Fritz Lang: Metropolis 1927

Fritz Lang: Metropolis 1927

This was not only the first real science fiction classic, it was the most expensive silent film ever made, costing approximately 7 million Reichsmark. Fritz Lang had been inspired by a 1924 visit to Manhattan. “I saw the buildings like a vertical curtain, opalescent, and very light. Filling the back of the stage, hanging from a sinister sky, in order to dazzle, to diffuse, to hypnotize.” The film is set in the future (2026), when mankind is split into two interdependent factions: the thinkers who plan and live in luxury but have no technical skills, and the workers who live underground creating the wealth that the thinkers benefit from. The screenplay was co-written in 1924, by Lang and his wife and long-term collaborator Thea von Harbou, it seems to borrow ideas from Capek’s RUR (1921), and echoes themes of HG Wells The Sleeper Awakes and Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein. The film was originally 153 minutes, but was cut for release in USA, and subsequently about 25% of the original has been lost. However, with current releases on DVD (and versions on youtube) you at least get some idea of the immense vision of the original – the dramatic robot and the cityscape sets are spectacular. The spectacular transmutation of robot and woman (Maria) are still powerful optical effects.

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