Thursday, July 26th
Within the city of Metropolis lives two very different worlds. The world above is flooded with light from the sun, where learning and technology flourish and its youth can frolic and play. Below is the dungeon like world filled with people of despair. A life of misery and danger await these people daily as they robotically toil to keep the world above in its state of comfort. The two worlds come together when Freder (Gustav Fröhlich), the son of the city’s wealthy master, ventures below in search of the beautiful Maria (Brigitte Helm). Maria preaches to the people of the underworld about a day when the two worlds will be brought together. Freder’s father Joh Fredersen (Alfred Abel) has enlisted the help of the mad scientist Rotwang to squash the rebelling workers. However, Rotwang (Rudolf Klein-Rogge) has plans of his own to create life like robots to replace the workers, his prototype is a robot that looks like Freder’s deceased mother (who coincidentally resembles Maria).
Director Fritz Lang hoped to make a film that would make a statement for German film making around the world, and UFA (Universum Film AG) bought into the dream. The art deco dystopian world that Lang created is one that set the standard for Science Fiction films then as well as into the future. The film is also an excellent example of the German Expressionism. Though the film nearly bankrupted UFA, it was popular amongst audiences. But, received mixed reviews from critics, including one written by author H.G. Welles criticizing the film as foolish and cliché. The nearly 3 hour long film was reduced to 115 minutes for world wide release. It was again cut to 91 minutes to remove “inappropriate” communist subtext and religious imagery. These cuts deleted crucial scenes to the film that tied together the plot. This footage was thought to be lost, till 2008 a copy of the originally released film was found in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Once added it created the most complete copy of the film to date and it is unimaginable to think of the film without this additional footage.
The film was a favorite of Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels, who praised its message of social justice. It is thought that the films connection to Nazi Germany is one reason why Lang would later distance himself from the film. However, from the first time I saw this film and still watching it today, it is one of the most visually spectacular films from the silent movie era. The vision and message which Lang creates is one that can still be found relatable to today.
Images from: Metropolis Dir. Fritz Lang. UFA 1927. DVD.