Sunday, 6 November 2011

Worlds Apart 2: Fritz Lang’s Metropolis (1927)

Fig. 1. Metropolis Poster

Fritz Lang’s silent Metropolis is a mammoth film in terms of its extravagant design and complex society portrayal, influencing generations, culture and films even to this day. Produced only seven years after Robert Weine’s The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, this film takes a massive leap in cinematography with its unique visual techniques created by effects expert Eugen Schüfftan.
Still in the style of German Expressionism this film follows the story Freder, a young man who is finding out the grim truth of the city of Metropolis which was created by his father, Joh Frederson. Frederson believes he created the perfect city for mankind, a kind of utopia in which everything is crisp and futuristic; the pinnacle of human advancement. However this all turns out to be false as his son Freder discovers a world beneath the city of workers slaving away even to the point of death, so in fact the utopia of Metropolis is a disastrous dystopia and Axmaker correctly states the portrayal of society within it,

Fig. 2. Utopia

“Lang uses scale and mass brilliantly, especially with his crowd scenes. They are not just impressive on the level of spectacle, but in the way he moves them through the frame, from chaotic elements moving individually to a mobilized force moving en masse with unstoppable momentum: man colliding with the force of technology.” (Axmaker, 2010)

Fig. 3. Machine world

The film is a visual statement of man’s greed for advancement and hunger for technology that he will even ignore the well-being of those around him just to bask in luxury. In this case just like how Robert Weine incorporated issues of WWI into The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari Lang also reflected on the economic crisis of Germany in the 1920s which is described by Kenneth Turan in his quote,

“As conceived by Lang and his co-screenwriter Thea von Harbou, "Metropolis" was a film of huge ambition that took on such big themes as the nature of capital and labor and the ease of mass manipulation, and filtered them through a personal story of a young couple in love.” (Turan, 2010)

Fig. 4. Dystopia

Lang was also opposed to Hitler’s rise to power along with the Nazi Party which is basically the underlying plot of Metropolis and this quote from Daniel Castillo describes the films theme,

“Hitler had two significant ideas that helped launch him in to power. He had someone to blame for the economy and he had a plan for a swift economic recovery. Hitler outlined a plan where in four years he would completely eliminate unemployment throughout Germany. Even though his plan was a plan that would not raise the level of income for the enrichment of the people but an economic plan for military strength and victory the German people were eager to see any economic success.” (Castillo, 2003)

Joh Frederson can be viewed as Hitler and Metropolis his Germany. He could manipulate it any way he wanted and he wanted to make it perfect no matter what the cost. This underlying plot gives Metropolis a very definitive backbone and accompanied with the German Expressionist visuals of the chaos and dreamlike fantasies make this film the influential titan it still is today.

Axmaker, S. (2010) Parallax View At: (Accessed on: 06.11.11)

Turan, K. (2010) Los Angeles Times At: (Accessed on: 06.11.11)

Castillo, D. (2003) German Economy in the 1920s At: (Accessed on: 06.11.11)

Illustration List
Fig. 1. Lang, Fritz (1927) Metropolis Poster At: (Accessed on: 06.11.11)

Fig. 2. Utopia (1927) From: Metropolis Directed by: Fritz Lang [film still] Germany: Universum Film (UFA) At: (Accessed on: 06.11.11)

Fig. 3. Machine world (1927) From: Metropolis Directed by: Fritz Lang [film still] Germany: Universum Film (UFA) At: (Accessed on: 06.11.11)

Fig. 4. Dystopia (1927) From: Metropolis Directed by: Fritz Lang [film still] Germany: Universum Film (UFA) At: (Accessed on: 06.11.11)

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