First off, apologies for the lack of updates. It was a combination of being in America for two weeks visiting my girlfriend, and then coming home and having my computer break down so it needed to be taken away for two weeks to get fixed. Ugh.
So I was going to do Alien for this one, but I want to write about that later, so I had a bit of a conundrum. But then I remembered this film and, while it’s entirely debatable whether it could be counted in the horror genre or not, I do kind of love it. And so I’m writing about it. So suck it.
Metropolis is, even by modern standards, an incredibly extravagant film. Costing around 5,000,000 marks to produce (approximately 200 million dollars by today’s standards), it almost sent its studio into bankruptcy. The set pieces were extravagant, and the film employed innovative cinematic techniques, like double exposure to convey characters transforming. Metropolis also has the dubious honour of being one of Adolf Hitler’s favourite films. The Nazis saw it as a kind of metaphor for their own regime. Except, oops, director Fritz Lang was Jewish. Awkward. The film ended up saving his life, because Hitler loved it so much that he gave Lang a free pass, and he was able to flee to America. I haven’t been able to find any sources on how Lang felt about all this, but it must have been very distressing to have this film he had worked so hard on, this masterpiece, held in such high esteem by a man who was set on wiping out all people of Lang’s faith.
The film is set in a dystopian future, where the rick minority enjoy a life of luxury in high rise buildings above the city of Metropolis, while the majority are forced to live underground and operate the machinery upon which the city relies for it’s existence. Freder, son of the master of Metropolis, finds out about the workers being kept in slave labour, and spends a day beneath the city where he encounters Maria, a prophet, who preaches to the workers every night, and tells them not to give up because soon they will be liberated. Meanwhile, the city’s inventor has created a prototype for a robot, in the hopes that they will replace the workers, thus saving the elite having to feed them. He finds out about Maria and kidnaps her, planning to create the robot in her image and have it provoke the workers to riot, thus giving the capital the excuse to have then destroyed. It falls to Freder, who has fallen in love with Maria, to save the workers and make his father see the injustice in what he is doing.
So yeah, it’s really not a horror film at all, but there are definitely elements that make it creepy, at least for me. First off, there’s Robot!Maria, who creeps me the fuck out. I don’t know what it is. maybe it’s because the thought of someone taking my identity really scares me. And then there’s all the facial expressions she makes, which sets her so far apart from the real Maria. Seriously, Brigitte Helm deserves so many props for this film, especially considering it was actually her inside the metal robot costume, which left her bruised and pinched. Seriously though, it takes skill to look exactly the same yet portray two very distinct characters, the Virgin and the Whore, especially when no dialogue is involved.
Here’s the real Maria
I don’t know, her face just freaks me out. Ugh, and the way she just cackled insanely when the rebels attempt to burn her as a witch.
Then there’s the concept of the film itself which is pretty scary, especially as it feels like something that could technically happen (which is something I really appreciate in my science fiction). The thought of the elite deciding to completely obliterate the working class which supports them, the workers being reduced to something less than human… we’ve seen society come dangerously close to the scenario in Metropolis enough times for it to be genuinely disturbing. And that’s leaving aside all the religious overtones, the creepy images of the seven deadly sins, and the statue of the Grim Reaper which comes to life as the city descends into chaos.
So yes, I kind of love this movie. It’s beautiful and unusual and creepy, and even if silent film isn’t your thing, you should definitely give it a chance.