Underground" or "Shooting Stars", and Murnau's "Sunrise", the film comes across as ten years behind the times. The problem is not necessarily with the actors -- Brigitte Helm, as has been observed, does an excellent job in differentiating her two characters -- but with the direction and pacing.
We saw the restored version with the original Gottfried Huppertz score; the latter didn't always seem to fit too well, with pops, jumps and awkward silences, but this was I assume due either to the difficulty of fitting it to allow for the missing material, or to problems in the projection booth when running a newly-arrived print for the first time. However, the painstaking summary of the various 'missing scenes' only ended up increasing my appreciation of what a good job had been done in the editing-down in the first place! To take a single example: where the edited version conveys Freder's sudden recollection that he is supposed to be the workers' long-awaited 'mediator' via the simple juxtaposition of three shots -- the shift-change whistle announcing the meeting, the catacombs and Freder suddenly struck by an idea and rushing off -- the restoration betrays the fact that a couple of scenes of mimed dialogue were originally provided to spell out the message at painstaking length...
It is interesting to see how it was done, but most of the cuts are either an improvement or a very clever abridgement, and by and large I didn't feel that what was omitted had been any great loss. In fact, frankly I felt that the film was in need of further editing at certain points, such as Rotwang's pursuit of Maria through the catacombs. She screams, and runs, and screams, and runs, and is pursued by a searchlight effect; it's clever, self-consciously clever, the first couple of times, but the repetition becomes tedious to the point of caricature. Plot infelicities abound in increasing numbers, culminating in the infamous 'Hunchback of Notre Dame'-style ending where the mad scientist carries off the girl across the roof of the cathedral hotly pursued by Our Hero, which raised giggles, in a hitherto serious and respectful audience, with which I couldn't help but sympathise.
This is a film to see once in a lifetime so that you can say that you have seen it -- not least because most of the impact lies in the visuals. But it's all surface and no substance: the characters act arbitrarily, the plot is subservient to the Message, the pacing is like treacle, the story-telling technique is primitive, and really all it has going for it is the visual flair and the special effects. I quite honestly believe that this work would be better appreciated as a set of stills in a glossy brochure; an exhibit in a design exhibition. This is not cinema as I love it -- it's innovative, it may be Art, but as an actual film it's only a poor shadow.
Amid this rabble, worker Maria (Brigitte Helm) is the inspirational voice of the workers, offering hope for a brighter future by a mediator yet to appear. However the Master of Metropolis John Frederson (Alfred Abel) sees in her a way to quell the underlying frustration of the workers, commissioning his scientist Rotwang to create a robot Maria to plant discord among the workers. Rotwang's laboratory would have done Frankenstein proud, and the creation of the robot is a marvel of cinematic imagery. The robot Maria's "belly dance" transforms into a scene of such raw energy and sexual awareness that it awakens the statues of the Seven Deadly Sins, one of the master strokes of this expressionist film.
So much imagery in fact is layered into "Metropolis" that it's safe to say that repeat viewings will lead to even more interpretations of it's vision, and not simply for it's denunciation of a class society. Both timely and timeless, the film captures a dynamism that inspires passion even after nearly eighty years following it's original release.
Metropolis is a film that was far ahead of it's time. It influenced a great lot of science-fiction films, and how The Blade Runner, Batman or Dark City would look like if there wasn't Metropolis - who knows. Even The Matrix Reloaded is heavily inspired by this classic that is as old as my grandmother.
Now what is it all about? About Freder, the son of the head of the city of Metropolis, a Christ-like figure who falls in love with the preacher of the working class, a saintlike woman who happens to be named Maria. When a robot who is modeled to look like Maria makes the workers almost extinguish their city and their children, Maria and Freder save the children, and in the end Freder makes his father and the workers cooperate for a brighter future.
Sounds silly to you? Yes, and that's exactly what the story is: silly. That's also the reason why, still today, Metropolis isn't accepted as the masterpiece it is by a few film buffs. But these people don't understand one thing: A good film does more than only tell a story. A film can be great even without a story at all, and a silly story combined with amazing visuals can make you forget all the other weaknesses a film has.
