Metropolis (Lang, 1927)

Metropolis (Fritz Lang, 1927)

In 2008, missing footage from Fritz Lang’s epic science fiction/futuristic classic was found, restored, and added to what many consider to be one of the greatest movies of all time. And yesterday I had the chance to see this film in its entirety on the big screen. I had seen it once before, but it was years ago and obviously without the recently discovered scenes. There was a lot I didn’t remember.

Lang’s film almost gets caught up in its own ambition. I’m generally a fan of simplicity in film, and this is most certainly not simple. There is so much happening, so many characters with so many motivations, it’s hard to keep up with it all, and I think even Lang lost track at times. The film is at its most interesting and even frightening when it’s bringing the book of Revelation to life. Lang’s illustration of a near-apocalyptic world feels eerily accurate. Nothing really bad is happening, yet there is a distinct sense of filth and sin. The way the story unfolds from the introduction of the city of Metropolis, the working world, and the woman and man sent to bring the two together to the rise of the machine-man and her deception is mostly great.

But the film really starts to falter when it turns into what I would describe as a typical disaster scenario. The film’s biblical feel is abandoned and we’re treated to a somewhat dull suspense section. It’s here where characters started saying and doing small things that really didn’t add up to what we already knew about them. Add that to extreme amounts of overacting (even for the silent era), and the need to constantly beat viewers over the head with the message, and this is just too flawed for me to love it.  7.5/10


2 Responses to “Metropolis (Lang, 1927)”

  1. Kyle King Says:

    Some random thoughts:

    1) Is it just me, or did they have different standards for personal space?
    2) I think Josaphat kind of looked like Phil Collins. Or Peter Lorre.
    3) Was Freder supposed to be a handsome leading man? That is one ugly dude.

    All kidding aside, it was definitely an interesting and ambitious picture. I quite enjoyed the special effects, which were just as realistic-looking as a number of choice CG scenes, as far as I’m concerned. (I think people assume, “Hey, it’s CG! It’ll look good.” Not so much.) I’m guessing a lot of the cityscapes were just little models, but I think they did a good job of creating a space. The transformation of the Machine Man was well done, too, especially with the rings of light and such. The various machines were also intriguing, though it was difficult to suspend disbelief sometimes. (I get the point that the work is unfulfilling, dangerous drudgery, but what purpose could it possibly serve to have people constantly chasing lights with levers? And if they fail, the machine explodes? Sounds like a poorly designed machine, if you ask me…)

    The plot points were definitely all over the place. I agree that the strongest elements were the apocalyptic and abstract sections. Also, the actor who played the Thin Man was very well cast. One creepy fellow.

    • chrisfilm Says:

      1. Yes, they sure did. 🙂
      2. Yes, this too.
      3. Can’t disagree here either.

      Yeah, the sets were great, though I’ve always preferred on location shooting, so I don’t think I’m as wowed as some others by this aspect.

      The task of chasing the lights with the levers is surely symbolic of something, I just don’t know what. 🙂

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