Metropolis Review (Fritz Lang)

metropolis review

Synopsis of Metropolis by Fritz Lang :

The son of the industrialist who heads Metropolis, the city of the future discovers the terrible working conditions of people who live underground. He tries to appease their destructive rebellion, led by a robot that took human form.

A few words about the film:

Metropolis is a pharaonic project (more than a year of shooting, thousands of extras), Lang‘s film, scripted by his wife Thea von Harbou, at great cost to the UFA. It was a pretty resounding commercial failure as the couple was at its peak especially since the first part of the series devoted to Mabuse. The film is cut immediately after the first of January 1927, then mutilated and reassembled for its American release. Today we lack about 30 minutes of film. On the merits, it has drawn sharp criticism from some intellectuals of the time. Thus, HG Welles in The New York Times denouncing a film “that concentrates almost all the clichés, all nonsense, all the platitudes imaginable on the mechanical progress.” The “buddies” Filmmakers are not necessarily more tender. Thus, Luis Bunuel said in 1927 that “what we are told is trivial, bombastic, pedantic, old-fashioned romance of a”. Lang was also attacked on the ambiguity of the final message. He himself said some time later: “(…) I do not like Metropolis because I find that the film tries to solve a social problem in a way childish.” A few decades later, the film is considered a classic mostly because of its visual strength.

Metropolis and the Human condition:

The film is based on the classic theme of confrontation between Good and Evil. At the end of the film, Good triumphs (cf. sequence of the fight between Fred and Rotwang the top of the cathedral: it ends with the death of mad scientist).

This battle is symbolized by the confrontation of the dark (Rotwang) and white (Fred), one of the aesthetics of expressionism in the movies.

It may be noted the use of references in the late Gothic of the Middle and early Renaissance in Germany (Tower of Babel Pieter Bruegel the Elder recalled, nod to the dance of death, presence of a cathedral which reflects the landscape ultra-modern Metropolis as the home of Rotwang).

The references to Christianity (the catacombs that recall early Christianity) and biblical myths (such as Babel or Moloch) complete the film to include in a religious environment.

Other references to Christianity: Existence of Fred before the discovery of the lower town: entertainment (as opposed to the lower world), abundant type “Garden of Earthly Delights”. Conventional image of utopia as a place of well-being (land of plenty, Eldorado, etc …) and Father as a figure of the Creator of the ideal city of Metropolis: Fredersen (see replica of Fred “Father, you are the brains of beautiful city “) and Destruction of the lower town by the flood: divine wrath, expression of the destruction of cities biblical divine punishment. Moreover, the first time that Maria appeared before Freder accompanied children, did she not talk about “Brothers and Sisters.” Biblical connotation. Maria has recognized the Son of Freder Fredersen but also the “mediator” = messianic idea and is the chosen one. Messianic worship is he not also of utopia? Moreover, the character of Fred often puts his hand on his chest (heart). His attitude is revealed. Other evidence: in the catacombs, a light descends upon him (the dogma of the name). Other Christian connotation that makes Fred a new Messiah: the death of the worker who has helped him and with whom he had exchanged his clothes, man, in a last breath, said to be “stayed true”. Reference to the New Testament. Apostolic dimension.

The theme of the profound duality of the human being is at the heart of the film. This question of human identity is recurrent in the cinema of Fritz Lang both in Germany and Hollywood. The character who best embodies this duality is Maria, sometimes peaceful preacher in the catacombs of Metropolis humanized robot sometimes the service plan hatched by Rotwang revenge against the master of Metropolis. On the plastic, this duality is expressed by the omnipresence of the shadows, another marker of expressionism and stylized lighting effects (importance of the cinematographer).

Metropolis and excesses of the industrial civilization

The film depicts the subjugation of workers to machines. The first sequence of the film shows the long shots that accentuate their dehumanization (uniforms identical robotic procedures, they have no name but a number, a working replica of Fred, “there must be someone next machine “human will subject to the dictates of the machine machine devourer of men: a vision of Freder evokes a human sacrifice to Moloch). This aspect of the film is likely to influence Charlie Chaplin in Modern Times where we find the critical work that alienates man.

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