Starring: Brigitte Helm, Alfred Abel, Gustav Frolich
Director: Fritz Lang
In a beautifully realised dystopian future, the world is run by the decadent city planners, who are strongly divided from the working classes, but all this changes when the son of the city’s overlord meets Maria, a kind woman from the working classes who opens his eyes to the reality of the situation. She is a prophet-like figure who talks about a person who could mediate between the high and low, and ease the divide.
But when the higher-ups see the young man falling for her and hear about the threat of her portents to the status quo, something drastic must be done. They build a sinister machine in her likeness and start to wreak havoc…
It’s A Must See Because: Metropolis was a gargantuan project, one so large and expensive that it nearly sank the studio that produced it. It’s a story full of symbolism, beauty, drama and mad scientists, with massive sets which are frequently blown up or flooded. The film was at one point chopped up and for a log time the missing parts were lost, but a copy of the original film was found in South America, and so now you can see the full film as Fritz Lang intended, running at about 2 hours.
Even by today’s standards, the film is visually very impressive. The sets, with their Art Deco influences, and their huge design, have to be seen to be believed, and the film is worth watching for that alone. But the character of Maria, played by Brigitte Helm is really something. As an android version of her is created, a kind of evil twin, Helm is hypnotic, passionate, angelic and hellish all at once. Although all the performances are pretty good, I really loved her the most.
One little anecdote about this film: Lang was horrified when Hitler stated that he loved the film, and was willing to make the Jewish director an honorary Aryan. Lang would later flee to the US to continue working and escape persecution.
See It If: this is the birth of the epic sci fi, but it’s a long silent movie. See it for the amazing 20’s design sets and costumes, but it might be long for some viewers.