Metropolis (1927)

Directed by Fritz Lang
Written by Thea von Harbou

In 1927, German director Fritz Lang released his masterpiece, Metropolis. It was unlike any film ever made and feature some of the most striking, futuristic design of any film during the silent era. It follows the story of a young man, the son of the ruler of a grand city of the future. This young man is uneducated about his surroundings, simply living the lush life of a playboy. Then he meets a beautiful woman, Maria, who would not have him. In his search through the city to find her, he encounters what life is like for the everyday man. He sees people working the machines for hours upon hours. He then becomes inspired to switch places with one of these workers and continue his search for this woman. When he attends a secret meeting in the catacombs of Metropolis, he discovers she is a preacher, whose message is that one day a mediator will come and save the terrible conditions in which they now all live, underground in the underworld of the great city of Metropolis, manning the machines that make life grand for those that thrive above the cities basement. The young man takes it as his cue to be that mediator, having seen the conditions and taking the workers concerns to heart, for he had previously had no knowledge of such conditions.

The film is obviously a story about the industrial revolution and the potential harm of the rapidly growing power of the robber baron over the much poorer and weak working class. Like many silent films, Metropolis does not shy away from sending its message straight to the viewer, with no room for interpretation or misunderstanding. The film ends with a text card with the exact message of the entire two and a half hour film. But this style is not bad, in fact it is completely understandable and quite noble in the case of Metropolis.

What set this film apart is the grand idea and the remarkable design of the film. The sets and effects for a film produced in 1927 are jawdropping. I can only image how much money a film like this cost, but looking back, I think it was worth every penny because it has been left to generations to come to admire and study as a monumental achievement in film. The extra twenty or so minutes found in South America recently may or may not have added to the effect of the film, but I think it didn’t hurt the proceedings. And experiencing this film for the first time with a live DJ score, featuring electronic and industrial style music, may set the film up for failure for me down the line. The music, while extra modern and seemingly out of date with the film, complimented the futuristic world created by Lang extremely well. I would like to thank the DJ for a fantastic job, as he synched the score so well sometimes that beats coincided with the beating of a door, whether it was coincidence or not, it was remarkable. There were times where selections were distractingly out of place, but they were few and far between and the experience with the film and music will be something I will always remember about this viewing experience. It was one of the best film experiences I have had.

The film itself is a masterwork and monumental in the history of film, as I said before. It may not rank as one of my favorites, but it is something that I have the utmost respect and appreciation for. It will be interesting to view this film again in the future and see how it holds up with a traditional score with it because the live DJ score certainly sets the bar very high with the experience of the great story being told on screen.

Adam Kuhn

Adam Kuhn was born and raised in Columbus, Ohio, where he attended Saint Charles Preparatory School. He studied History at the University of Cincinnati, where he was a contributor of The News Record, the twice-weekly, independent student news organization. He has been writing film reviews and blogging since 2009.

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