And wow, what amazing images Metropolis offers. What an art direction! What wonderful special effects! And remember, as I already said, this film is as old as my grandmother! Just have a look at the workers. They hardly ever seem to be individuals. In the mass scenes they look like one big creature moving forward or backwards. When they are working they look more like machines than like human beings, whereas the machines resemble monsters more than they do technical devices (best seen in the moments when Freder hallucinates and sees the big machine as a worker-eating Moloch). We also see a worker (and later, Freder) work on a machine that looks like a clock with 100 blinking light bulbs, doing some that looks as exhausting as it looks senseless. Or think of Rotwang, the mad inventor who lives in a little hut that looks in this film like it was from another world. He has a black prosthesis for his right hand (it's not a coincidence that Stanley Kubrick gave his mad scientist/inventor Dr. Strangelove a prosthesis for his right hand, too). He builds the robot that he makes to look like Maria, and that transformation scene is one of the most magnificent scenes ever and looks more convincing than some scenes of modern sci-fi flicks.
I also have to mention Brigitte Helm, who plays Maria and the robot - and the look in her eyes would already be enough to tell which of her characters is on screen at the moment. If something like awards already would have been given in the 1920s, she sure would have walked home with quite a bunch of them. And just look at her sexy dance! It is just as memorable as the shot of the many eyes watching her dance - or the many faces watching her preach just a few minutes later.
Metropolis is a film no sci-fi-fan should miss. I had the good luck that my first viewing of Metropolis one year ago was in a cinema (when it was a re-released after its restoration). I can only recommend you to watch it in a cinema if you have the possibility to, as Metropolis is, just as 2001 - A Space Odyssey one of those rare films that are masterpieces on your TV set, but a revelation on the big screen.
From small details - the traffic jams and blackouts that plague city dwellers - to major historical events - the climactic flood predicts every industrial disaster that has destroyed the lives of thousands of workers, from Chernobyl to the Bhopal disaster, whilst Fredersen's vision of workers being fed to Moloch can't help but bring to mind the holocaust - 'Metropolis' feels prescient in any number of ways. In the image of the Manhattan skyline, Lang really did find the perfect symbol of the coming century - progressive, new, faceless, oppressive.
This is far from the simple Marxist fable it is often taken for - although the Socialist message can hardly be ignored. It's also a Christian parable (Maria, flanked by crosses, is counterbalanced by the Machine, brought to life under a pentagram) informed by the book of Revelation; a retelling of the Orpheus myth, with Freder as Orpheus and Maria as Eurydice, lost in the underworld; and a Kafkaesque nightmare of depersonalisation (although the Gothic, expressionistic production design is a long way from Kafka's more sterile style).
It's also, lest we forget, a silly adventure-melodrama, with a mad scientist, an evil twin, a bad father with a noble son and an impossibly virtuous, idealised heroine. In many ways, it anticipates 'Star Wars' in dressing up mythic standards with Science Fiction tropes - with Fredersen as the misguided King, Freder as the handsome Prince, Maria the good-hearted peasant's daughter, Rotwang as a scheming sorcerer and the Machine as the wicked witch, appropriately burnt at the stake by the 'villagers'.
The Machine-'Man' (a confusing name for a construction so obviously feminine) is the single most indelible image of the film; the scene in which Rotwang brings her to life for the first time is a real moment of magic and awe, untarnished by eighty subsequent years of cinematic showmanship. Even better is the scene in which she becomes a duplicate of Maria - such an obvious influence on James Whale's 'Frankenstein' that it's hard not to shout out 'It's alive!'. The optical effects are years ahead of their time, certainly the best of their kind until the sixties (at least). It also marks the beginning of Brigitte Helm's truly extraordinary turn as the false Maria.
This is only the third silent film I've seen (after 'Nosferatu' and 'The Cabinet of Dr Caligari'), and it's taken me a while to acclimatise to the acting style, which can seem close to parody. What it really reminds me of, however, is modern dance, which similarly seeks to communicate with the audience visually, rather than verbally. 'Metropolis' encourages this comparison, with the highly choreographed movements of the workers operating the machinery. Bearing this in mind, Helm is hugely impressive in multiple roles. Maria could be a rather dull and virtuous heroine (she enters the film surrounded by poor children in rags) but Helm invests her with enormous energy and expressiveness. It helps that the script allows her to take an unusually proactive role for a female character, organising workers' meetings and racing to the rescue of the endangered children. However, it is her performance as bad Maria, vamping up a storm, that lingers in the memory - the twitching, jerking movements of her head and body, the Anne Robinson style half-wink that changes the shape of her face, that malicious little grin that makes it hard not to root for her mischief. The entirely weird 'erotic dance' that she performs isn't technically very good (or erotic), but it is utterly unforgettable. Subtextually, she's the Whore of Babylon.
