Dir. Fritz Lang. Germany. 1927.

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The influence of this film is far-reaching in its style, lighting, cinematography and even the first instances of montage. The film was a huge technological achievement, way ahead of its time - ironic considering it imagines a world light years removed from the day it was produced.
Rotwang and robo friendMetropolis is a privatised city state, run by the flinty-hearted techno-industrial autocrat Joh Fredersen (Alfred Abel). While the privileged playboys and playgirls disport themselves in nightclubs, airy sports stadia and heavenly gardens, a lovely young woman, Maria (Brigitte Helm), takes up the cause of the oppressed machine workers toiling underground, in so doing entrancing Fredersen's idealist son Freder (Gustav Fröhlich). But Joh has a bizarre secret weapon: the Robot, a post-human ideal fashioned as a metallic archetype based on his late wife, which assumes Maria's form as an evil twin to provoke cataclysmic disorder, under cover of which the Workers can be crushed.
The performances are eccentric and hysterical as befitting silent film; but in a way this behaviour is indicative of the changes in people as the 20th century progressed, sometimes the world moves too fast for some people.  But there are hints at things to come from a cinematic standpoint - influences can be seen in Bergman, Scott (Ridley), Gilliam and even the most important influence was on Leni Riefenstahl's Nazi propaganda films (e.g. Triumph of the Will).
The additions of missing footage, adds nothing new; much has been made about special editions and adding on scenes, textually it adds nothing to the story of the film, cinematically it makes the film longer.  But it is a pleasure to see this film again on the big screen, with a fine score - futuristic but entrusted to the works of the past, gothic and otherworldy at the same time, operatic in its sprawl.  It can be considered to be the first film that created its own myth. Due to the Nazi uprising, the film remained unseen for years and Lang fled to America.
When Lang arrived, soon Hollywood used his method of female brides in 'The Bride of Frankenstein' (1935), ultimately coming to a crescendo with the replicants of 'Blade Runner' - ironically a film that itself has gone through many special editions. 
Considering it did not have digital effects back in 1927, the effect is the grab it has on your imagination - you have to have a sense of disbelief at the other world you are witnessing.

METROPOLIS will be released on DVD and Blu-ray as part of the Masters of Cinema Series in the Autumn of 2010.

Jamie Garwood

Also see Andrew Lydon's 'Smearing the Urban: The Politics of Metropolis' at:

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