Movie Review: Metropolis

I’ve been meaning to watch this film for quite some time. I’ve seen clips of the sets and the Maschinenmensch coming to life but that was about it. I liked what I saw; I just wish I had the English translation for it.

Divided by social class, a city-dweller sees an underground worker and falls in love.

I was faced with several options of movie prints. I eventually watched the 2 1/2 hour long print with the recovered footage from Buenos Aires on YouTube. The intertitles were all in German and there were no English captions provided. I did find the English print under the recommendations but it was missing twenty minutes. And then there was a print (which I’ll cover later) that was synced to Pink Floyd’s Wish You Were Here. I had to pass on that and watch the film with the regular score.

I am very impressed with the scale of the sets. The surprising thing is that most of them were miniatures and the actors were composited later. Granted, this was only the 1920’s and greenscreening wasn’t around but the fact that I could not find the telltale sign of the compositing job says something about how well this was visually crafted.

I had some diffuculty in identifying the characters. I could identify Maria and Freder but that was it. I could not attach any other name to the rest of the cast. Sure, I saw what different characters did but the name would escape me each time, even in the intertitles.

As soon as I saw the workers trudging along underground, the first thing that popped into my head was “Another Brick in the Wall Part 2” from Pink Floyd’s The Wall; I can’t watch anything that has similar elements without thinking of Pink Floyd. The tasks performed by the workers and the meltdown that followed reminded me of THX 1138. I looked at the references for this film on IMDB and both were mentioned along with a host of others. It’s nice to watch the original source and see how it influenced a lot of other films.

I enjoyed some of the animated intertitles. From the scream of “MOLOCH!” in the stylized typeface to the bleeding, even the direction of how the intertitles appeared juxtaposed with the elevator’s ascent or descent was a nice surprise. So far, I haven’t seen many silent films that are as creative with the intertitles as this one. It’s a nice treat to watch.

Some images look like those from The Man with a Movie Camera with the numerous superimpositions. Mostly, they add to the spectacle and the dizzying horror in the club scene. They’re beautiful images that could easily be paintings.

I should go back and watch an English captioned print but I’m not sure if I can find the most complete one. It’s a strong film with visual effects that stand the test of time and still continue to impress.

8/10

1001 MYMSBYD selection

IMDB Top 250

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