Wednesday, 1 May 2013

Film review: Metropolis

I meant to write a review about this way back when I watched it, but I kept on putting it off and putting it off. I've kind of realised that if I don't write this post now, I probably won't ever do it because already my recollections of it are getting a little fuzzy.

Part of my literature course with the OU involved watching a film, called Metropolis, directed by Fritz Lang. It was made in the 1920s in Germany and was probably on a similar sort of scale to the Lord of the Rings films or Titanic. It's a black and white silent film and entirely not the sort of thing I would normally find myself devoting my Saturday afternoon to watching.

Metropolis poster from Wikipedia.
It's set in the future in a massive city which is basically home to the wealthy. They live in these massive skyscrapers meanwhile the 'workers', who are the poor people in the city, live way down underground and are responsible for keeping these massive machines working. Their work is shown to be absolutely backbreaking and it's never entirely clear what it is they're actually doing to the machines; it seems kind of pointless, pulling these levers and pressing buttons, but if they stop then the machines stop working.

Metropolis is controlled by Joh Fredersen but the film focuses on his son, Freder, who sees Maria, who preaches to the workers down below. He follows her down and falls in love with her. She convinces him that he is the mediator that the workers need to be the 'heart' between the 'hands' (the workers) and the 'head' (Freder's father). Freder is determined to make his father change the way things work.

His father isn't so keen to change though, and realises that Maria could launch an uprising amongst the workers, so he uses Rotwang, an inventor, to create a robot Maria which he can use to twist what the workers have been told. This false Maria incites an uprising, which leads to the destruction of the machines; Freder and the real Maria then have to try and save the children trapped down below and stop the uprising.

Bits of the film are missing due to countless edits since it was first made (bits of it are kind of risque so were cut out of the American version). The are little black cards which pop up to tell you what would be happening at those points in the film. The music in the film is really good and I found that it helped me to keep my attention on what was happening, there's no speaking and I think that the music definitely influenced the mood of the film.

Gustav Frohlich who played Freder.
Photo from Wikipedia.
The two leading cast members were Gustav Frohlich who played Freder and Brigitte Helm who played the real and false Marias. Freder came across as a bit of an exaggeration at times but Brigitte Helm was fantastic. She played the perfectly innocent and pious Maria, as well as the false Machine-Maria who was seductive and quite wicked. Considering that she had to do all of that without speaking, purely through facial expressions and body language, that was very impressive.

Brigitte Helm who played the Marias.
Photo from Wikipedia.
It's not the sort of film I would normally watch. Honestly, if it wasn't for the course I never would've picked it up, even though the version I watched came free from a newspaper, it would've been one of those that I stuck on a side and never watched. I did quite enjoy it. It was very long (which I realise is a funny thing to say coming from someone who thinks nothing of marathoning Lord of the Rings or Star Wards films) and I'm not a huge fan of watching silent or black and white films.

But I did quite enjoy it all the same. I'd say it's definitely one to watch at least once, just so you can say you've seen it and definitely for Brigitte Helm alone!


  1. I was surprised at how much I enjoyed Metropolis, and I agree with you that Brigitte Helm was excellent in both parts. I didn't really notice how long it was once I sat down to watch it.

    Check out my blog tomorrow for a little bit of sunshine heading your way x

    1. I was really amazed at Brigitte Helm, such a talented actress to be able to play two very different characters without the use of speech or any of the technology that might be used today like CGI or prosthetics.

      I was surprised at how quickly the time passed while I was watching it. Since then I keep on picking up references to it from other films makers (like George Lucas) who were influenced by it, now I feel like I'm in some sort of elite club because I understand what they're referencing, hehe.

      (and thank you for the sunshine ;-))


Let me know what you think. :-)