Wednesday, September 24, 2008

Metropolis (1927)

There can be no understanding between the hand and the brain unless the heart acts as mediator.

My friends Kevin, Haze and Lisa accompanied me last night to the Harvard Film Archive to watch a free screening of the great silent epic Metropolis (1927) (some sites list it as 1926). It was quite a treat to see this monumental film up on the big screen. However, that was dampened by my disappointment in the audience reaction to the viewing. I believe that if most of the people in that audience had voted on my poll which asks "What do you think of Fritz Lang's Metropolis (1927)?" they would have chosen "Weird! Hello? Have you seen it?" as an option. I noticed that a couple people left in the middle of the movie while others stayed to gripe and moan about the over-the-top elements of the movie. I for one was tremendously irked by the negative reaction. Sure it's over-the-top. It's a silent film people!

I find solace in the fact that most of the people in the audience were probably required to be there and they obviously did not understand the background, history and impact of the film in order to enjoy it fully. I didn't enjoy Citizen Kane (1941) until I studied it in a film class as an undergrad and I hated The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring (2001) until I read Tolkien's books and got what the hell was going on. And if I didn't appreciate Metropolis' impact on history and culture and didn't enjoy futuristic art deco style, allegory, social commentary and biblical references, I probably would have bolted from the theater as soon as "The End" appeared on screen, as so many did yesterday evening. Knowledge is indeed power. Even if it only extends into the power of enjoyment.

On a more positive note, watching Metropolis last night reinvigorating my strong interest in this movie. I highly recommend that you read the Wikipedia entry on this film. Usually entries on this site are bare-bones, but this one contains a lot of interesting content as well as links to other sources. And Metropolis fans, like myself, can look forward to the complete film being released after an original print was discovered a couple of months ago in Argentina. One website claims, a new release on DVD and Blu-Ray may be on the market as soon as next year! Huzzah!

In the meantime, please vote on my poll to let me know what you think of Metropolis. Also, please feel free to share your thoughts in the form of comment entries on this blog (I love reading those!).


  1. I like imagining that Metropolis has a genuinely prophetic aspect to its depiction of a future where the electricity goes off all of a sudden, and everything grinds to a halt. I've also seen audiences of this film being disgruntled with its silent film exaggerated acting styles, but one can't watch The Fifth Element, Dark City, Blade Runner, and who knows how many other science fiction films without catching the visual allusions to Metropolis, not to mention Madonna's video for Express Yourself.

  2. "Knowledge is indeed power. Even if it only extends into the power of enjoyment."

    Very true, and very wise. I can remember reading a review of "A League of Their Own" at the time it was released by a critic that was really inadequate simply because he had no idea there had ever been an All American Girls Professional Baseball League. One would think he would have researched the topic before he saw the film, or at least before he wrote his review, in order to better evaluate the film. Instead he took the well-worn and trite path of "well, if I never heard about it, it couldn't have been very important." As a result, the many key references to women's place in society in the 1940s went right past him.

    I'm glad you found "Metropolis" interesting.

  3. The new release is due next year? I hope that's right. It will certainly be a justifiable upgrade!

    Anyway, Metropolis is a truly awesome movie. And that over-the-top quality?...that's exactly why I like it so much. It's absolutely stunning.

  4. Yay Comments!

    Film Dr. - Word! I checked out Express Yourself by Maddona on YouTube b/c I totally forgot about it! Thanks for stopping by.

    Jacqueline - Hey there. Good to hear from you and thanks for sharing. I've been following your blog for a while (you are linked on mine). It's excellent.

    Kevin - You are awesome!

  5. Raquelle,
    Great blog!
    Metropolis is one of my all time favorite movies. I often use it as introductory film for anyone interested in silent pictures. Some like it instantly, some don’t. I have experienced about the same thing you describe at screenings of silent pictures over the years. An unprepared modern audience can be quite shocked by the difference in cinematography, pace and the acting style of the silent era. I think this is because the silent pictures use metaphors and historical or literary references to a much greater extent than a modern movie normally does. The use of dialogue stopped much of that at an early stage. This often makes the silent picture incomprehensible if you’re not used to the form. Metropolis is by no means an exception. The tale of the tower of Babel and the seven deadly sins are crusial to the story in Metropolis. This is very sad, because for those who are not familiar with those subjects much of the film must seem like a waste of time. The more silent pictures you watch the more you enjoy them. At least I do.

    Do you know anything about the print found in Buenos Aires? The information I have about it is very contradictory. One says that the press screening ran a full 210 minutes (the original length), while another states that there is only 25 minutes of ”new” footage in it compared to the released versions. I believe the most recent DVD release by Kino in 2002 clocks in at 120 minutes or something… I have also heard different stories about the state of the Argentinean print. Some say it’s in really good shape, while others say it’s badly damaged 16mm reduction print which might be impossible to restore. In any case it’s a wonderful discovery.

  6. You know I adore Metropolis...

    The first night I saw it, I remember sitting on both legs, staring at the TV like a little kid watching the first movie she's ever seen...I couldn't move. I was in such a state of awe.

    I'd do anything to see it on the big screen. I can't believe people actually walked ungrateful! What more could they want from art? :)

  7. Yay! More comments!

    Jonas - Thank you! I love your site too, even though I cannot read it. I love the Biblical references in Metropolis, but I agree, without previous knowledge of them, they could be confusing. Yes I heard about the missing pieces being found in Argentina. Exciting, no?.

    Ginger - Umm, that's why you are my best blog friend! I heart you!


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