Log in

No account? Create an account

Previous Entry | Next Entry

Metropolis (1927)

By cultural osmosis, an idea has reached me that I should watch the 1927 silent classic Metropolis. I do wonder that it took such a while, but no matter: I've done it now, and oh yes! it was well worth doing.

Before Blade Runner and before Space Odyssey 2001, there was Metropolis.

The film has had an adventurous history: originally running for nearly three hours, it was substantially cut after the Berlin premiere to accommodate American and other foreign audiences, and the cut footage was then lost - a fourth of the film missing forever, it was thought. In 2001, an attempt was made to restore the event sequences and bring some sense back into it by using stills and intertitles. In 2008, however, quite unexpectedly, "a copy of the original film was discovered in an archive of the Museum of Cinema in Buenos Aires, Argentina. Twenty to twenty-five minutes of lost footage could be added to the 2001 reconstruction, filling most of the gaps. It was believed this was a copy made of a print owned by a private collector, who brought the original cut to the country in 1928"*. In 2010, the restored version was released, and that was the one I watched: only two scenes missing, original score, all that.

Here's the story line. It is 2000 (or possibly 2027), and we are in Metropolis, a futuristic city of skyscrapers and steam. It is run and powered by machines. Of the human inhabitants, there are two classes: the affluent, living above ground, and the workers, living down below. One day, Freder, the son of the city's founder Joh Fredersen, sees the beautiful Maria, a leader of the workers, falls in love, and eventually descends into the underground world to find her. His life and lives of those around him are changed forever.

A lot of the movie is, of course, endearingly naïve; H.G. Wells went, in 1927, as far as to call it "the silliest film" and to say that "it gives in one eddying concentration almost every possible foolishness, cliché, platitude, and muddlement about mechanical progress and progress in general served up with a sauce of sentimentality that is all its own"*. He's right, too, but he is saying that like it's a bad thing. It's not.

This film just happens to be an epic.

This film just happens to be an epic and to be out of time. Sure, it may have mattered in 1927 what the future would be like; by now, however, that future is our past, and it's not the predictive value that makes the film interesting, it is the power of the story given the storytelling mode. Here, I think the film succeeds brilliantly. It's 'German expressionism', I am told; all angles and heights, symbols and moods, sweeping cityscapes and a story of another world that is both our past and our future. In a world that grand, it makes perfect sense for the characters to be archetypes. A father and a son. The helper. The lady. The madman. The heartless enemy (I love her robotic performance, by the way). The ambivalent mob. There are floods and explosions, all magnificent (yet more magnificent if you think of the technology of the day). There are elevators going down the shafts, mobs dancing, madness taking hold; expressive, gripping, powerful, this film is, for all its naïveté ("The mediator between head and hands must be the heart!"), for all the over-the-top gestures and drama (I did giggle at a few scenes), a masterpiece in science fiction.



( 7 comments — Leave a comment )
Feb. 7th, 2011 04:50 am (UTC)
Как ты замечательно расписала фильм, мне аж ооооочень захотелось его посмотреть :-)
Feb. 7th, 2011 05:33 am (UTC)
Feb. 7th, 2011 04:56 am (UTC)
Had to watch it for the German movies class. It was wonderful.
Feb. 7th, 2011 05:33 am (UTC)
And you told me nothing of it!
Feb. 7th, 2011 05:38 am (UTC)
... But usually people don't like it when you suggest they should watch or listen to something.
Also, I can never guess for certain who will like what. Can you? I find that with every friend, I share love for a small fraction of all things I enjoy (and for every thing I enjoy, there is at least one friend who loves it too!).
Feb. 7th, 2011 05:42 am (UTC)
Naah, I wasn't being serious :) It's only in rare cases that I myself can predict that someone will like something :)
Feb. 7th, 2011 05:46 am (UTC)
Phew! My world view hasn't been shattered today. %)
( 7 comments — Leave a comment )