The credits for ‘Metropolis’ give a fair indication of what you can expect from the film:
‘Grot, the Guardian of the Heart-Machine’ played by Heinrich George
‘The Creative Man’, ‘The Machine Man’, ‘Death’, ‘The Seven Deadly Sins’, and ‘Maria’ played by Brigitte Helm
Oh, and there’s a sculptor too. But he’s not a character – he was responsible for the creation of the robot costume…
Of course, this film was made in 1927, so it wouldn’t be fair to compare its special effects with those available today. Although, I was mightily impressed to see that ‘Metropolis’ beat ‘2001: A Space Odyssey‘ to the whole ‘Skype’ concept. It’s also pretty cool how they used mirrors to create the illusion that the actors were occupying miniature sets (Hitchcock later stole the idea for himself and the Big Banana’s ‘World of Bananas’ stole it next – on a side note, I have to encourage every single one of you to visit the ‘World of Bananas’ show next time you’re in Coffs Harbour. It is the single greatest cinematic masterpiece in all of Australia, if not the World, and you will not regret it).
I’ve spoken before about the allegations made against Hitchcock and the way he treated his actresses. Apparently Metropolis’ Frtiz Lang was worse – forcing children into cold pools of water for days at a time, flinging his extras at powerful jets of water, setting his leading lady on fire and having her really pulled up by the hair onto a platform. Yikes!
The film reminded me of Chaplin’s ‘City Lights‘ in so many ways. I guess in that whole ‘industrial revolution’ era, it was all about the gear porn, and cities full of grey, hopeless workers. Not my idea of a fun night out at the movies, but hey – whatever gets your motor runnin’!
“The mediator between head and hands must be the heart!”
Much like a Chaplin film, the silent actors in ‘Metropolis’ give new meaning to the term “animated”. Some of the characters were so animated they were RE-animated. Shameless overacting paired with extreme close-talking give this film, and others like it, a certain charm that’s hard to ignore. I don’t know, maybe it’s just the fact that the men always look like they’re about half an inch away from kissing. Maybe it’s the hallucinations of monsters eating people and men jumping from burning buildings. Whatever it is, if ‘Spirited Away‘, ‘Princess Mononoke‘ and ‘Requiem for a Dream‘ were like nightmares to me, then ‘Metropolis’ was a crazy-ass cheese dream. How do I describe Robot Maria’s (yes, Robot Maria’s) dancing, other than to say it was “crazy awesome“?!
It was interesting, too, to see the Prague Astronomical Clock brought to life. Andy and I visited Prague in 2011 and were introduced to this mechanical marvel. Death himself chimes the hour while the Seven Deadly sins dance about. ‘Metropolis’ gives us the silent acting version of the very same thing. The other-worldly dance party is never fully explained, but it’s an apocalyptic German “käse träumen” so – you know – anything goes.
I know some of you were as excited as I was when the rumours of another season of ‘Arrested Development’ (aka one of my all-time favourite TV shows) were proven true only a few weeks ago. To those of you who, like me, have been getting about with ‘The Final Countdown’ in your heads ever since, I say this: you won’t see a Lucille Bluth wink like this one anywhere else so you should really watch this film…
Have you seen ‘Metropolis’? Do you agree with my review? Let me know in the comments below.