The other performances are mainly very good, particularly Alfred Abel as Fredersen, proving that it is possible to underplay in a silent film. Only Rudolf Klein-Rogge hits any wrong notes - difficult as it undoubtedly must be to play a mad scientist in a silent film with subtlety, some of his more unrestrained gesticulations leave you worried about the safety of the other actors.
Ultimately though, it all inevitably comes back to the imagery. Lang's film remains unmatched even today. Pick a scene, any scene - the synchronised, shuffling crowds at the shift change; our first sighting of the Metropolis, all biplanes, skyscrapers and suspended motorways; the vision of Moloch; the Machine-Man awakening; Maria, pursued along a pitch-black tunnel by a beam of light; the statue of Death coming to life in the Cathedral; disembodied eyes, entranced by the twitching false Maria; the crowds swarming up the steps in the 'Tower of Babel' section; the lifts crashing down, one by one; desperate children crowding around Maria as the flood-waters close in; and, most of all, false Maria, laughing as she burns on her pyre, then transforming back to her metal visage. No film, before or since, matches this for spectacle. And if, in order to appreciate it, you have to swallow a little treacle about the heart being the mediator between head and hands... well, trust me, it's worth it.
'Metropolis' has gone down in history as one of the most influential films ever made, certainly one of the most studied silent films and yet the movie sort of languishes. After its success in 1927 the film has had an uneasy time. It's pedigree as a silent film turns off the usual science fiction audience and it is sort of a footnote in the history of the genre. One restored version after another has tried to reconstruct the film as best it could because some of the footage of the film has been lost through neglect and silly studio censoring. Some of the restorations work but most do not so we sometimes wonder what an experience this must have been like in 1927. Unless a lost version surfaces (as it did with the recently uncovered print of Valentino's 1922 film 'Beyond the Rocks') the complete work my never be seen again. The restored version released on DVD in 2001 was based on a digital restoration at 2K resolution from all available sources. It's the best version that I've seen and I would highly recommend that one if you haven't seen the film. The worst is a 1994 print put out by GoodTimes video which contains not an ounce of restoration, the film in grainy and difficult to see, it doesn't even have a soundtrack. I call that one the worst because I'm still a little ambivalent about the 1984 restored version by Georgio Moroder with color tinting (good), sound effects (not so good) and a soundtrack that includes songs by Loverboy, Freddy Mercury, Bonnie Tyler, Adam Ant and Pat Benatar (yuck!).
Those who study the film (myself included) find the story impenetrable. Some films you can easily decipher but 'Metropolis' has a plot that is so maddeningly erratic that it's hard to pin it down as a whole. Many conceded that as a fault but I think it adds to the film's chaotic nature. It takes place in the future (restored versions offer title cards that suggest that it's the year 2000 but I don't go by that) in an overcrowded city with immense skyscrapers (the Gothic, sometimes grotesque architecture suggests that the buildings were constructed in a hurry). The rich in Metropolis are content with their lives, dancing in their penthouses and spending their money. The poor work as slaves beneath the city like cogs in a machine. Lang choreographs the scenes in the subterranean levels magnificently so that the workers are never out of step. They don't so much work as toil under oppression like Ramses' slaves building his pyramids. The rich and poor of Metropolis are ignorant of one another. One person that isn't ignorant of the class division is Joh Fredersen a ruthless businessman who rules Metropolis from his office.
His son Freder happily enjoys the Pleasure Gardens one day when he notices a woman rising from the underground caves with a group of the worker's children. Curious, he follows her to the depths and is aghast at the tyranny in motion there. The woman is Maria, a revolutionary who holds sermons to remind the workers that a peaceful resolution can and must be found.
Freder uncovers a plot by Rotwang, the mad scientist to create a robotic version of Maria to convince the workers to rise up and take arms. This leads to the film's most famous scene when the robot becomes flesh and blood and the false prophet opens her eyes to reveal two dead sparkling orbs. Rotwang kidnaps the real Maria and sends the false one to convince the workers to rise up and then taunt the rich men and drive them into a sexual frenzy.
