Thursday, May 24, 2012

So I finally watched the 1927 silent classic Metropolis and it was astounding

Fritz Lang's Metropolis is the first feature length silent film I've ever sat down and watched. I was a little leery of the experience and did not expect to finish. I was not sure if I could sit through two hours of silent cinema, but Metropolis was an absolutely riveting experience. Truly it deserves the title masterpiece.

The actors were amazing. This silent acting really is a lost art. I watched talented actors display full emotions with their faces and bodies. I also noticed that the silent medium made all the extra actors really put their backs into it too. The movie had many scenes with masses of workers, and the expressive throngs exhibited intense human energy.

This whole movie is on a grand scale, and I was struck by how timely the story remains. It coupled perfectly with current rhetoric about the 99 percent and the 1 percent as the wealthy all powerful ruler reigned from the towers of his shining city and workers plodded between shifts at their machines and were forced to live in an underground city. I appreciated how the clock for the ruler had 12 hours on its face and the clock for the workers only had 10 hours on its face. They work 10 hours shifts by the way. I thought this was a nice way of illustrating the drastic differences between the classes.

Metropolis is also a ground breaking science fiction film with great special effects for its time. The scene when Rotwang the Inventor (He's complete with a mechanical hand.) unveils his Machine Man robot is pretty cool. The robot is obviously female so I'm not sure why it's called the Machine Man, especially after it is given the appearance of Maria who is a prophet of sorts among the workers and teaches compassion.

The restored version of the movie is a bit fragmented, but text strings together the surviving pieces of film so I was able to follow this very engaging story. As you might expect, there is a terrible worker uprising. It's hardly communist propaganda though because the uprising is not pretty and the workers go destructively berserk.

Metropolis is a feverish movie full of compassion, love, sexiness, exploitation, religious commentary, economic commentary, and great storytelling. I wish I had time to watch it again.