Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Space Oddities Film Programme - Metropolis (1927)

Figure 1: Movie Poster

Metropolis (1927) directed by Fritz Lang began by depicting an army of workers walking in a synchronised manner against a backdrop of a city that is situated deep beneath the surface of the earth. The workers were dressed alike and what could be seen was synchronised walking and their postures with heads down projected their feeling of sadness and desperation. This is just an example from one of the scenes that depicted the situation that was happening in German at that time. What Lang wanted to put across having these workers were physically and emotionally drained because all they do is follow orders from the higher authorities also known as the thinkers.  This was articulated very well by Roger Ebert when he said “Lang's film is the summit of German Expressionism, with its combination of stylized sets, dramatic camera angles, bold shadows and frankly artificial theatrics.” (Ebert, 2010) in his review on this film.

Joh Fredersen was the mastermind behind the city and controls how it functions by giving commands to the workers who executes it. The film showed that the workers were laboured to work in a monstrous machine and the were just like the machines, functioning as they were told. As quoted by Brigitte Helm who played the role of Maria “ One man’s hymns of praise became the other man’s curse” (Helm, 1927). Conversely, the meaning behind this statement was that the admiration of the human spirit and the  hard work of the workers were not of the same frequency as they did not know what the final outcome would be. Their voice were not heard until the evil Maria came and preach to them telling them that their time has come to stop working for the higher authorities and be independent. The workers along with their wives heeded her advice and turned the city into a chaotic mess not realising the effect of their actions. Their homes and children down under were affected because heavy flood engulfed their city. The whole scene as described by Hall is agreeable when he said “Its scenes bristle with cinematic imagination, with hordes of men and women and astounding stage settings.” (Hall, 1927)

Comparing Metropolis (1927) with Das Cabinet Des Caligari (1920), it could be seen that the use of special effects elevated in a matter of less than a decade. The shots were more realistic and believable in Metropolis but the exaggerated acting remain unchanged. The use of electromagnetic energy current in the scene where Maria’s physical features were transferred to the Machine Man was a great scene. It showed the mad scientist, Rotwang, at work and there was the use of symmetry in that shot making it a balance scene as seen in Figure 2. A few balanced shots were also noticeable when Rotwang is in his lab, executing his experiment.

Figure 2: Still Image
In most shots, the camera was at a fixed position but in one of the scenes, there was a variation in the camera action when Freder’s point of view was used instead. In Figure 3, it is an image to show how it was shot.  Lang added this interesting element because had it been a fixed camera position when Freger was reaching for Maria’s scarf that he found in the room with no knobs, the emotions that the audience felt would be different compared to when it was his point of view. The camera shake that Lang also used in later part of film to show how the characters felt when the building crumbled was another example of him trying various camera action.

Figure 3: Behind the scene
In addition to that, Lang’s vision of the future city was possible with the use of miniatures and the extension of the set. The shot was from a low angle to show the city in a person’s point of view and the tall buildings architectures. There was a straight on view, like a helicopter view of the city. This was only possible with the help of the miniature set built. If it had not been for this miniature, this city would not have existed because it was the futuristic thought that Lang had that was turned into reality. Abrams seems to be right when he said “Lang's film defies rational dissection at every turn, drunk on the possibilities of exploring a new world defined by its creator's loftiest aspirations, petty jealousies, and domineering hubris.” (Abrams, 2010) Likewise in the blockbuster movie Lord of the Rings sequel, the tower of guard which is also known as Minas Tirith was built because Peter Jackson, the director wanted to bring the author, J. R R.Tolkien’s imagination to life.

Figure 4: Miniature construction of the city in Metropolis

Figure 5: Miniature construction of Minas Tirith in Lord of the Rings
This movie is very influential that not only did it infected the cinema world but also the music industry. Popstars like Madonna made a music video portraying herself as the Babylon as can be seen in Figure 3 and Beyonce had a performance dressing like the Machine Man’s character. It can obviously be seen that they got their inspiration directly from the film.

Figure 6: Still image from the movie (left) Still image from music video (right)
Figure 7: Still image from the movie (left) Photograph from Beyonce's performance (right)
In conclusion, the film is a joy to watch because the visual creative ideas of the set and characters from blockbusters like Blade Runner, Lord of the Rings, Star Wars was heavily influenced by this movie. A quote from a film reviewer Lee sums up the movie perfectly by saying “Eighty-three years on, his (silent) vision remains impressive: the sheer scale of the sets, the rampaging cast of thousands, the ground breaking special effects all still dazzle. An eternal masterpiece.” (Lee, 2010) The underlying message that Lang also wanted to convey is completely applicable in today’s context. The connection between the influential people and the people who dedicated and favoured these people are almost in absence but with the help of the main lead who becomes the mediator, were able to resolve the issue. The tagline of it was “The mediator between the head and the hand is the heart.”

List of Illustrations:

Figure 1 Metropolis (1927) [Poster] at accessed on 1 October 2013

Figure 2 Metropolis 1927 [Sci-fi] Full Movie [Television Programme Online] B&W Full Movies [1927] 150 minutes at accessed on 1 October 2013

Figure 3 Behind the scene [Still Image] at accessed on 1 October 2013

Figure 4 Miniature set construction of the city in Metropolis [Still image] at on 1 October 2013

Figure 5 Miniature set construction of Minas Tirith [Still image]  at on 1 October 2013

Figure 6 Maria [Still image] at accessed on 1 October 2013

Figure 6 Madonna - Material Girl Official Music Video [Television Programme Online] QueenMadonnaHD (1984) 4 minutes at [Still image] accessed on 1 October 2013

Figure 7 Machine Man and Beyonce's performance [Still Image] at accessed on 1 October 2013

List of Bibliography:

Abrams, Simon
Accessed on 1 October 2013

Ebert, Robert
Accessed on 1 October 2013

Hall, Mordaunt
Metropolis (1927) A Technical Marvel.
Accessed on 1 October 2013

Lee, Marc
Metropolis (1927) Review
Accessed on 1 October 2013


  1. Hi Ayunie,

    Just popping by to endorse the way you're extending your reviews outwards in terms of mapping the film's influence on popular culture, and using images well in this respect. Just note that you've got 'Metropole' not 'Metropolis' as your title here - an easy mistake to make considering your choice of book! :)

    1. Hi Phil,

      Whoopsies. I've changed the title.

      Thank you. I always am interested as how movies in the early 21st century influences the industry now. :D

  2. Hi Ayunie!
    Yes, I'm with Phil here - it's great to see you linking this classic film with contemporary culture - well done!
    You have also found some relevant quotes, and used them well... :)

    I will just point out that you need to make sure that you italicise all the names of films in your text, also the article or book titles need to be in italics too (in the text and in the bibliography). You don't need the full date of the articles in the bibliography, just the year. (But keep the full date accessed!)
    All in all, a very satisfying read!

    1. Hi Jackie, points noted. I'll make the necessary adjustments according to your Feedback. Thank you! :)