Then all Hell breaks loose, but the rest I must leave to you to discover.
Lang based the film on the book written by his wife Thea Von Harbou. In the book the story is about a chaotic as the film (and therefore less successful), the difference is that Lang has the visuals to suggest the chaos where the book did not. He uses every technical tool at his disposal to visualize the Hell of the subterranean machine run by the workers. At one point Freder, disguised as a worker, witnesses one of the huge machines explode and visualizes it as a horrendous monster swallowing workers by the dozen. Another suggests an odd device, a giant dial in which the worker is made to keep the arms in the same place as the light bulbs go on and off around it's edge. The machine doesn't seem to have any purpose until Freder imagines it as a giant clock and tries to pull the arms forward to end the merciless day.
The film is one of the pinnacles of German Expressionism, astonishing in its use of light and shadow. One of the best examples is the scene in which Rotwang pursues the real Maria through the caves using only a beam of light to strike terror as he closes in. Another brilliant moment comes with Maria's erotic dance as the men gawk, the camera filled with their moist eyes. This scene was completely removed after the initial release and not restored until home video.
Other moments have deeper resonance. There is something unsettling about the hundreds of workers toiling in the underground caves. Walking to work they march with their heads down, dressed in uniforms and caps. It reminded me of the Jews being led into the Nazi Death Camps. There is a buried foreshadowing of Hitler. More obvious are Lang's biblical references. The rise of the city parallels Maria's retelling of the story of the Tower of Babel. The giant pentagram in Rotwang's lab as he plays God. The breathtaking image of the plague-bringer who comes wielding an obscene scythe. The very heaven and hell nature of Metropolis itself. There is even a Christ-like quality in Maria who gives her sermons and reinforces that indeed blessed are the peacemakers.
These elements and images are brought to the film because of Lang's insistence on no less then absolute perfection. He was known as a sometimes cruel taskmaster, working his cast and crew like a dictator. He cast some 20,000 extras (1500 of them for the Tower of Babel sequence alone) and worked them from morning till night. The water which covered the set for the climactic flood was ice cold. Many of the extras were soaked through from morning till night. Actress Brigette Helm was nearly killed several times, once by a fall and another by the fact that the bonfire scene was real! Helm was so rattled by her experience working with Lang that she thereafter refused to make another film with him.
I could go on and on, this film all great films invite lengthy discussions. It can be seen in at least a hundred different ways, as a foreshadowing of fascism or the tyranny of communism or just capitalism boiling over. But when you get down to it the best way to view 'Metropolis' is not as a film to pick apart but simply as a film of it's time, Lang created the story of a world gone mad while the world around him was going mad.
I have seen the German 147 minutes version of the movie, without subtitles. Yes it's a long watch but it's worth every second of it. Basically only reason why the movie is so long is because they need about ten hand gestures to speak one sentence. It's kind of dreadful to look at first but once you're used to it, it shouldn't trouble you anymore.
In many ways this movie can be regarded as the "Blade Runner" of the '20's. "Metropolis" is set in a futuristic world that has a same kind of atmosphere as in "Blade Runner". The mix of '20's cars and propeller-planes with futuristic machines, highways, buildings and androids is very unusual but an absolutely awesome thing to look at. The movie was ahead of its time and in some ways also prophetic.
The story is absolutely the best thing of the movie. Also the way the story is told and directed by Fritz Lang deserves credit. The story is tense and has quite some symbolism, layers and storyline's but remains always easy to follow. The ending is truly spectacular and tense. The way how spectacular and tense the ending and the entire movie in general was, really surprised me in a positive way.
The sets are obviously fake and miniatures at times but they still manage to convince and impress. Further more the movie is filled with some fantastic and very convincing early special effects.
Man who also deserves credit is Alfred Abel. Wow, what a great actor he was in this movie.
An absolute must see and one of the best movies of all time.
Metropolis is one of the most exciting and exceptional works of art that humankind has produced. This epic science fiction film is one of Germany's famous silent movies created by Fritz Lang and liberated in 1927, the period between the two World Wars.
This movie represents the expressionist cinema and shows us the repression of human needs by the machine age. Lang's creation of a self-destructive society is a protest against the machine age. Metropolis is one of the most magnificent cities of 2026, is kept 'alive' by the unceasing work of the underground people who live in slavery and is enjoyed by wealthy and educated people.
