Just watched Fritz Lang's Metropolis for the first time. A remarkable film. Black and white (almost literally: the gray scale in the DVD is badly constricted, probably because it was made from a deteriorated print), and silent. I think it may be the first silent film I've watched more than mere snippets of.
The film, released in 1927, takes as its major theme the dehumanizing effect of industrial society, a theme that shows up in other art of the era, such as H.G. Wells' The Time Machine and Chaplin's Modern Times. The female robot is a remarkable creation, and her belly dance both erotic and disturbing. I'm seeing echoes of Metropolis in later films, everything from the corrupt Weimar culture in Cabaret to the dancing monster in Young Frankenstein, to Star Wars: Lucas has said that C-3PO's design was inspired by the robot in Metropolis. The special effects are quaint, but hey, this was 1927. The visual style is strongly German Expressionist. The cinematography is amazing for such an early film. I was surprised that so many 'modern' cinematographic tricks had already been discovered by that time. There are some imperfections; some scenes seem a little too pat, and the chase sequence with Maria vs. the mad scientist Rotwang goes on too long and doesn't seem to serve any purpose, but as a whole, the film is engaging and spellbinding, and triumphs over the poor condition of the print and the demands made on the modern viewer by a silent film. Recommended. Watch it if you have a chance.
The questions Metropolis poses, about how human beings can find an accommodation with the machines they create, the proper relationship of bosses and workers, and how 'the head, the hands and the heart' work together, haven't really been answered fully since, and may never be. They may be ever-present challenges of the human condition, as long as there are humans.
|Origin somewhat obscure. Left radical is 'woman' (女), right is 'platform' (台). Henshall suggests as a mnemonic: 'First woman begins to mount platform.'|