Wednesday, 23 November 2016

Metropolis (1927)

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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.
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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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1 comment:

  1. Another thorough review Greta :)
    You mention at the end that the film has been influential in shaping modern movies; it might have been good to give a few examples - the Machine Man and C-3PO for example.