Wednesday, 27 October 2010

Film Review: Metropolis

The second film we watched from the ‘World Apart’ film programme was Fritz Lang’s Metropolis which was released in 1927.

Metropolis, a classic german expressionist film and a grandfather of the science fiction genre. Now I personally am a bit skeptical of silent films like this but I found myself really rather enjoying it despite that. 

Metropolis is a depiction of two worlds, both different but exactly the same in many aspects. One 'world' consists of the well off upper class and their luxurious utopian city, whereas the other consists of poorer people in a rundown, filthy city deep below utopia which is almost depicted as a manual labour camp. Peter Bradshaw wrote in his review for the Guardian;

"...there is a perennial frisson in the way the workers' leader Maria longs for a messianic figure who can find a middle way between the head and the heart, the bosses and the workers: he will be the Mediator..."

This is almost a biblical story of a man uniting two 'worlds' that cannot come together on their own. Freder (Gustav Froehlich), the hero, is almost portrayed as the 'Jesus' of the 'Gods' in utopia, sent to save the workers and bring them and the upper class together as one. As Brigitte Helm 'said' in the film bringing hand (the workers) and head (the upper class thinkers) together. Picking up on this point, Ben Walters writing for Time Out London says;

"Building on earlier science fiction and endlessly influential on later works, Lang’s film is a mammoth marvel, fusing modernism and expressionism, art deco and Biblical spectacle, Wagnerian bombast, sentimental Marxism and religiose millenarianism."

What makes this film a real classic isn't so much the story but the settings and environments that are used within it. It is clear they have been carefully thought out and beautifully designed and it makes a great impact on a first time viewer such as myself. In his review for The Independent, Anthony Quinn states; 

"But it's the stupendous design of the film that remains its true glory, whether in the labyrinthine intricacy of the workers' habitat, the monstrous scale of the sets, or the sleek robotic replicant of Brigitte Helm, the heroine's evil twin. Here is the starting-point of so much modern cinema."

Without this film and its carefully thought out settings and designs, I doubt very much that films like Star Wars would ever have existed as Metropolis has made a huge influence in the world of cinema. It is clear that the robotic replica of Brigitte Helm began a trend of humanoid robots used all throughout cinema most notably with that of  C3-PO from Star Wars. The designs are very similar are one can easily make the connection between the two. As for the sets, the size and designs had never before been used and therefore make an even bigger impact on the audience. The scale of the sets combined with the expressionist design provides an element of realism and although this may not have been intended by Lang, it actually detracts from the fact that they are sets and feels like the film is created in an actual utopian city. 

The use of a Mayan sacrificial reference is also a brilliant set idea which helps set the mood of the workers lives, making them appear like sacrifices for the 'gods' above in utopia. In that instance it adds a real depth and tragedy to the rest of the film and is almost a direct representation of slavery and concentrated labour which had stopped only 50 or so years before hand.


tutorphil said...

Hey Michael, just keep on top of your film reviews... otherwise they'll become conscientious as opposed to true reflections of the experience.

Michael said...

Hey Phil, no worries. They're all typed up. I'm just checking and finalising and they'll be on my blog soon! :)

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