Monday, July 31, 2017

Sci Fi Top 100, #8: "Metropolis" (1927)

Note: As the film itself states at the beginning, this movie is unavailable in its original format as the original was lost. What's available to modern audiences is the closest approximation to the original they can get, based on reconstruction from negatives.

Movie Stats:
Released 1927 (Germany)
German, in German (this film is silent; my version had English scene cards)
Director - Fritz Lang
Stars - Gustav Froehlich, Brigitte Helm, Alfred Abel, Rudolf Klein-Rogge, Theodor Loos

Plot Summary:
In a dystopian future where rich and poor live in vastly different circumstances, wealthy young man Freder (Froehlich) falls in love with the young, poor prophetess Maria (Helm) and begins to understand the evils of the system into which he was born. Abel co-stars as Freder’s father, Joh, an unrepentant capitalist; Klein-Rogge as Rotwang, mad scientist & Joh’s frenemy; and Loos as Josaphat, Joh’s employee & Freder’s friend.

Violence; brief female nudity (breasts only).

Bad Stuff:
Like most films of this era, I hate the way they do the men’s make-up. With their overly white faces, black-rimmed eyes, and dark lips, they look ghoulish. I find it very distracting.

Another problem with movies of this era: the exaggerated acting. It makes scenes funny when they shouldn’t be.

Good Stuff:
I love art deco, so I thought this film was visually stunning. Loved the set design, the cinematography, and the clothing. It’s truly a treat for the eyes.

I was extremely impressed by Helm. She actually plays two parts in this and she’s really good at both. Her make-up is different for each part, but it’s more than that. It’s also in the way she carries herself & her facial expressions.

I really liked the score.

The Verdict:
This movie was way better than I was expecting! I enjoyed it a lot. It’s a tale as old as time (class struggle), which means that it’s still relevant ninety years after it was released. Even though it’s relatable now, it’s also a fascinating time capsule of the 1920s: from the art deco sets/costuming, to the aforementioned focus on class struggle (huge in the early 20th century throughout the Western world), to the socialist overtones: you’ll never have to guess this film’s time period. Of course, that means there are those pesky time period issues that I mentioned above, but you kind of have to expect those things when you’re watching a movie this old. Now that I’ve finally seen it, I understand why this film is considered a classic. I was overall seriously impressed.

I give it 4.5 stars.


Patricia said...

I also have never seen this movie. But it sounds interesting. Wouldn't it be nice to get to a point where people find class struggle befuddling? That won't be in our lifetimes, for sure.

This posts begs the question: what is the earliest year you can watch a film and not be distracted by details that are distracting because too much time has passed?

I think I would answer for myself: the early 90s. Even having grown up watching movies in the 80s, I find the casual sexism of 80s films really distracting. Plus, I always wonder what happened to all those actresses. We still know who Chevy Chase is, but what about the woman who was the romantic interest in Fletch? Kevin Bacon is still around, but what about the woman who played Ariel in Footloose?

balyien said...

There will probably always be things that end up as distractions from each era. In the 1940s, for example, cigarette smoking is so prevalent that you can't help but notice it, like, "Whoa, slow down there, chimney stack!" The 1970s, soundtracks tend to be pretty atrocious. Currently, I find women's fashion of the early 2000s extremely distracting (the Britney Spears type look). But there's something in particular about early cinema that I just can't help but notice because it makes me reflect on the growing pains of transitioning from stage to film.