Friday, 5 October 2012

Cinematic Spaces Film Reviews: Metropolis

Metropolis (1927) was directed by a German man named Fritz Lang but was written by Lang and his wife, Thea Von Harbou. Metropolis is considered to be one of the most influential films in regards to special effects and the boundaries it pushed in film making; considering Metropolis was only made 7 years after Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1920) you can see how far film making and the process behind it had come in that short space of time. Whereas previous films had used a theatrical stage as their set, which gave them limited space and gave the films a theatre look, Metropolis used bigger sets and bigger spaces to create a film that looked as if it was set in a real world scenario.
Fig 1
One of the main characteristics to notice in Metropolis is the use of height in the buildings. ‘The great city of Metropolis, with its stadiums, skyscrapers and expressways in the sky, and the subterranean worker's city, where the clock face shows 10 hours to cram another day into the work week.’ Ebert. This quote, along with the image above helps to demonstrate and show how Lang used the infrastructure of the buildings, as if to symbolise the power of industrialism and the insignificance of the workers and the ‘middle class’ citizens. The buildings used throughout the film have a sense of Classicism to them in the way they use clean edges and simplistic designs, but it is used in a way to almost squash the characters and make them seem so much smaller than they actually are. This also ties in with the broken will that is portrayed throughout the beginning of the film; since the storyline is based around social classes and the workers being forced to work obscene shifts underneath the city, the use of structure ties in with the themes and motifs well.

Fig 2

The image above is another way in which Lang used height and structure to convey the power and the dominance the ‘upper class’ had in comparison to the workers below the Earth’s surface; the building in figure 2 is the building in which Joh Fredersen overlooked the city. Metropolis, the futuristic city, is a barometer for class warfare with the effete rich enjoying creature comforts high in the sky while the beaten down workers toil in an underground dystopia of purposeless machines and skull-filled catacombs.’ Brenner, (2011).

Another one of the more famous aspects of Metropolis was its use of effects throughout the film to create vivid and threatening mirages that Freder witnessed and became traumatised by.
Figure 3 is a film still from the main machine featured in the workers area; when the machine blows and workers are injured and killed, a series of film was played that showed the machine open up and the workers fall into the pits of the mouth while the other march in unison to their fate. The use of the buildings and the daunting face on the machine created a sequence of film that was both disorientating and helped to convey the message of the film. ‘when the machinery explodes, Freder has a vision in which the machinery turns into an obscene devouring monster.’ Ebert.
The use of height in structure is again evident in the workers underground city, even more so to help show the dominance that Joh Fredersen had over the city and to carry through the message of power. 

Film Still 1 (Fig 1) 

Robert Ebert. In: [online] At: (Accessed on 04/10/12)
Paul Brenner. In: [online] At: (Accessed on 05/10/12)
Robert Ebert. In: [online] At: (Accessed on 05/10/12)  

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