Thursday, October 29, 2009

METROPOLIS (German) (1927)

Epigram- The mediator between head and hands must be the heart!

I am speechless once again. Could anybody dare to make such a mega sci-fi in the era of silent cinema? Just sharpen your history- it was a German film made in the time when end of First World War and Versailles treaty had almost broken Germany’s economy. ‘Metropolis’ was the costliest film made in the era of silent cinema and at the same time it’s so sad to know that the film remained box office debacle when released and almost bankrupted the biggest studio of Germany. Both in its greatness of film and mammoth failure it equals with two other greatest auteur directors and their doomed films which later proclaimed greatest films of this century; Orson Welles’ ‘Citizen Kane’ and Stanley Kubrick’s ‘2001: A Space Odyssey’. But at the same time I’m so glad to read that Metropolis was Hitler’s favorite film and honestly after watching it today, I’d rank it as one of the greatest film ever made in the world of artistic cinema.

Just like ‘M’, this film was again scripted by director Fritz Lang’s wife Thea Von Harbou and along with the film; it was also published in novelized form. Metropolis is set in futuristic city of Yoshiwara, showing the crisis of class distinction between the capitalist and the workers. Master Fredersen is not only ruler but also the builder of Metropolis- his architectural dream and dazzling futuristic city with towering structures and modern working class society. The society is demarcated between Capitalist, Clerk and Workers.
We soon see ‘Down World’ only accessible to workers where they are supposed to work exhaustively for ten hours. Soon we witness the machine consuming workers, a brilliant metaphor. The only solace for the exhausted workers is angelic Maria, who gives them faith and hope. Soon we see Fredersen’s young son Freder, along with the exhausted workers driven away by the austere countenance of Maria guiding to ‘listen the heart’- the mediator between head and hands. Freder followed his heart and realized the inhuman condition of workers. He became rebel against the order set by his own father. Father comes to know about the guiding force. Next we witness Fredersen’s visit to his old friend Rotwang, the inventor who resembles more like Lucifer. He is working on his invention of machine woman. Fredersen wanted to destroy the messiah like Maria’s image which may set discord between workers and Maria and in a way destroy the belief of hope. With his directions Rotwang gives machine woman the face of Maria and soon vamp like false Maria became seductress of workers. I can still go on and on but it’s all wasted attempt to narrate such masterpiece in words.

It’s like limiting the scope and vision of Lang, if one just calls it sci-fi of silent era. Infect, personally speaking it’s more detailed and attention seeking film than ‘M’. As per my interpretation it has so many things to explore: Just like Chaplin’s classic ‘Modern Times’, it’s a fine social satire on new Industrial world order where machine also plays vital character in the story. It’s also deeply rooted with Christian/Biblical allegories and metaphors running throughout the film and it’s also fine fairy tale kind of romantic fable one loves to cherish. The giant sets, brilliant production value and technically original innovations that Lang had used in film naturally prove his auteur. Even though its silent film, Lang brilliantly interconnected parallel cuts into his narration method; one more fine example of being genius story teller.

The uses of biblical religious symbols/metaphors in the film are just striking one. Lang has merged the character of Freder is like infant Jesus, Maria as Virgin Mother Mary and Rotwang as evil Lucifer. What underlined in the beginning epigram of the film, finally proves the fable behind magnum sci-fi. During whole film note the symbolic role played by hands, heart and brain of its characters and you pick the real theme behind the film. The role of religion (Maria) as mediator (heart) between brain (capitalist Frederson/ inventor Rotwang) and hands (human action of workers).

This is what I call ‘Real Masterpiece’. Hail German cinema…Hail Lang…

A film beyond all ratings.

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