A seminal work for understanding science fiction and futuristic dystopias. 


In a futuristic dystopian city, Freder, the wealthy son of the city master and Maria, a saintly figure of the worker class attempt to overcome the vast gap separating the classes in the city and bring the workers together with Freder’s father. 

Metropolis's screenplay was written by Thea von Harbou, a popular writer in Weimar Germany, jointly with Lang, her then-husband. The film's plot originated from a novel of the same title written by Harbou for the sole purpose of being made into a film. The novel in turn drew inspiration from H. G. Wells, Mary Shelley and Villiers de l'Isle-Adam's works and other German dramas. Metropolis began principal photography on 22 May 1925 with an initial budget of 1.5 million Reichsmarks. Lang cast two unknowns with little film experience in the lead roles.

Shooting of the film was a draining experience for the actors involved due to the demands that Lang placed on them. For the scene where the worker's city was flooded, Helm and 500 children from the poorest districts of Berlin had to work for 14 days in a pool of water that Lang intentionally kept at a low temperature. Lang would frequently demand numerous re-takes, and took two days to shoot a simple scene where Freder collapses at Maria's feet; by the time Lang was satisfied with the footage he had shot, actor Gustav Fröhlich found he could barely stand.

The effects expert Eugen Schüfftan created pioneering visual effects for Metropolis. Among the effects used are miniatures of the city, a camera on a swing, and most notably, the Schüfftan process, in which mirrors are used to create the illusion that actors are occupying miniature sets. This new technique was seen again just two years later in Alfred Hitchcock's film Blackmail.

Despite the film's later reputation, some contemporary critics panned it. Critic Mordaunt Hall of The New York Times called it a "technical marvel with feet of clay". A review by H. G. Wells dated 17 April 1927 accused it of "foolishness, cliché, and about mechanical progress and progress in general". He faulted Metropolis for its premise that automation created drudgery rather than relieving it, wondered who was buying the machines' output if not the workers, and found parts of the story derivative of Shelley's Frankenstein, Karel Čapek's R.U.R., and his own The Sleeper Awakes. Nowadays, According to Roger Ebert, "Metropolis is one of the great achievements of the silent era, a work so audacious in its vision and so angry in its message that it is, if anything, more powerful today than when it was made." Leonard Maltin's Movie Guide's entry on the film reads, "Heavy going at times but startling set design and special effects command attention throughout." It also ranked 12th in Empire magazine's "The 100 Best Films Of World Cinema" in 2010 and second in a list of the 100 greatest films of the Silent Era. The 2002 version was awarded the New York Film Critics Circle Awards "Special Award" for the restoration. In 2012, in correspondence with the Sight & Sound Poll, the British Film Institute called Metropolis the 35th-greatest film of all time.

Metropolis is one of the great achievements of the silent era, a work so audacious in its vision and so angry in its message that it is, if anything, more powerful today than when it was made.

The Soundtrack

Metropolis was the third soundtrack composed by Caspervek in its early days and premiered in Vigo in the spring of 2014. That original version was performed in the following years in different European venues in the cities of Riga, Budapest and Groningen. The score made use of the usual language elements of the band, also adding medieval melodies and touches of cabaret music of the Weimar Republic.


A new score for Metropolis will be premiered by the band in the course of 2021 in collaboration with the chamber music trio Bórea.


Episode

Details

  • Director

    Fritz Lang

  • Writer

    Thea von Harbou

  • Runtime

    118 min

  • Year

    1927

  • Country

    Germany

  • Company

    U. F. A.

  • Genre

    Science Fiction. Political


Cast

Gustav Frölich

Brigitte Helm

Alfred Abel

Rudolf Klein-Rogge


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