Sunday, 11 October 2015

Space Oddities: Metropolis (1927) Film Review

When thinking of the original impact films that paved the way for today's cinematic industry it would be impossible to overlook Fritz Lang's 'Metropolis' (1927). Just from viewing this film you can see how actions and techniques where used in some of today's most influential films. When trying to describe the plot of the movie and what it is about this can be challenging to an extent as there is such confusion yet understanding. As Rodger Ebert said "The movie has a plot that defies common sense, but its very discontinuity is a strength. It makes "Metropolis" hallucinatory--a nightmare without the reassurance of a steadying story line." Rodger Ebert (1998). The film has an underlying eeriness about it which makes it a horror / sci-fi. There are no visually scary moments that will make you jump out of your seat with your heart pounding through your chest, rather it is a fear that you will feel deep within you when contemplating the idea of a Metropolis.

fig 1.

One of the most impressive features of this film is the set of the Metropolis. When watching it we can see clearly that the sets are not just simply 2d matte paintings, rather then actual buildings. To create this effect of having a real Metropolis city Lang used model sets and camera trickery to make these visually enticing sets (fig 2). Making it appear that a city, which would be extremely futuristic for the time of production, to be of a full scale and extremely realistic for the time. Due to this it could be said that Lang is one of the pioneers in special effects along with Robert Wiene.

fig 2

As beautiful as we see Metropolis conveyed as the big futuristic city with sky scrapers and roads on different levels, there is another level of the city that is much darker and is what brings in the eeriness of this movie. The other part of the city is a workers city which is underneath the Metropolis. The reasoning for this workers city is to keep Metropolis running. The heartless big company owner, Jon Frederson, has no regards for this city which lies underneath his Metropolis other then it is needed to keep his city running. The workers within the city are stuck on repetitive paths of life having 10 hour shifts on and off. From the first scene you see these men who are forced to work are shells of people who have nothing to live for apart from attending work. This is one of the aspects that gives the film its eeriness as it shows the two different aspects of this amazing city. Above the surface everything is beautiful with incredible structures and buildings, where on the other hand there are people who have no lives and are forced to run the city below it in the depths and darkness. This could be said to show the two different sides of things and how nothing can be perfect without a dark side. As Nev Price said "With its immense sets and stark lighting, the workers' city is a credible image of hell, while the overground landscapes were a seminal influence on all subsequent science fiction." (Nev Price 2003)

Fig 3.

Another aspect of this film that particuarly stands out is the story line with the character Maria. We see two sides of Maria, well of her body that is. When we first see her the main character, Freder, she is portrayed as a beautiful woman who is kind and loving. We can see this from the way she is looking after children and the way in which she moves, soft and elegantly. But later in the film we can see how Lang's plot comes into play with Maria.When she is kidnapped by the sinister inventor Rotwang. When being kidnapped we see the iconic scene of her being chased by the inventor but this is represented in her running through dark catacombs but the only light is from a spotlight being shined by the inventor. Lang used a combination of dramatic music and lighting a long with exaggerated movements from the actress to portray the fear that should be felt during the chase. The inventor then uses Maria to create an evil version to manipulate men. The part of this that stands out the most of this is the movements by the evil Maria. To show the difference between the two we can see that evil Maria has very jerky movements almost appearing as stop motion, whereas the original is still elegant and smooth with her movements. As said by Rodger Ebert "The good Maria, always bathed in light, seems to be the caretaker of the worker's children" Compared to the evil version manipulating men with her "The lascivious dance of the false Maria, as the workers look on, the screen filled with large, wet, staring eyeballs." (Rodger Ebert 2010)

Overall we can see a lot of political messages behind Metropolis with many people saying that Lang's personality came through with this film trying to portray the injustices within society at the time.


Rodger Ebert (1998) -

Nev Pierce (2003) -

Rodger Ebert (2010) -

Fig 1 -

Fig 2 -

Fig 3 -


  1. I'm not exactly sure why the majority of the text appears to be highlighted. If anyone could help me with this issue I would appreciate it

  2. I'm not exactly sure why the majority of the text appears to be highlighted. If anyone could help me with this issue I would appreciate it

  3. Hi Ian,
    The highlighting issue seems to sometimes come from when you copy and paste quotes... I'm not sure if that is what has happened here though.
    Have another look at the referencing guide to make sure that your bibliography looks as it should -

    And make sure you proofread for spellings, here for example -
    '...repetitive paths of life having 10 hour shits on and off.' Oh dear!! :)

  4. Hey Ian - the way to fix the highlighting issue is straightforward: re-open this post so you can edit it; first select the effected paragraphs - those that have the white highlight - then, once highlighted, click on the little button on the far right of the controls in your Blogger window - the one that looks like a T with a small 'X' - this removes existing formatting either from what you've copied in from another source, or from formatting you've since added to your own text in Blogger itself. When copying in from other webpages, always remove the formatting as a rule, to avoid these formatting inconsistencies - and yes, oh dear, '10 hour shits'... sounds terrible! ;) Always spellcheck - and always proof your own posts once published for any further errors.

    That said - it's good to see more frequency of blogposts on here, Ian - absolutely time to pick up the pace and commit more confidently to the challenges of the course :)