Tired of looking at dirty, no-good laborers? Does your local proletariat class ever get you down? Would you like to replace workers with machines, and then in a cruel twist of fate have those same workers maintain said machines . . . all while you live in a futuristic city composed solely of the middle- to upper-class? If you answered yes to any of those questions, then you may or may not be a sociopath, and you should probably be seeking mental treatment and not reading a movie review.
Metropolis (1927) is a German sci-fi flik wherein our protagonist Freder Fredersen pulls the Messiah card and solves the social crisis of his father’s dystopian, yet very futuristic, Metropolis. The conflict of the story revolves around the timeless workers’ plight: the proletariat suffer to allow the bourgeoisie to party. But our workers have a wild card: Maria. She’s a saint, a schoolteacher, a rebel-leader, and our movie’s love interest.
Quicker than you can silently exclaim, ‘licketty-split,’ Freder goes from stalking Maria in the first act to playing a key role in her literally underground rebellion. Joh Fredersen, Freder’s oddly-named father, finds out about the rebellion. To really stick it to the proles, he has his arch-nemesis Rotwang’s Machine-Man take on the likeness of Maria and wreak havoc. But little does Fredersen know, Rotwang plans for evil-Maria to spiral all of Metropolis into sinful oblivion.
If that seems like a lot to you, it is. This is a longer movie, clocking in around two and a half hours. And keep in mind that the version I watched is the 2002 restored version–the 1927 original is over three hours long. Sadly, original footage has been lost due to the film being hacked and slashed soon after the first round of screenings. But what’s left behind is a wonderful mixture of stark visuals peppered with not-so-subtle criticism of single-party states.
Both my most and least favorite part of this movie is that it’s silent. The silence is my least favorite part for obvious reasons; only so much dialogue is given directly to the audience, which means you have to be paying attention to the actors’ body language. But the silence is also my most favorite part for obvious reasons; only so much dialogue is given directly to the audience, which means you have to be paying attention to the actors’ body language.
See, there are two ways to watch this movie: seriously, and comically. Both are perfectly valid. Want a brooding, anvil-dropping film from the past that makes you feel bad for having internet access? Watch seriously. Want an over-the-top campfest with hilarious over-acting and frenzied motion? Watch comically. My personal method is to voice over the actors with silly lines.
However you choose to perceive Metropolis, it will stand as a monochromatic testament to film . . . and as a reminder as to why we shouldn’t let well-meaning bigots be elected into public office.
Galen Russell is an aspiring biologist with a sweet spot for the audiovisual. Currently living in Portland, OR he’s surrounded by loving friends and family who offer him inspiration every day . . . on a gold filigree platter. It’s hard to reach down from his pedestal, but he manages.