Metropolis (1927 film)

Metropolis
Metropolisposter.jpg
original 1927 theatrical release poster
Directed byFritz Lang
Produced byErich Pommer
Screenplay byThea von Harbou
Fritz Lang (uncredited)
Based onMetropolis (1925 novel)
by Thea von Harbou
Starring
Music byGottfried Huppertz
Cinematography
Production
company
Distributed byUfa
(Germany)
Parufamet
(United States)
Release date
  • 10 January 1927 (1927-01-10)
[1][2]
Running time
153 minutes (original)
116 minutes (1927 edit)
105–107 minutes (1927 US)[3][4]
128 minutes (1927 UK)[3]
118 minutes (Aug. 1927)
91 minutes (1936)
83 minutes (1984)
124 minutes (2001)
148 minutes (2010)
CountryGermany
Language
Budget5.3 million Reichsmarks (estimated)[2]
Box office75,000 Reichsmarks (estimated)

Metropolis is a 1927 German expressionist science-fiction drama film directed by Fritz Lang. Written by Thea von Harbou, with collaboration from Lang himself,[5][6] it starred Gustav Fröhlich, Alfred Abel, Rudolf Klein-Rogge and Brigitte Helm. Erich Pommer produced it in the Babelsberg Studios for Universum Film A.G. (Ufa). The silent film is regarded as a pioneering work of the science-fiction genre in movies, being among the first feature-length movies of the genre.[7] Filming took place over 17 months in 1925–26 at a cost of over five million Reichsmarks.[8]

Made in Germany during the Weimar Period, Metropolis is set in a futuristic urban dystopia and follows the attempts of Freder, the wealthy son of the city's master, and Maria, a saintly figure to the workers, to overcome the vast gulf separating the classes of their city, and bring the workers together with Joh Fredersen, the master of the city. The film's message is encompassed in the final inter-title: "The Mediator Between the Head and the Hands Must Be the Heart".

Metropolis was met with a mixed reception upon release. Critics found it pictorially beautiful and visually powerful—the film's art direction by Otto Hunte, Erich Kettelhut and Kurt Vollbrecht draws influence from Bauhaus, Cubist and Futurist design,[9] along with touches of the Gothic in the scenes in the catacombs, the cathedral and Rotwang's house[3]—and lauded its complex special effects, but accused its story of naiveté.[10] H. G. Wells described the film as "silly", and The Encyclopedia of Science Fiction calls the film's story "trite" and its politics "ludicrously simplistic".[3] The film's alleged Communist message was also criticized.[11]

The film's extensive running time also came in for criticism, and Metropolis was cut substantially after its German premiere, removing a large portion of Lang's original footage. Numerous attempts have been made to restore the film since the 1970s. Music producer Giorgio Moroder released a truncated version with a soundtrack by rock artists such as Freddie Mercury, Loverboy and Adam Ant in 1984. A new reconstruction of Metropolis was shown at the Berlin Film Festival in 2001. In 2008, a damaged print of Lang's original cut of the film was found in a museum in Argentina. After a long restoration process that required additional materials provided by a print from New Zealand, the film was 95% restored and shown on large screens in Berlin and Frankfurt simultaneously on 12 February 2010.

In 2001, the film was inscribed on UNESCO's Memory of the World Register, the first film thus distinguished.

Plot

In the future, in the city of Metropolis, wealthy industrialists and business magnates and their top employees reign from high-rise towers, while underground-dwelling workers toil to operate the great machines that power the city. Joh Fredersen is the city's master. His son Freder idles away his time at sports and in a pleasure garden, but is interrupted by the arrival of a young woman named Maria, who has brought a group of workers' children to witness the lifestyle of their rich "brothers". Maria and the children are ushered away, but Freder, fascinated, goes to the lower levels to find her. On the machine levels he witnesses the explosion of a huge machine that kills and injures numerous workers. Freder has a hallucination that the machine is Moloch, and the workers are being fed to it. When the hallucination ends and he sees the dead workers being carried away on stretchers, he hurries to tell his father about the accident; Fredersen asks his assistant, Josaphat, why he learned of the explosion from his son, and not from him.

Grot, foreman of the Heart Machine, brings to Fredersen secret maps found on the dead workers. Fredersen again asks Josaphat why he did not learn of the maps from him, and fires him. Freder secretly rebels against Fredersen by deciding to help the workers, after seeing his father's cold indifference towards the harsh conditions they face.

Fredersen takes the maps to the inventor Rotwang to learn their meaning. Rotwang had been in love with a woman named Hel, who left him to marry Fredersen and later died giving birth to Freder. Rotwang shows Fredersen a robot he has built to "resurrect" Hel. The maps show a network of catacombs beneath Metropolis, and the two men go to investigate. They eavesdrop on a gathering of workers, including Freder. Maria addresses them, prophesying the arrival of a mediator who can bring the working and ruling classes together. Freder believes that he could fill the role and declares his love for Maria. Fredersen orders Rotwang to give Maria's likeness to the robot so that it can ruin her reputation among the workers to prevent any rebellion. Fredersen is unaware that Rotwang plans to use the robot to kill Freder and take over Metropolis. Rotwang kidnaps Maria, transfers her likeness to the robot and sends her to Fredersen. Freder finds the two embracing and, believing it is the real Maria, falls into a prolonged delirium. Intercut with his hallucinations, the false Maria unleashes chaos throughout Metropolis, driving men to murder and stirring dissent amongst the workers.

Freder recovers and returns to the catacombs. Finding the false Maria urging the workers to rise up and destroy the machines, Freder accuses her of not being the real Maria. The workers follow the false Maria from their city to the machine rooms, leaving their children behind. They destroy the Heart Machine, which causes the workers' city below to flood. The real Maria, having escaped from Rotwang's house, rescues the children with the help of Freder. Grot berates the celebrating workers for abandoning their children in the flooded city. Believing their children to be dead, the hysterical workers capture the false Maria and burn her at the stake. A horrified Freder watches, not understanding the deception until the fire reveals her to be a robot. Rotwang is delusional, seeing the real Maria as his lost Hel, and he chases her to the roof of the cathedral, pursued by Freder. The two men fight as Fredersen and the workers watch from the street. Rotwang falls to his death. Freder fulfills his role as mediator by linking the hands of Fredersen and Grot to bring them together.

A replica of the Maschinenmensch ("Machine-Man"), on display at the Robot Hall of Fame in the Carnegie Science Center, Pittsburgh, U.S.
Other Languages
Bân-lâm-gú: Metropolis
català: Metropolis
čeština: Metropolis
Ελληνικά: Μετρόπολις
Esperanto: Metropolis
galego: Metropolis
македонски: Метрополис (филм)
Bahasa Melayu: Metropolis (filem)
Nederlands: Metropolis (film)
русский: Метрополис
Simple English: Metropolis (movie)
slovenščina: Metropolis (film)
српски / srpski: Метрополис (филм)
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Metropolis (film, 1927)
українська: Метрополіс (фільм)