The Austrian director of the movie, Fritz Lang, presents the story of a master, John Federsen, who sees people as machines working constantly to maintain the luxury and technology of his metropolis. On the other side, his son Freder falls in love with one of the underground workers who is a spiritual leader for the slaves. The son recognizes the unsentimental heart of his father and starts a revolution. The city gets flooded and Maria (Freder's love) regains the workers' trust after a robot had stolen her identity, she finds her loved one after saving the city's children, and the workers shake hands with the master.
Expressionism tries to simplify the world and to understand it emotionally, in a subjective way. It is very important to understand this definition of this dynamic, violent and distorted movement in order to understand that Lang tried to externalize his own internal vision of the world through simple expressions.
The name 'metropolis' comes from the Greeks and means mother-city. It has this significance because a metropolis is the biggest form of a technologically and economically developed city. Nevertheless, referring to the movie name, this film can be considered as the mother city of all cinematic clichés.
In this story, there are two main characters, Maria and Freder. These two characters are also the heroes of the story because they are the ones who rescue the population from being drowned in the flood. John Federson is a person full of empowering feelings who only thinks of himself and of his city, forgetting about the ones who work for him. All the fantasies that he has come true through the power of his workers but he never thinks about the danger they are in while working for him. This man wants so much power that he is almost hypnotized by it; he is obsessed and possessed by the power of inventions and creations.On the other hand, Maria is just a symbol of munificence, her soul is pure and she is seen like an angel who brings peace to the world. Maria convoys the people in a church settling area. She is shown as sanctity, a holy person that is surrounded by the light of the candles. She is positioned higher than the workers who carefully listen to her as she speaks about peace, unity and their salvation by a mediator that will soon come. Her eyes inspire confidence and kindness as she kisses Freder in the church scene. In general, all she does is for the good of humanity. One thing that she repeats in the movie is 'Between the head and hands there must be a heart. ' This means that she realizes the bad things that the head (John Frederson) does and the good things that the hands (workers) do. But she knows that these workers should not be treated poorly or like robots and that, she can be the heart, which can persuade the head and the hands to cooperate to come to common interests. Maria, as her name suggests is also a biblical motif. She explains to the workers the story of the Tower of Babel. The workers in the story destroy this tower, which parallels how the movie will end, with the destruction of the machines by the workforce. Maria is still the representation of Jesus mother because she is trying to save the lives of the underground children. She would sacrifice herself and, alike Mother Mary, she has a strong faith in the creator of the world.
All the scenes of this film are perfectly created at the eye level so that anyone is able to view the action. However, there is also a bird's eye view at the beginning of the movie as the panorama of the city is shown from high above the ground. This view was created to give us an impression of how widely extended and huge Metropolis is. In addition, the focus of the dramatic camera angles with bold shadows is on the disproportioned landscape as well as on the right-angled buildings. There are moments in which the camera focuses on fast movement scenes like the dancing of the robot in the nightclub and scenes where it focuses on slow movement like in the beginning of the film where the 'slaves' are shown going into the working area at a certain pace and aligned as robots. When more people are involved in a scene, like the one in which all the children are surrounding Maria as she rings the danger bell, the angles are vertical, triangular, but when only one person is focused, there is a close-up to allow us to read that character's expressions and feelings. A good example would be the close-ups on the master Fredersons' eyes as he asks his secretary why his son was allowed to go underground and as well after that scene when he is thinking in order to suggest this dictator's meditation and frustration. Another important aspect of the camera and of Expressionism that I have remarked was the scene in which the mad scientist tries to run away from Freder and kidnaps Maria. He is walking up on the roof of a sharp-angled building holding Maria under his arm as if nothing would happen. The same scene was notable in Robert Wiene's film The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari as Cesare walks up on the roof with the kidnapped fiancé and the city crowd follows him.
Time also is significant in the film because the clock keeps showing up in the most important scenes. Time is evident in Fredersons' office as his son challenges him to have mercy for the people as well as he is talking to his secretary. Still only, a small portion of the clock is shown in these shots and it means the time in which the master can think what decisions to take. On the other hand, a gigantic clock is shown as Freder finds an exhausted worker trying to turn a wall-clock. Freder understands the struggle of this man and replaces him. There is where he finds out that at 2 pm Maria will have a meeting.
