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Metropolis: When Cinema Was One of the Seven Arts

Updated on May 17, 2017

A prologue note

Metropolis is a German expressionist epic drama science-fiction film released in 1927 and directed by Fritz Lang. The story was written by Lang and his wife, Thea von Harbou. It’s starred Gustav Frolich, Brigitte Helm, Alfrend Abel and Rudolf Klein-Rogge. It was produced by Erich Pommer in Babelsberg Studios for Universum Film A.G..

Being among the first feature-length films of science-fiction genre, it is regarded as a pioneering work of this genre.

Film's poster
Film's poster

Synopsis

The film is set in the futuristic year of 2026. The plot is set in the city of Metropolis. This city has two levels: the upper level is a wealthy area with high-rise tower complexes and in the underground level there are workers who operate the underground machines that power the whole upper area of the city.

The son of the lord, Freder, meets a young woman named Maria, who has brought a group of workers’ children to watch the rich’s lifestyle. Then, Freder, charmed and fascinated, goes to the machine rooms to find her. There he will witness a huge machine that kills and injures lots of the workers. This event will be known to his father, the lord of the city, but he won’t care about it.

From then on, Freder, secretly rebels against his father by helping the workers…

(This epic story is really perfect and flawless so I don’t want to ruin it by words… So, I will stop revealing the plot, since you already know the basics)

Themes

This film has lots of themes which are difficult to digest. We have to think for hours after the film is over. One of the film’s themes is that one day the poor people are going to work exclusively for the rich while they’re just ruling and exploiting the work of the poor workers.

Another theme is that there is chance for someone to do the right thing even he’s learnt somehow else. The lord’s son was grown up in luxury he didn’t know about the poorness but still when he witnesses it he does what it must be done. So whoever you are you can fight for those who can’t.

One of the many themes of the film is the controlling rulership. When the workers was about to rebel the plutocrats tried to distort their leader, their idol. This might be a successful way to control the masses. Maria was what the workers had believed in. So the lords tried to destroy them through her.

The last theme is giving birth to another theme. The rulers become blind of their power and they can’t see how the power was obtained. The arrogant rulers tries to destroy the workers and they are so blind of their power that they are not able to see that by destroying the workers they destroy themselves as well.

The whole film is a bringer of messages. They cannot be received immediately. As I said we need to think what the film tries to say and what messages wants to send.

A meager review

Who am I and who are you to review this work? Don’t accept any review for this film. Would you accept a review for Picasso’s Guernica? No, you wouldn’t… But instead of review I could just say a few things about this masterpiece.

The themes are so many that you cannot catch them up. You have to be totally focused when you watch it. Many films have many themes. But in this film are so strongly presented that you cannot breathe. The power of its scene will grip you. The scenery will initiate you into its misery and pain.

I have not seen a film like this. There is not a film that can create so many themes without losing its narration. Most of the film with such themes would get confused. But not this film.

Be ready to feel every possible feeling. You are going to burst into tears. You are going to be angry. You are going to be satisfied. You are going to be desperate. You are going to be terrified.

We are talking about art here. Art means feelings and questioning for everything. So be prepared for something which is about to change your life once and for all. If you don’t feel that, you should think about it again.

The Whore of Babylon
The Whore of Babylon

Influences

An epic work like this must have lots of influences. A human being couldn’t create this kind of art. The film drew heavily on biblical sources. For example, Maria uses the story of the Tower of Babel to highlight the discord between the intellectuals and the workers. In addition, Freder imagines the false-Maria as the Whore of Babylon.

First World War and post-World War I period played their roles, too. Lang includes in Metropolis include the Weimar view of American modernity, fascism, and communism.

The perfect art direction was influenced by Cubist, Futurist and Bauhaus design.

Its music soundtrack is also flawless. This was influenced by Wagner and Strauss. The original score of the film is one of the most suitable in cienma's history.

Reception

The reception of the film was mixed at the time. Some critics found its special effects really beautiful. But its running time faced the criticism. It’s also been accused that alleges Communist messages.

After the final cut, the large portion of Lang’s original footage had been lost. Numerous attempts have been made to restore it. In 2008 a damaged print was found in a museum in Argentina. After this, the film was 95% restored!

Today is regarded as one of the best films ever made. The noted American critic said: “Metropolis is one of the great achievements of the silent era, a work so audacious in its vision and so angry in its message that it is, if anything, more powerful today than when it was made”.

The film on the famous rating sites Rotten Tomatoes and IMDb has 99% at the first one and 8,3 at the second one.

Least but not last...

I feel like explaining by title. I don’t want to offend the latest work of cinema. But films like these are really artistic and they represent every version of the art itself. I don’t see that in latest films. And I am not happy about it.

Its unique images, its strong messages and its fine plot will amaze you. If I had to do a list about my favorite films then it will be there, for sure. You have to understand… when I firstly watched it I didn’t know that a silent voice could sound as loud as that!

I worship cinema. And this piece of art is one of the reasons I do it so very much! I think this kind of work defined the cinema as an art. And it’s now included among the seven arts.

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