Tuesday, 16 October 2012

Cinematic Spaces: Metropolis - Review

“The mediator between head and hands must be the heart!”                                                   
Metropolis, 1927

Fritz Lang’s “Metropolis”, 1927, is a German silent movie made in the spirit of early science-fiction cinematography, being probably the precursor of the whole genre, using new techniques and ways of post-production and special effects.

Metropolis” presents a story of classes dwelling in the city; people responsible for working and making the Heart Machine move, the lower class, and upper one, with people who rule the place. One of the main characters is Freder (Gustav Fröhlich), son of Metropolis’ president Joh Fredersen (Alfred Abel). Freder  falls in love with Maria (Brigitte Helm), woman who lives under the city and wants to unite two classes by peace. She preaches about  “the mediator” who is supposed to come and be the heart, between head and hands. Meanwhile, scientist Rotwang (Rudolf Klein-Rogge) together with Fredersen, build a human-like robot giving it Maria’s features in a plan which is meant to lead to the collapse of working class people.

“With its immense sets and stark lighting, the workers' city is a credible image of hell, while the overground landscapes were a seminal influence on all subsequent science fiction.”                               Pierce, 2003

Fritz Lang was under impression of 1924's New York city. Its buildings and skyscrapers were a perfect basis for creating the stunning views in Metropolis. The movie's plot takes place in 2026, although imagined set portrayal resembles current images of agglomeration where art deco stylization was an ornamental style which was imposed during World War I. Its variety of styles is said to have represented the cultural politics of its time, although it suits Metropolis perfectly which shows the differences between the depths and the upper city.

 "This highly stylized way of performing is not the place to look for naturalism and subtlety, but it was not unusual in its time and in a story like this, it is quite effective."
Turan, 2010

In the movie there's no need for dialogues. The plot is so clear and understandable that the viewer has no problems with understanding the situation, the relationships between characters and most important; the aspects of the story. Metropolis' story can be related to current times by its universal approach to the topic of classes and ruling systems. Actors who played the characters were indeed using theatrical gestures, though it is said most of them have never played in any movies before. That exaggeration of movements also gave the movie a fair and luculent view over the plot and following events.

"Metropolis’ special effects are impressively seamless for its era, and they remain adequate today."
Ring, 2012

Metropolis uses special effects which remain and are still used these days. Eugen Schüfftan, a cinematographer who invented the Schüfftan process, a technique that used mirrors to insert actors into miniature sets. He also invented miniatures of the city where it was the first time it was used and also the camera on a swing. The Robots costume had been designed by sculptor Walter Schulze-Mittendorff; it was uncomfortable and stiff though it appeared metallic and allowed a small amount of free movement.

 Fritz Lang's Metropolis, 1927, is a one of the science fiction movies which had a great influence on future cinema and the evolution of the genre. This production is universal and is up-to-date whenever it's been watched which allowed it to open the way for future movies, giving new ideas for other productions.

*Pierce Nev, 2003, online source: http://www.bbc.co.uk/films/2003/01/06/metropolis_1927_review.shtml
*Turan Kenneth, 2010, online source: http://articles.latimes.com/2010/may/14/entertainment/la-et-metropolis-20100514
*Ring Robert, 2012, online source: http://scifiblock.com/reviews/movie/metropolis-1927.htm

2. Stills:
* Poster: http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/en/thumb/0/06/Metropolisposter.jpg/220px-Metropolisposter.jpg
* Still 1: http://borgdotcom.files.wordpress.com/2011/11/metropolis.jpg
* Still 2: http://1.bp.blogspot.com/_MWCMNbK6afg/S6nempZv8BI/AAAAAAAAAXA/HzCn0rcyGjs/s1600/lang_metropolis_moloch_2_stor.png

1 comment:

  1. from Metropolis - to Barbarella! ;) I look forward to reading what you made of that 1968 'style over content' sex comedy...

    This is a very informative, considered review, but a small stylistic note; at the moment, your quotes are allowed to just 'float' - they contribute, but not necessarily in a pro-active way (i.e. like important special cogs moving your argument forwards within the more general mechanism of the review). So, in your future reviews, consider a) actually introducing your sources as in - As Kenneth Turan observes, ' "This highly stylized way of performing is not the place to look for naturalism and subtlety, but it was not unusual in its time and in a story like this, it is quite effective." (Turan 2010)

    and b) consider reflecting on the content of your quotes (where appropriate), so turning the points they make into points you actually use in your discussion.