But all that we have seen in this movie is not only made to show us the great importance of this silent SF film that can keep the watcher alive by its impressive music and can inspire contemporary movies like Matrix , but for its great historical importance. Fritz Lang expressed a social life in this movie as well as a political one. After WWI, when Germany had lost a war, people's lives were a disaster. Everyone was disoriented and could not keep up with the tragedy that was going on, and maybe there were some influences of the great anti-Semitism that was supposed to follow. But Germany was a great disaster as well and there was nothing it could have done to prevent it because many troubles kept adding up over the years and this country had to be defeated morally and politically as well as economically. Even if Germany's wish of reconstruction was as utopic as Fredersen's wish of a technological city, the postwar inflation had a big contribution on cinemas development.
The film is visually stunning. Monumental sets, brilliantly directed scenes, amazing special effects (by the standards of the time). In fact, I might say that I was more enthralled by the visual effects of this movie than I was by say, Lord of the Rings or Avatar. Whereas Cameron and Jackson used CGI to make their visions come true; Lang had to use camera trickery, paint, and wood.
This movie no doubt set the lexicon for the Sci-Fi and blockbuster genre in stone. The images of Metropolis have been repeated in innumerable movies. The scene of the underground city being flooded has curious similarities to James Cameron's Titanic. Even the villainous Rotwang can be seen in the characters, Dr. Strangelove and Doc Brown from Back to the Future.
But then there's the story. And the dialogue. And the acting (which is overwrought, even by the standards of the time. But I don't have enough room to go into that.)
Starting with the opening line: "Look---These are your brothers," a violent cringe would run through my body every time the intertitles would appear.
The later line about the head and hands needing the heart as mediator caused a huge outburst of laughter in the theater. This serves as the basis for the moral of the story, which was eerily similar to "How the Grinch Stole Christmas". Essentially, it can boiled down to this: Somebody (according to writer, Thea von Harbou's later beliefs, this turned out to be Adolf Hitler) needs to appeal to the hearts of capitalist managers and tell them to be nice to their workers. The outcome is a grudging handshake between the head manager, Joh Frederson, and the leader of the workers, Grot; and thus begins a shining new day!
"Metropolis" also incorporates religious symbolism which is, to say the very least, heavy-handed. Scenes of the Seven Deadly Sins, The Tower of Babel, an altar to Moloch, and the Flood all warn of doom to decadent societies that exploit the weak and kill the righteous.
In the end, this muddled mixture of Socialist calls for justice, and Christian Apocalypticism creates a political message that Lang himself described as "silly."
I recommend this film for its artistic brilliance and groundbreaking techniques. But don't go into this expecting an award quality film.
If you want to get into silent film, this is a relatively easy one to get start with. However, I don't know if that's a good or a bad thing. I've met too many people who've said that Metropolis was the best silent movie they've ever seen; which probably means that it was the only one that they ever bothered to watch. I would recommend "Sunrise" or "City Lights" as a first over this.
Kino's digitally remastered version on DVD is very impressive. The sound and picture quality are both excellent. However, I have to conclude that favorable reviews of this film are likely based on nostalgia, on the film's influence on future films, and on the incredible visual effects, given its year of release. Film history buffs and silent film fans should see this movie. I thought this was a good film, but not a great one. A rating of 8.3 is much too high, and at #93, there are plenty of better films ranked below it.
First, the good parts of the film: 1) The special effects are excellent for a pre-1930s film. 2) The mindlessness of the working class is portrayed well in how they work, the decisions they make, and in how easily they are led/misled. 3) The main character is well developed throughout the film, and the audience can relate to him well. 4) The film is visually stunning and impressive. 5) The story of the working class, vision of the future, "machine-men," etc. have had a very strong influence on many films which came later.
On the other hand, here is a list of what could have been done better: 1) Many scenes dragged on too long and were tedious. I can't imagine it being any longer than it already was. 2) The differences between the thinking class and the working class were not clear; both seemed to be pretty mindless. 3) The themes and ideas in the film have been explored better in other productions. 4) The set design and special effects are not as good as they are in the 1936 film, Things to Come. 5) Things to Come also has a far more interesting and creative vision of the future. 6) Joh Fredersen is not well developed, and his motives and decisions seem illogical for the leader of the "thinking" class. 7) There is no explanation for how the spiritual and motivational leader of the working class became so intelligent, capable, and/or competent. More background on Maria would have helped develop her character, and improved the film.
