SteelCity99's Movie Review of Metropolis (1927)

Rating of

Metropolis (1927)

SteelCity99 - wrote on 04/28/18

Metropolis is much more than just a sci-fi film. Certainly, we are talking about the most astonishing project of a German genius named Fritz Lang, who definitely had the guts of experimenting with something different in order to create cinema. What Fritz Lang offered to the world in 1927 became one of the most ambitious and fascinating cinematographic projects in cinema history, not only because of its thematic elements, but because of its visual style. Basically, Metropolis created a whole new world, a world that opened some people's eyes, and inspired other people start to reconstruct the world that existed by then, taking it to a higher industrialization level. The most characteristic aspect about Metropolis is the fact that it was done in a key historical moment of humanity. The First World War had already ended, and since the Industrial Revolution (and even before), the world structure started to divide itself into international great powers (which are nations capable of exerting their influence on a global scale) that sought for competition against the world in order to become the most advanced countries, socially, economically and technologically speaking. What Metropolis achieves towards its audience is to offer a chillingly accurate vision of a director about the path that the actuality (the actuality of the 20's, that is) was following by then. More than a simple sci-fi film, the movie constituted a controversial social commentary towards slavery caused by endless work and the nonsense this work caused in humanity.

Metropolis is set in the year of 2026, in a futuristic city completely ruled by technology, constant work and the colossal influence of industry, and is divided into two main social classes: the city planners, who really don't know how anything works and who live on the surface, and the working class living underground in the machine level, which although it establishes and accomplishes its goals, it doesn't posses a vision, since the very social structure prevents it from doing it. The true plot of the film starts when the son of the city's mastermind visits the underground where the workers toil, and after being astonished by what he sees, falls in love with a working class woman who prophesies the coming of a savior that would act as a mediator between the differences among the social classes.

The movie speaks like a person thinking out loud, like a hair-rising commentary towards modern society. It is curious how elements such as fantasy, society's constant riots and religion come to a point where they form a part of a whole and combine themselves in a very catastrophic way. The scenes including the workers walking together towards the machine level are pretty peculiar. The musical score is very attractive, and somehow represents irony contrasted with harmony. The rhythm in which the working class walks makes it seem like cattle, and like if it were conformed by inferior human beings.

The cinematography alongside with the editing created a world that had never seen before, a world which is not based in real life, but in the possible consequences of the events that took place back in the 20's. That is why I consider Metropolis the mother of sci-fi films, and it is officially one of the first movies that were made concerning that genre. Another giant icon within the sci-fi genre is the short film Le Voyage dans la Lune (1902), directed by George Méliès. Metropolis is brilliant in every single aspect, and both the art direction and set decoration is ultimately unparalleled. In fact, both the art direction and the constructed sets for the film are the most impressive ones I've seen in cinema history. Also, Metropolis was one of the first feature films that handled scenes with great amounts of people in its shots. The movie included 37,000 extras including 25,000 men, 11,000 women, 1,100 bald men, 750 children, 100 dark-skinned people and 25 Asians. These scenes were extraordinarily shot and made. Certainly, Fritz Lang was the best director for the job.

Metropolis also possesses the best special effects I have ever seen. Just like Le Voyage dans la Lune (1902), The Ten Commandments (1956), 2001: A Space Odyssey (1968), Star Wars (1977), Aliens (1986), Terminator 2: Judgment Day (1991), Jurassic Park (1993) and The Matrix (1999) are films that I particularly admire because of their special effects and because they are the best representations of what technology can achieve in movies, Metropolis also has the best visual effects in the history of cinematography, as far as my opinion and taste go. Please consider that the technology that exists nowadays for creating some special effects in particular (such as the overused CGI) didn't exist in those times. We are talking about 1927! Analyze that figure. The most astonishing special effect of the film is some rings spinning around a machine up and down that transformed it into a guise of Maria. Audiences back then were left amazed, and I definitely felt the same way 4 years ago.

As mentioned before, Metropolis is one of the best social criticisms ever made about automation along with Modern Times (1936), by Charles Chaplin. However, while Chaplin used a comical tone accompanied by irony, the purpose of Metropolis scatters terror. It is a very-well structured opinion, but very direct for its audience, especially for the 20's. Probably for those times the message of Metropolis wasn't understood in its totality. It is a film ahead of its time. One interesting trivia about the film is that reportedly it is one of Adolf Hitler's favorite films. Carefully analyzing the subject matter and the narrative structure utilized by the film, it isn't so surprising that one of the cruelest and greatest leaders that humanity ever had in its existence had favorite this film.

Metropolis is, without a doubt, the best film by Fritz Lang for my taste, even better than his next sci-fi film Frau im Mond (1929), Dr. Mabuse, der Spieler - Ein Bild der Zeit (1922), which is the longest movie I have seen so far, M (1931), Le Testament du Dr. Mabuse (1933) and Fury (1936). Metropolis may go beyond our own comprehension; its incomparable dystopian and apocalyptic vision influence several artists and filmmakers in the future, specially within the cyberpunk movement that was highly promoted in Japan, being the best examples Akira (1988) and Kôkaku Kidôtai (1995), which influenced The Matrix (1999). Also, it is one of the first films that masterly established and portrayed the concept of the conflict between men and machines. Too many directors have paid tribute to Fritz Lang and his masterpiece for literally redefining a genre that really isn't so easy of treating. That is why Metropolis, being one of the most ambitious projects in movie history and the best sample of German Expressionism, is one of the best films of all time, and one of the best proofs of how a big budget can be productively used for a movie. The budget was around 5,000,000 marks which, adjusted for nowadays inflation, represents an approximate amount of $200,000,000. Finally, this was the first film (being the second one Los Olvidados [1950]) that was registered in the "Memory of the World-Register" of the UNESCO.


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