Classic Review : Metropolis (1927)
“Between the mind that plans and the hands that build there must be a Mediator, and this must be the heart.”
I guess at some point, like these days, a sci-fi movie could relate to anything too technical and visual. Lost its meaning. It’s like watching a visual show rather than a movie. Now I mostly ignore those kind of movie, because I tend to look for the story and not just the visual. But there’s some movies with good drama, with poor lighting and bad angles. Well, you can call it an indie movie or at least you have a good story. Both can easily be forgettable. And then there’s one movie can combine all of those parts and be remembered forever.
Why I see Metropolis (1927) everywhere in great film lists is definitely not a joke. Even when I see lots of films lined up in Europe on Screen this year, I marked Metropolis seriously (they have some classic films screened too). But for some reasons, I choose newer films. Secretly I thought maybe I should just seen this one.
Metropolis or have influenced many people and celebrities in their performances, namely Lady Gaga, Whitney Houston (music video Queen of The Night), Madonna (music video Express Yourself) and Kylie Minogue. A lot of other adaptations and because of its excellency people tried to restored it. I watched the remastered one, with several scenes replaced with text narration. And thankfully I can still enjoy and was very impressed with it.
It centers on a futuristic city called Metropolis, where lots of underground workers work by shifts seem endlessly day by day. The city ruled by Joh Fredersen (Alfred Abel) who have a son, Freder (Gustav Fröhlich), who likes to spend time in pleasure garden with other rich kids. But what Freder doesn’t know is that his father have force his workers overload. Though it wasn’t too clear how and why, his father have sacrificed Freder’s mother to create a machine-human that will and can do anything it program to do. The machine was created by Rotwang (Rudolf Klein-Rogge) who fell in love with Fredersen’s wife, Hel. Freder know his father’s doing from Maria’s (Brigitte Helm) interruption to his life. Freder immediately fall in love with Maria and try to find her, but instead he sees the life underground where the workers work. With Maria’s guidance, Freder feels that he’s the mediator between head and hand, the one that could bridge his father and the workers. But seeing Maria’s good influence to the workers as a threat, Fredersen order Rotwang to make the Machine Human to look like her and to make the workers misguided. The action make the city a mess and somehow put Maria in danger. Mean while, Freder tries all he can to make the situation to be peaceful, but it seems that his chances are slim.
It’s hard to look away when Metropolis is playing front of you. The images were theatrical and iconic, the music was dramatic and the performances were outstanding. Perhaps the black and white screen helped the movie to be grander and futuristic. Though at that time the technology weren’t as developed as now, it didn’t looked as a low technique. Instead, it looked very modern and it looked much like a 2010s movie set to be a silent movie.
Brigitte Helm played as two different characters; angelic Maria and evil machine-human, performed quite extraordinary and haunting. As Maria, she performed kind-hearted and noble character, the one you run into to seek wisdom and hopeful thoughts. But as the machine-human, she’s manipulative and dangerous, seductive and mean. When she performed the strange erotic dances, it looked very artsy rather than erotic, though she only put a fabric to cover her chest. Gustav Fröhlich as Freder was the most dramatic and expressive, even with his body movement. Their instant connection to fall in love can easily looked tacky, but they both can translate the feelings of Maria and Freder so much it made sense. I wonder of these actors were theater performers.
The machine-human itself looked quite hypnotizing to look at, very iconic and prestigious, quite like an Egyptian statue. I loved the scene where the workers working in the underground factory with their synchronized body movement, along with the factory rhythmic was excellent. Some scenes of the movie were illustrative and fantasy, excellent and such a high art.
As for the moral of the story, was very basic and inspiring (you can read it above, one of this movie’s quote). Perhaps it worked also for inner self, not just for boss and workers. The movie’s a masterpiece and won’t age, memorable and shouldn’t be missed for you movie lovers. I love the movie more when I know that it was made by husband and wife, Fritz Lang the director and Thea von Harbou, a writer.