Wednesday, 16 April 2014

Metropolis (1927) Rise against the machine!

Directed&Written by Fritz Lang
Sci-Fi & Fantasy
153 Minutes

In 3 years, the film will be 90 years old, and with the film's incredible age (and extremely well restored & reconstructed edition now available on DVD/Blu-Ray), it stands the test of time as a great Sci-Fi movie. The film's influence is phenomenal, with several filmmakers following in the footsteps of Fritz Lang's ambitious masterpiece with the film's elaborate and prodigious sets and effects. Metropolis was a film ahead of its time and one of the most important in cinema history.

Plot: Set in the future, in the clockwork city of Metropolis, we find a society of oppressed workers whom slave away in the depths of the city for those above. Machines and industrialisation dominates the advanced city, where the mastermind of the city's son falls in love with a woman who predicts a saviour to the city's division of class.

It is the Weimar period in Germany, and Fritz Lang, German resident wrote Metropolis alongside his with Thea Von Harbou, a story that would become one of cinema's greatest treasures. The 1920's was a period of industrious and international competitions of country advancements- anxieties where heightening and everything from cars to homes where advancing, changing. It is these anxieties that form Science Fiction as a genre, and Metropolis is cinema's first full Sci-Fi leap.

The set designs, mise-en-scene and cinematography are immensely striking for its time and it is recorded that the film used over 30, 000 extras- and this is 12 years before the release of America's ''Gone with the Wind''! The production of the film was so large in scale that it almost bankrupted its company UFA. It received mixed reviews and didn't make its money back.

The film received some negative criticism with author H, G Wells saying he had "just seen the silliest film", and also calling it cliché and muddled. It is clear that during its time it was not seen as a revolutionary film but it soon went on to be recognised as "one of the great achievements of the silent era", says Roger Ebert in his review.

The influence this film had is incredible. You can see it so much. The robot which you see on the poster shares a somewhat similarity with C3-P0 in "Star Wars", its futuristic pessimism shares similarity to Stanley Kubrick's "2001: A Space Odyssey" (another Sci-Fi milestone) and the city-setting of "Blade Runner" drew influence from this film. Lang's film is truly the roots of Sci-Fi film. The soundtrack must also be included in this review, as it is just fantastic. Gottfried Huppertz's musical score truly added to the films mechanical and industrial surrounding of noise, metal and machines.

The film has themes that have more relevance today than during the film's release. We live in an age of real technological reliance. Just look how you are reading this review- the internet, computers, mobile phones, advanced cars, televisions, 3D printers, mass production and of course, robotic technologies. Lang's film is a reminder of such mechanical overtake, and just like all future-technology anxieties across the past 120 years, we must retain the heart, the friend and maintain our humanity.

When watching Lang's masterpiece, you are witnessing an audacious, ambitious and incredible feat of filmmaking, with incredible collaboration and passion for the art. Full of remarkable sets, German expressionism and a story crying for utopia, Lang's efforts alongside the production cast & crew have not went unappreciated. For cinephiles and moviegoers of today it is an exciting film that is personally one of my favourite Sci-Fi movies and would sit proudly among my favourite films ever made.

Notes on the 2010 DVD/Blu-Ray release:
I seriously recommend the purchase of this release, as you get the 150 minute film restored and reconstructed to the way it was intended to be seen. It also includes a commentary from Jonathon Rosenbaum, a 55 minute documentary on the film, a 50 page booklet with reviews and articles on the film and my favourite feature: a new 20
10 symphony recording of the original soundtrack in both 2.1 and 5.1 audio.



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