Sunday, February 24, 2008

Fritz Lang's Metropolis (1927) -- Jimmy's Perspective.


Fritz Lang's 1927 classic, Metropolis, is certainly one of the best silent movies I've ever seen. Given the legacy it has created and the number of scholarly articles inspired by it, any review I can give the film will seem inadequate and feeble in comparison with the other fantastic authors who precede me. Despite my ineptitude, I must soldier on to force my worldview on you, the reader, through the wonderful invention of the web log.

For anyone comparing my notes to the film, bear in mind that there are MANY different versions of this film in circulation as it was heavily edited when it was exhibited in the United States. For reference purposes I'm watching the 2002 Kino edition* which seems to be the most complete edition available. If you're from Truman State, it's available in Pickler. All the formalities aside, for the time it was created, this film is surprisingly advanced.

In 1927 many directors were still stuck in the mindset of recording what looked like a stage play. Lang, on the other hand, utilizes close-ups and very advanced editing techniques throughout the film. In addition to those editing techniques the set design and art direction are second to none. The matte work used to the create the city is astounding in quality and the miniatures, though outdated within the world of the film, are rendered well.

We, in the age of CGI, would probably scoff at the special effects out of context but provided that these images were created only 32 years after the creation of motion picture in 1895, they are nothing short of amazing. The visual tricks used to create the exploits within Rotwang's lab are impressive.

Just about everything in the film is good... Just about. Unfortunately, the actors of the time were still stuck in the hyper-emotive early stage style of acting. Anger was expressed through the gnashing of teeth and rending of garments. At one point, Freder, the main character, literally hangs his head and arms Charlie Brown-style to show depression and disappointment. It was a bit much to say the least. Though, I don't begrudge the actors the context they lived in. It was the style. As they say, "everyone was doing it" and it couldn't be helped.

On a bit more meta level, this entire film was Christian allegory with unabashed quotations from the Bible about the Book of Revelations. The Female lead was named Maria and preached from a Cross riddled altar of a "mediator" to act between the "head" that is the administration of the city and the "hands" that are the labor. Continuing with the Christian themes, at one point the statues of Death and the Seven Deadly sins (a great band name for any musicians out there), animate and attack Freder during a psychotic break. Make of it what you will, I'm just saying it is there.

Another area of study within the film is the techno-erotica aspect contained within it. Rotwang creates a machine woman with the intent of transferring the image of his lost love onto it. Many theorists have written on this and have created some very peculiar perspectives, Laurence A. Rickles** being my favorite reading.

In short, if you're a Sci-fi fan or a lover of old classic films, you need to watch Metropolis. It was excellently directed and is a pleasure to watch even 81 years after its creation.


* Metropolis.
Dir. Fritz Lang. Perf. Alfred Abel, Gustav Frohlich, Brigitte Helm. 1927. DVD. Kino, 2002.


** Rickles, Laurence A. "Metropolis, California." ArtUS. 3 (2004): 33- 41.

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