Thursday, 17 October 2013

Film Review - Metropolis (1927)

Metropolis (1927) is a German silent film that was directed by Fritz Lang. Fritz Lang was active in the world of film making during the German Expressionism era. At the time Metropolis was released it was known to be the most expensive film ever made, due to its futuristic set design and impressive special effects for its time, it is partly because of these reasons that Metropolis was considered to be a ground-breaking film. The big special effects and futuristic atmosphere was something that audiences at the time had never seen before on a big screen. The film takes on a Marxist approach in its story, a story about a revolution of the working class, wanting to rise up and gain class equality with their class superiors. The Marxist movement was fairly contemporary with the release of the film, as the period of Marxism was apparent in the late 19th century.  "Society does not consist of individuals, but expresses the sum of interrelations, the relations in which these individuals stand." - Karl Marx (1858) This quote practically outlines the story behind Metropolis. 

The workers of the film are the heart of the huge bustling city known as Metropolis, they work the machines to keep the flow of the city alive and under control. When the creator of Metropolis's son sets his eyes on the sight of the woman, who is considered a saint in the workers quarters of Metropolis, the son instantly falls in love and sets out to see her again. In doing so he discovers the poor quality of life of the workers and sets out to be one amongst them, in order to help them and in hopes of seeing the woman again, who we discover is named Maria. Meanwhile the sons father hires a spy called the "Thin Man" to keep an eye on his son and the workers, as well as getting the assistance of a mad scientist, who he hopes can clone his dead wife. However the mad scientist uses his cloning device to clone an evil Maria, starting up a revolution where the evil Maria causes the workers to destroy their own homes without them realising it, as they are so overwhelmed with built-up anger over their hard lives.

Throughout the film there is a lot of running around, including chase scenes between the mad scientist and Maria, where Maria acts as the stereotypical damsel in distress that was common play at the time the film was released. However these days it would be considered sexist and stereotypical to feature a female protagonist like that. These chase and running scenes can be pretty comical to audiences nowadays and it adds to the charming quality of the film. Due to the German Expressionist style to the film there are a lot of similarities between this film and the The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, with both the make-up, fashion and the environment around. But the architectural style of Metropolis isn't as daunting and claustrophobic as The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, being as its not a horror film, instead it focuses on the mass scaling of the buildings, adding to the huge, futuristic, sci-fi genre of the film, and it works. The film also takes on an art deco style with its sense of abstract, mathematical shapes.

"With its immense sets and stark lighting, the worker's city is a credible image of hell, while the overground landscapes were a seminal influence on all subsequent science fiction" - Nev Pierce (2003) The atmosphere of the worker's quarters does appear to have a hellish take on it, as a representation of their lives being hell for them, they are slaves and servants of the higher classes and so the cramped and suggested darkness of the part of the city they live in doesn't appear appealing. The clothing of the workers represents that of the Jews in concentration camps during the Nazi Regime, although World War II was 1939-1945, after the release of this film, the near perfect representation of the suppressed workers is impressive and shows how ahead of its time this film was. The workers also follow a strict daily work routine, they all walk in synchronisation at a slow and depressing state, which not only reflects how miserable their lives are but also how they are not going anywhere with their lives and are stuck in this slow moving pace in their lives. 

The camera angles are used effectively in this film as well. Much like The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, the scene at the end of the mad scientist, and son fighting each other on top of the building uses its camera efficiently, using a low angle shot to not only show power but it also gives the audiences the view from the other workers, who are watching, point of views as they witness this showdown between the hero and villain. Although Metropolis (1927) is an old black and white silent film it makes great use of the technology that was available to the film makers at the time with impressive special effects, and its highly engaging art style of the buildings, stepping out of the traditional architectural buildings we see on a regular basis in film these days, but fitting in with its sci-fi genre, invoking a massive world that audiences can look at in awe and get lost in. Metropolis has had a high influence on more famous modern films that the world loves, such as its references in Star Wars and the Matrix with its character design and its high imagination and is still greatly appreciated film in today's society.

Marx, K Grundisse (1858) [Online] At: (Accessed on 12.10.13)
Pierce, N Metropolis (1927) (2003) [Online] At: (Accessed on 11.10.13)

Fig.1 Metropolis (1927) [Poster] At: (Accessed on 11.10.13)

1 comment:

  1. A very thorough and enjoyable review Rhianna - well done!

    My comments this time are going to be small niggly ones really; firstly, make sure that you always put the names of films in italics - not only the film you are reviewing, but any others that you are comparing it to also.
    Likewise, the quotes; they need to be italicised, and then the author's name goes directly after, along with the date, all in brackets. So for example, (Pierce, 2003).
    In your first sentence, you introduce the director, Fritz Lang. After this, you only need to refer to him as Lang, not his first name too.
    Try and include some more images next time - you are talking a lot here about the architecture, for example, so it would have been good to see an illustration of this futuristic city. It also makes your discussion easier, as you can refer to the image within your text.

    Well done, I really enjoyed reading this! :)