Wednesday, 23 November 2016

What If ? Metropolis - OGR #2

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What If? Metropolis - Orthographs: Key Assets

King Kong (1933)

Fig 1: Film Poster
Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack's King Kong (1933) is a black-and-white sci-fi, fantasy movie. The film tells a story, in which director/producer Carl Denham travells to an island called 'Skull Island' to shoot a film, alongside Ann Darrow the leading role lady, Jack Driscoll and adventurer and other crew members. They don't know what to expect on the island as they are met with natives about to sacrifice a young, terrified girl to be the 'bride' of Kong in front of a huge wall and gate. The natives notice the outsiders and the want to offer Ann to the monster, however Carl refuses and they retreat back to the ship. At that night the natives kidnap Ann and tie her to the sacrifice poles outside the gates and call for Kong. The first sighting of Kong is very memorable, as he rushes towards Ann, while bending the trees with loud roars and growls. Kong is fascinated by the woman and instead of killing her, he grasps her and rushes back to the jungle, while Ann's terrified screams ring trough the island. Carl, Jack and a part of the crew starts their journey to find Ann and Kong in the jungle facing many other monsters that inhabit the isolated island. They save Ann and capture Kong, who is brought back to New York to be displayed o the public. Giant, 30 foot tall killer gorilla escapes and tries to find Ann in the concrete jungle of the city, while destroying parts of it and killing some people. when he finally finds her, the giant ape climbs up the Empire State building and is shot down by planes, falling to his death.
Fig 2: Ann is sacrificed to Kong
Fig 3: Kong on the Empire State building
King Kong is an adventure, fantasy and sci-fi film, that is also can be considered as a horror movie (considering the standard when the movie was released). "Co-producers and directors Merian C. Cooper and Ernest B. Schoedsack (both real-life adventurers and film documentarians) conceived of the low-budget story of a beautiful, plucky blonde woman (Fay Wray) and a frightening, gigantic, 50 foot ape-monster as a metaphoric re-telling of the archetypal Beauty and the Beast fable" (Dirks, s.d.). This shows that the story was built upon the old tale of 'Beauty and the Beast', which is proven numerous factors through the movie. First of all, Ann is a beautiful young woman and Kong is a monstrous beast. As the story goes on, Kong 'the beast' seem to calm down and destroy less as he sees Ann 'the beauty'. The last line in the movie spoke by Carl Denham "Oh no, it wasn't the airplanes. It was beauty killed the beast." (Denham, 1933); this iconic line that has been used in later re-makes, can be analysed differently with finding different meanings behind it. This famous movie line and the events happening in the movie suggest that the beauty has tamed the beast with her beauty and that is what killed the beast (as in the beastly nature) and Kong dying at the end is a metaphor for it. There are many different opinions about the meaning in the film, such as "...seems to suggest that the magnetic beastliness that attracts a woman to a man is, ironically, tamed out of existence through love. Although she feels safe in Driscoll's cerebral embrace, a part of her will always yearn for the beast." (Tabor, 2006)
Fig 4: Dead Kong on the streets of New York
King Kong has received many critiques throughout the years as there has been many issues involved in the film, such as stereotyping. The natives are acting very barbarian and uncivil, with bones through their noses and hair, in grass skirts and chanting. When the chief of the natives sees Ann the 'golden woman' he wants to exchange 6 black woman for the blond, white female. This shows how the women had no value and were treated as objects. Furthermore, Ann (Fay Wray) was displayed as a hopeless, vulnerable woman, who only looks pretty, screams and constantly need someone to protect and save her (She was crowned as one of the first scream queens after the silent era). Not to mention most men on the ship seem to be annoyed with Ann's presence and questioning why is a female the lead role, which Carl explains that they need a pretty face to sell the film.
Fig 5: Ann (Fay Wray) screaming
"The special visual techniques developed for King Kong were numerous." (Obalil, s.d.) This film was the first one that used a safe rear-projector screen (cellulose-acetate), as previous ones were easily broken and injuring actors and actresses.  The screen used in the film was the first ever large sized. Furthermore on this move set was the first one to use optical printers, which helped them to mix mattes, as there was a large amount of mattes involved during the making of the movie, so this method proved to save them energy and time. At the filming they used stop-motion to create scenes, such as Kong and the dinosaurs fighting, where they used puppets to create the images, however stop-motion has been used before. But King Kong was the first full-length movie to create a character with such a method. Additionally, this movie is contains sounds and voice overs, which meant they had to find the perfect sound for the mighty ape that sounded true, but at the same time it was something new. The sound they choose as the 'voice' for Kong was two big cats' roar (lion and tiger) played backwards. Not only, they dealt with the sound of the ape, but they decided not to use classical music, but music that emphasise with the events happening on the screen.
Fig 6: Kong fighting a T-Rex
Overall, this movie is sometimes criticised for some character portraying issues, however the story is very well received and liked. King Kong is considered to be a truly iconic film, that has inspired many following movies, as well as a huge milestone in film-making. "It feels so true!" (Thomson, 2010); even known by audience that the story is only fantasy, Kong is loved by many and has made people cry over all these years as the audience watches their beloved character die at the end of the movie, unlike most movies not having a completely happy ending.
Fig 7: The two original King Kong puppets