In its defense, it could be that I was not as impressed by this film simply because so many films which came after it have copied, borrowed, stolen, or re-worked ideas that appeared here first. Metropolis certainly was a trend-setter. Like I said before, I don't think this is a bad film. It's simply overrated, and I've seen plenty of films that are better but are rated lower.
The set designs in here are also something that might draw your attention. This really has a futuristic look. I thought the visuals were fascinating. This was "German expressionist" filmwork at its height, I would think. Director Fritz Lang went on to become a very famous man in his profession. This wasn't his first effort but, I think this might have been the film that put him "on the map," so to speak. Several years later, he gained a lot more fame with "M." At any rate, with the photography, sets and overall Flash Gordon-type sci-fi look, this must have been a real eye-opener to movies viewers 80 years ago. I still think they look very cool today. The music was also very dramatic, at least in this restored 5.1 surround sound restoration DVD, put out by Klino.
Obviously, the eye makeup on men and the exaggerated motions by actors in silent films look a little hokey but I was mesmerized by Brigitte Helm, who plays "Maria" and her evil clone. She is something else! I also appreciated Klino's explanation of lost footage and how they did the best they could do to still make the story flow together. They did an outstanding job. I wouldn't attempt to watch this on anything less than this DVD, which looks pretty darn good.
This is a "worker" story about a man wanting to trade his comfortable life to join the oppressed workers, who do their thing beneath the earth in "Metropolis." Workers are seen as nothing but replaceable robots. If someone gets hurt, they get carted away and replaced immediately but some other zombie-like human. Of course, people being mistreated can only take it for so long before rebellion. That's history, from the days of the Jewish slaves in Egypt to today, so that's part of this story, too. I won't say more to ruin it.
I don't want to mislead people on one major point: today's audiences watching this. Few people in 2008 watch silent movies. To ask them to sit through two hours of a silent film is, obviously, asking a lot. I had to break this up into several viewings, myself, but that's okay. I still enjoyed it.....but it a silent movie this long is not easy to sit through. You have to be a student of film, or a big film buff, to watch this....but those people will be rewarded. Over 250 reviews in here show you this film has enough to offer, or at least take a look. Now that this restored version is available, check it out!
He reports this to his father who is disappointed his son was the first to report it over his assistant, Josepha (Theodor Loos), and his assistant is quickly fired. This does an immediate job of showing the coldness of Joh but they never do much else with his character. In fact, very little of the characters are developed in anyway. Most of them are completely uninteresting and the setting itself is compelling at first but quickly loses anything interesting halfway through the film as the film moves at a snail pace. Anyways, the main aspect of the plot here is that the workers are led by Maria to stop this feud between the rich and the poor with nonviolence and the eventual arrival of a mediator to make it happen.
My real issue is that the film starts with such a great idea and had potential to become something like 1984 (I'm aware it came out afterwords (and that it's a novel), but still, just an example) but it instead becomes filled with strange religious allusions and becomes a witch hunt essentially by the end. They never really do any decent social commentary at all. If any at all. This wouldn't matter if the film was actually entertaining, but it only is in spurts and then quickly becomes a repetitive bore.
I do think the special effects were impressive and this film is obviously important for being the first full length science fiction film well, ever. That doesn't mean it holds up because it doesn't. In fact, it'd be hard for me to believe the film was entertaining in 1927. I still wonder if I had watched the shorter version of the film how much more I would've enjoyed the film. It certainly would've have been paced better considering so much of this film is unbelievably uninteresting. But, I don't think that changes the fact that this movie doesn't really do anything. It isn't entertaining. It doesn't really have a message. What is this movie? I guess, good special effects for 1927? Whatever. I'm glad I gave this classic a chance, but I highly doubt I'll revisit it anytime soon.
Although I loved the previous movies referred to, I thought this was one of the most dull movies ever. As entertainment this movie can't go very far. On a scale rating it's abilities to entertain, it gets a 2/10 from me.
As a milestone in the history of movies, it goes all the way to the top. The special effects were great to have been made almost 80 years ago. The editing was great. It must have been one of the most expensive movie made to that date. On the scale of how important a chapter in the cinematic history this is, I will rate it a 10/10.
That means a total 6/10. This also means that you should rather check out really good silents like Chaplin's Modern Times, Eisenstein's The Battleship Potemkin and Murnau's Nosferatu.
