Tuesday, 30 September 2014

Fritz Lang's 'Metropolis' (1927)

Fig 1. Metropolis Poster

Set in a vast futuristic city Metropolis is a classic film which shows many sci-fi elements we see in films today. As Ed Halter notes in his review “Lang's impossibly vast skyscraper-ziggurats (inspired, it's said, by his first view of the Manhattan skyline) are the blueprint for nearly every science-fiction movie city of the past 30 years” (Halter, 2007). However underneath the beautiful city that is Metropolis is another city in which workers operate machines in order to give power to the city above. The people who live above the surface don’t know much about the people below and that includes the son of the city's mastermind, Freder. When Freder is in the city's garden he comes across Maria a girl from the workers city below. He follows Maria into the workers city and becomes interested in the workers there. 

 Fig 2. Metropolis buildings
Fig 3. Metropolis street

The sets and special effects, though outdated, don’t let the film down and has clearly led the way for films that have followed it. As Matt Prigge says in his article “Metropolis has always felt and looked visionary, with its pioneering effects and prophetic, influential urban design” (Prigge, 2010). The city of Metropolis looks like it has an art deco influence, it’s geometrically pleasing and gives the impression of extravagance. As you can see from the two stills above every detail has been considered, from the moving cars to the background buildings. 

Fig 4. Workers City

Interestingly the workers city, though it follows the a similar style, is plainer in comparison. It’s somewhat grungy and dim and shows that the people below are not living in as great condition as the people above. The film deals with Marxist and political issues, clearly showing the divide between the working class and the upper class. When the film was made Germany was struggling after it’s loss of world war one and many Germans were poor and working class citizens and this could well be a contributor as to why the film was made. Roger Ebert commented on the workers in the film saying that “What they're doing makes no logical sense, but visually the connection is obvious: They are controlled like hands on a clock.”  (Ebert, 1998). 

Metropolis marks a milestone in film history being a film already ahead of it’s time. 

Illustration list 

Lang, F. (1927) Figure 1. Metropolis poster http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/9/94/Metropolis_poster.jpeg (Accessed on 30/09/14)

Lang, F. (1927) Figure 2. Metropolis buildings http://spfilmjournal.files.wordpress.com/2013/06/screen-shot-2013-06-24-at-am-12-42-37.png (Accessed on the 30/09/14)

Lang, F (1927) Figure 3. Metropolis street http://spfilmjournal.files.wordpress.com/2013/06/screen-shot-2013-06-24-at-am-12-42-33.png (Accessed on the 30/09/14)

Lang, F (1927) Figure 4. Workers city http://3.bp.blogspot.com/_PB-O1yT5EYg/TNX8xnqR7VI/AAAAAAABIZA/dddGvoYyukg/s1600/10_metropolis_workers.jpg (Accessed on the 30/09/14)


Ebert, R. (1998) http://www.rogerebert.com/reviews/great-movie-metropolis-1927 (Accessed on the 30/09/14)

Halter, E (2007) http://www.villagevoice.com/2007-07-10/film/back-to-the-future/ (Accessed on the 30/09/14)

Prigge, M. (2010) http://www.philadelphiaweekly.com/screen/capsules/Metropolis.html (Accessed on the 30/09/14)

1 comment:

  1. Another very thoughtful review Kayliegh; it's good to see you putting the production in context of what was happening in Germany at the time :)

    The review reads so much better, now that you are introducing your quotes - well done!