The prospect of silent films seems a little daunting to me. It’s such a different experience to what I’m used to. As for German expressionism? I’m way over my head, there! But in the case of Fritz Lang’s 1927 film, I’m really glad I overcame my doubts and finally got round to watching this one. Even the poster artwork is beautiful.
If you’re unfamiliar with Metropolis, it’s set in a grand, modern city of gleaming skyscrapers. It’s a playground for the affluent. Below ground, the workers live in basic accommodations and toil their lives away relentlessly. They must keep the machinery that sustains the city going. In isolation the tasks seem pointless, but it seems that each role must be fulfilled in order to maintain the status quo. Just look at this guy. What is he doing?
So, the workers have found a leader in Maria. A young woman who preaches peace and tolerance, and who tells the people of a “mediator” who will come to them. He will be the one to build a bridge between the workers and the affluent folk who live above ground, thus improving their lot in life. Little does she know, but the wheels are already in motion.
What follows is a tale of deception, intrigue and class war, with a bit of a love story thrown in for good measure. Metropolis is visually stunning. From the representations of the city and underground machinery…
…to the astounding special effects (remember, this was made in 1927)…
…to the raunchy dancing that made the Metropolis-dwelling toffs go wild with desire…
Fritz Lang’s Metropolis isn’t the easiest watch, just because it’s so different stylistically. Actors in silent films had to use their facial movements and physical gestures to help tell their stories, in a way that’s alien to us now, and this sometimes seems slightly comical. Like they’re over acting. They aren’t. It’s just different. You’ll get used to it.
This particular silent film is also pretty long, depending on which version you watch. I watched the restored 2010 version which includes some previously missing footage as well as text cards to explain sections of the film that were never recovered. I’ve read that this makes for a much more enjoyable viewing experience, as it fills some of the plot holes found in earlier cuts.
There’s a lot more I could say about the plot, but I’m sure there’s plenty of information out there if you want to know more, and honestly, I wouldn’t want to spoil it. If you’ve even half a notion to watch this film, stop putting it off and give it a try. I hope you’ll like it as much as I did.
Fab review. Loved this film. Glad you added the posters too 🙂
This is another film I just never got around to. You make it sound pretty awesome. Great review! I think I’ll give it a go
Thanks, Mel! If you can muster the will, its totally worth it.
I have this sitting in a box at home but I’ve always been weary of putting it in. Think I’d like it?
Well… you hate talking and there’s no talking buuuut it’s quite long… I’m not convinced you’ll like it but if you’ve got it you should give it a go. You might end up loving it or you might want to put it in for shitfest!
I was amazed by the special effects – this was 1927 – I can hardly get my head around that!
My dearest lo,
HMMMMMM I have soooooooo much to do before that but I’ll watch it because I believe in you.
Great write-up Laura. Think I’ll take the plunge on this one too, sounds and looks incredibly interesting.
Thanks Adam! I hope you like it. It’s obviously a bit of a weird experience but once you get used to it being silent it really is quite special.
Excellent review, Laura! I’ve been putting this one off for far too long. I’m not sure why as I’ve discovered I quite like silent films. I had to watch some for my IMDB Top 250 thing so I started with Chaplin & totally fell in love with Modern Times & City Lights. Then I watched Nosferatu & that was freaking fantastic (I think you’d like that one). This is in the Top 250 too so I WILL be watching it someday for sure. 🙂 Those posters are awesome!
Do it! I found the silent thing weird but it’s a bit like subtitles insofar as you stop noticing aftr a few minutes. The only other one I’ve seen is Hitchcock’s TheLodger which I really liked (it’s on my site somewhere if you fancy a look ).
I’ll definitely try to check out some more silents. As film fans I think it’s good for us to know how it all started.
Those posters are beautiful aren’t they? I could decorate my whole flat in them!
I’d love a room filled with nothing but cool movie posters! Like, a cinema room. In my mansion. Yeah. 🙂
In the lobby of your home cinema, cribs style!
Good post! I don’t think many modern sci-fi fans will appreciate how much Metropolis influenced all the films that influenced the sci-fi they see today in terms of effects and the general aesthetic of a futuristic world.
Similarly, his Frau Im Mond made a year later (reviewed on my site.. 😉 ) in fact became the template for real life space explorations, as lang invented the 10 to 1 lift off countdown!
The fact this film also carries with a rich social message is lost on a lot of people and makes for a compelling drama. Lang’s films are often epic and hugely innovative, creating many templates that other filmmakers went on to employ themselves, and became a standard within the language of film.
Don’t be afraid of silent films – you will be in awe of the technical innovations and sheer weight of emotions they can evoke through their masterly storytelling! 🙂
Thanks for the thought provoking reply! The only other silent film I’ve seen is Hitchcock’s The Lodger, and i really liked that. I’m going to try to watch some more and see how i get on.
The only other of Lang’s films I’ve seen is M which I thought was amazing so after these two I’m keen to see what else he did.
European silent films are much more experimental on the technical front than Hollywood films were, while the US was innovating in different ways.
I recommend these two blogs in researching both sides of this discussion: http://moviessilently.com/ and https://silentsplease.wordpress.com/. 🙂
Great, thanks so much for shopping
Argh! Predictive text! That should be ‘sharing’. I’ll definitely look into it.
Hehe! PCs > smartphones! 😛
Great post, I really gotta watch some stuff from the silent era.
Thanks Vinnie! I really liked this. If you like sci-fi, you should definitely see this.
Absolutely love this film, even if it is a bit tough to watch depending on the cut you choose. And love your image choices here!
I think it’s actually aged very well, considering. I LOVE the imagery and the poster art. Beautifully done, aren’t they?
Pingback: June 2015 Favourites | FILM GRIMOIRE·