At the core of the story, Lang and his collaborator Thea von Harbou, the sides of good vs. evil, or at least the complete lack of understanding of the powerful over the weak, is set up so strongly that even when it has it's fairy-tale type of heaviness to it, it doesn't seem to feel compromised in strength or relevance for adults. This is the kind of film that should work for anyone, young and old, as it deals with universal themes (i.e. "The mediator between Head and Hands must be the Heart!")
The story leaves room for the visual style to come through- Freder is the son of a kind of Imperial man over the workers who die for the machines of Metropolis, Joh Frederson. He feels the sorrow and pain of the people, and goes down to their level to be one of them. He falls in love with the most compassionate and angelic of women, Maria (played by the beautiful Brigitte Helm, in multiple roles she plays without a fault), who succumbs to capture after the jealously of Freder's father. Enter the robot, a marvel of a mad scientist, who gets transposed from Maria, and becomes the havoc-wrecker of the part of Metropolis. I won't reveal too much of the story, except to mention that as a foreshadowing for Freder for the last act, as he wakes up in one scene the Book of Revelations sits in his lap.
Amidst in all of this, Metropolis is a masterpiece of visual effects, camera-tricks, and of course editing (if I wouldn't quite rank Metropolis in my all-time top ten favorites, I would rank it in terms of the editing and pacing Lang uses, which is apparent even in a permanently truncated version). It starts off with the image of the machine transposed over steam, and then soon moves to a vision of a city that was not far off from how it is in present day (cars moving on roads built to the sky, airplanes flying every-which way, and mammoth skyscrapers built in extravagant ways. But it's not just the use of the models, or the sets, or the backdrops, or even the use of space and atmosphere in most of Lang's shots (which are all spectacular), it's also the use of light that really caught my attention throughout the film. One thing I remember still days after seeing the film is the use of one spotlight on the character of Maria in a suspense scene (it also appears in other scenes I think). It's little things like that which make as big an impact as the montages, the super-impositions of faces and eyes in the dream-like shots.
And, of course, Lang's greatest innovation with the film is that in telling a futuristic story, he goes beyond his time period in stylizing. As I mentioned with the pacing being unique, it was surprising (though maybe not as much from seeing his classic M) that many of the suspense sequences, mob scenes/riots, chases, I knew that this is the same kind of styling that's used today for many of the most modern of science-fiction/action films. In its own way, much like Stanley Kubrick's 2001 Space Oddysey, it breaks the mold of conventional forms of storytelling, while not completely abandoning the storytelling form.
Although Metropolis has a checkered history of being cut down by countries, and it hasn't been seen in its full form in almost eighty years, what remains doesn't seem at all dated or crude. Quite the opposite, its visual expressiveness, its use of time and character and action, and its deliberate pacing, makes it ahead of its time and influential, and at the same time keeping itself unique. It's a tale we're all familiar with, being the tale of love and compassion coming into play in an industrial, cruel world- which I'm sure was even more relevant to post WW1 Germany at the time- filmed with a mix of over-the-top melodrama, mega-budget set-pieces, and designs that confound the senses. Add the appropriate music, and you've got a classic fantasy. A tremendous film to see two, three, a dozen times over- though some of those too impatient for films without spoken words (or by the operatic dramatic side of it all) may become disappointed or frustrated.
The technical brilliance and visual lavishness of Fritz Lang's oeuvre was always undisputed already at its time and only matched by fellow German Murnau's ingenious approaches on film-making. There's so much and dense imagery that generations of future filmmakers would draw from this newly emerging archetype. Among the unforgettable scenes are the giant heart machine which turns into a moloch in one of the hero's visions, the Babel tower teeming with utopian life, the enormous sets, elevators and masses and masses of enslaved and rebellious people, the staggering creation of the first robot, all set against the dominant dichotomy between - literally - those living above and those dying below. There are echoes of communism here, of nazi ideology, of the dangers and abysses of industrialization, technology, and there are also glimpses of humanity. Not perfect in all its components, the film nevertheless has everything pioneering in it - and more. Fritz Lang, while having some reservations himself referred to the picture as a "signpost for new destinations", and that's exactly what it became now that we can look at the great sci-fi pictures of the past century. In them and through them "Metropolis" still lives, and once we revisit the original again we might yet be surprised that it, miraculously, still points ahead.