Directed By: Fritz Lang
Starring: Brigitte Helm, Alfred Abel, Gustav Fröhlich
Tag line: "There can be no understanding between the hands and the brain unless the heart acts as mediator"
Trivia: Footage from this film was used in Queen's Music Video for their song, "Radio Ga Ga"
Fritz Lang’s 1927 sci-fi classic, Metropolis, combines social commentary with superior special effects, crafting a world that’s as nightmarish as it is fascinating.
Joh Fredersen (Alfred Abel) is one of the rulers of Metropolis, a futuristic city that’s a paradise for some, and a prison for others. Above ground, Metropolis features huge skyscrapers that house the rich, while far below, the poor toil away to keep the city running, putting in 10-hour shifts and often risking life and limb. For years, these two societies have been kept separate, but when Maria (Brigitte Helm), the spiritual leader of the workers, travels to the surface with a group of children (to show them the world above), she catches the attention of Fredersen’s son, Freder (Gustav Fröhlich), who immediately follows her into the depths below. Shocked by the conditions the workers are forced to endure, Freder spurred on by his love for Maria, talks to his father, imploring him to make some changes. Instead, Frederson pays a visit to the scientist Rotwang (Rudolf Klein-Rogge), who constructs a robot double of Maria that, if successful, will discredit the real Maria by inciting rebellion among the workers. But when the ensuing revolution threatens the city’s well-being, Freder and the real Maria do what they can to restore order and, if possible, unite the peoples of Metropolis in the process.
At its heart, Metropolis is a chilling cautionary tale of the dangers of class structure, presented in its most extreme form. Yet what remains with you long after the movie ends is its astounding imagery. In one of the film’s best scenes, we witness a shift change, with workers on one side of the screen staggering home as those on the other side shuffle towards their work stations (all proceeding as if they were in a zombified state). Another notable sequence features Freder, horrified by things he sees below, taking over for a tired worker, only to find himself trapped at the man’s station for hours, doing the best he can to maintain the grueling pace the job requires. Then there’s the movie’s single most impressive image: Rotwang’s robot, a gleaming metallic creation that will eventually take on the likeness of Maria. In its featureless state, this robot is a sight to behold, and remains one of the most memorable automatons in motion picture history.
Epic in scope and grand in design, Metropolis is a cinematic masterpiece, directed by a filmmaker at the absolute top of his game. It is, and likely always will be, one of the most influential films, sci-fi or otherwise, ever produced