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Metropolis (1927)

Image result for metropolis
Fig 1: Film Poster

Fritz Lang's Metropolis (1927) is a sci-fi movie that takes place in a divided city, where the wealthy lives in the above-ground huge city, while the lower class workers live their lives under the city. The story shows both sides of this enormous city, depending on the view point it can be described either utopian or dystopian. The story line follows the son of the wealthy city industrialist, called Freder Fredersen, as he sees a young, beautiful woman from the worker class and tries to follow her as she disappears in the underground city. Freder is unaware of the city under Metropolis, which is the home for the lower class who work hard to keep the upper city 'alive' by working on the machines functioning the city. He is shocked of what is going on down under the city and feels sorry for the workers. Later he found the woman, called Maria who gives hopes and strength to the workers by saying that a mediator will come and join the hands with the head (meaning the mediator 'heart', will unite the 'hands' workers from the under city and the 'head' leaders in the upper city). However (father of Freder) Joh Fredersen' s old colleague Rotwang a crazy inventor, uses a robot called "Machine Man" to pretend to be Maria and cause a riot among the worker class who stop working with the machines and both parts of the city start to collapse. As the workers celebrate the death of the machines, the lower city is flooded, their children still remaining down there. However while Freder and Maria are saving the children, they are unaware that the workers are blaming the false Maria for the events, believing their children are dead, and burning the robot, as Freder and Maria are watching it in horror. The real Maria is attacked by Rotwang and later saved by Freder (after a fight between the two men, causing the mad inventor's death), all while Joh Fredersen arrives and watches his son fighting at the rooftop and the workers learn that their children are safe. the final scene shows the head of Metropolis, Joh and the leader worker struggling to shake hands and join the two sides and finally Freder joins their hands and unite the city. "THE MEDIATOR BETWEEN HEAD AND HANDS MUST BE THE HEART!"
Fig 2: Final scene; Freder joining the two sides

This futuristic, black-and-white, silent film directed by Lang, was first released in Germany, "...achives the realization of his ideas about the possible future organisation of society." (Urgosíková, s.d.) This is suggest that the movie reflects his thought of an almost apocalyptic event as the society is divided into two, the rich and the poor, with huge difference. However as the risks are recognised they become equal. He attempted to visualise the reality to the audience about German society as it tries to stabilise itself.

Metropolis was received by audience and critics with very mixed opinions, as it was not very accepted to have so many different styles combined "...mixture of expressionism, melodrama and German romanticism, to go along with the abrupt switches in style and accept the apparent conflict of ideological positions". (French, 2015) Furthermore there were multiple editions made of the movie and depending on the version the viewer watches the story can be from almost an hour long to more than 2 hours. As some parts are edited and cut out the story line and events can show gaps between events, which can leave the audience confused.
Fig 3: Rotwang introducing the Machine Man to Joh Fredersen

"German expressionism brought new codes of artistic expression to the whole current of fantasy—uneven lines, contrasts of light and dark, half-shadows and silhouettes—which serve to suggest mysterious and menacing actions, events, and emotions" (Urgosíková, s.d.). The city that can be seen on the screens is mainly artificial, as the higher shots of the upper part's buildings were filmed from minimised mock-up. The set is angular with labyrinth like passages and showing the hugeness; the sky,is hardly ever seen, as the buildings reach higher than the camera's shots, suggesting a big space. However most of the scenes is set to play at the lower part of the city, under the ground, where the mass of buildings, look like boxes, which shows the dull life of the workers. When the machines are in focus, they seem massive compared to the workers. The whole set and it's design are criticised by many people and (just as about the story and it's plots) the opinions are vary; some find the huge set and special effects very fascinating and praises the film for it, however the opposite site, is quite disappointed about the overexertion and might find it a little too much.

Fig 4: The Heart Machine
Fig 5: Metropolis
Furthermore, as one of the film's style includes Expressionism, the lighting can be intense sometimes, drawing attention to a specific mood or atmosphere. The acting is quite over the top, as the facial expressions and movements are more powerful than it would normally be. The make-up and the overall movements of a character tells the viewer about them. For example, the real Maria has soft features with a gentle gaze, while the robot Maria has strong dark make-up around her eyes, with her facial expression showing a wicked half smile (with one eye sometimes twitching and arched eyebrows). The mad inventor can be brought as an example as well, with his messy hair, while other male characters' hair is shorter or neatly pushed back. This draws the attention on the different mid setting of the inventor from the first moment he appears on the scree.
Image result for metropolis
Fig 6: The real Maria and the false robot Maria

Overall, this movie is not for everyone's liking either because of confusion or because they are unimpressed with the set or acting. This failure can be caused by the editing and cutting of the original film, but almost the whole movie was discovered and restored. However, even if part of the public disagrees, but this movie is one of the most iconic and influential sci-fi movies of all time. The story was considered as quite original and many modern movies are based upon the basic story line; society dividing into two, machine vs. man and catastrophic events in a city.


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