Metropolis (1927)

Metropolis Movie Review………………………………………………………………………

Metropolis Movie Review

Metropolis is a 1927 classic science fiction film directed by Fritz Lang and starring Brigitte Helm and Gustav Frohlich. It is one of the finest silent movies.

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The mediator between head and hands must be the heart

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Metropolis Movie Review………………………………………………………………………

It is set in a futuristic urban dystopia and it follows the attempts of Freder, the wealthy son of the city’s ruler, and Maria, a poor worker, to overcome the vast gulf separating the classes of their city. To me the storytelling is one of the strongest points of an all around excellent film. The plot is, needless to say, so influential and incredibly original, very impressive. But the film is so well crafted and executed, that story is thankfully utilized properly and its themes of clash between classes, artificial intelligence and the reliance on machines are all really well explored.

The characters are pretty good. Freder is a classic main character done mostly right, Maria is very likable and the robot is of course so memorable and iconic by now. Joh Fredersen is fantastic as Freder’s father and I found him to be the most moving and interesting person here. The mad scientist Rotwang is typical for this genre, but again highly memorable and the film is great for basically inventing all of these sci-fi archetypes in the first place, almost all of which staples today. Grot is funny and sympathetic, Josaphat of course is so tragic and you root for him and as for the Thin Man, he wasn’t particularly well utilized or present actually, but he was still memorable in his menacing appearance.

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Metropolis Movie Review………………………………………………………………………

The acting in Metropolis is very interesting. On the one hand, you’ve got some actors that are typically overacting, but on the other hand, you have Alfred Abel who is so natural and subtle in the role of Joh Fredersen that he alone contributed a lot to my sympathy for this particular character. Rudolf Klein-Rogge is very over-the-top in his role, but this is a mad scientist role which demands such an approach and that is why it isn’t annoying, but rather fitting. The same goes for Brigitte Helm who actually did a rather admirable job in the dual role of both Maria and the robot. She is the highlight in the latter role as her overly emphasized manners and menacing looks made the character unforgettable. The only weak link is definitely Gustav Frohlich who is so over-the-top in his acting that is was too much even for its time period and it is also not fitting for the role which should have been more subtle.

Metropolis is a visual feast. I will now touch upon some of the great technical aspects presented here and there are quite a lot. Actually, this movie is so groundbreaking in its style and effects that it might even be underrated in that respect. The effects are breathtaking. This is without a doubt the best looking silent film of all time. The highlights are of course the robot who looks so real and so revolutionary and the city. Those panorama sequences were to me the most astonishing scenes of the movie as rarely have I seen anything of that caliber. The various vehicles looked so futuristic and intriguing, the buildings are marvelous and the entire city with all of its machines is beautifully brought to life and it leads to such an unforgettable viewing experience.

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Metropolis Movie Review………………………………………………………………………

Metropolis has to be the quintessential German expression picture as its cinematography is top-notch and its imagery is so atmospheric. The entire movie has that very great atmosphere, sometimes scientific, sometimes even creepy (the scene with Maria fleeing from Rotwang is just such a spectacular horror sequence perfectly executed and shot). But those striking looking buildings led to such an artistic feel to the film and I truly would call the movie art. The camera movements are exceptional as sometimes you get that great wide view at the city, but at other times you get effective close-ups and even some very intriguing first-person action shots.

So the writing is top-notch, the characterization is very good, the performances are memorable and the technical aspects are all gorgeous. Then why do I not give it a perfect rating even upon my second viewing? Well, the answer lies in the only flaw that Metropolis possesses, but it’s a very big flaw, and that is its third act. This film is one of the most entertaining films I have ever seen as the entire first half is riveting to behold. However, it could get a bit dull in its conclusion as the action is just overwhelming.

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Metropolis Movie Review………………………………………………………………………

Metropolis is a blockbuster for better and for worse. You get the spectacle, you get the epic nature of it all and you get great entertainment. But you also get the bad side of the formula meaning the action. The entire third act lasts for about half an hour and it should have definitely been trimmed to around fifteen minutes. The flood is initially fascinating, but quickly becomes wearisome as it is so prolonged. Those chases lasted for too long and I know that people usually love the spectacle and action the most, but I’ve always liked that less in favor of the story. As for the romance, it isn’t as problematic as I thought of it at first, but it did feel a bit rushed and conventional nonetheless.

The pacing is, not counting the conclusion, excellent and the film is so involving to watch. It is easily the most entertaining silent film I’ve seen. But it isn’t the best silent film and its status is a bit overrated in that point. It is a great movie, don’t get me wrong. But it isn’t a perfect movie and I can think of at least seven other silent films that are better than this one.

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Metropolis Movie Review………………………………………………………………………

But the film is mostly admirable and what Fritz Lang did here is beyond impressive. The score in the version I’ve seen was excellent and it fitted the action on screen beautifully, the intertitles are sometimes too rarely used, but are mostly well utilized and very artistic in style. The best scenes are the beginning with that very memorable garden, the very ending was sweet, the creation sequence is stunning and the horror chase scene is marvelous and so atmospheric. It is a glorious achievement and one of the best silent as well as science fiction as well as German films ever made.

Metropolis is a blockbuster for better and for worse meaning that it is grand and epic in scope and visually marvelous, but it has overwhelming action near the end and that is the only flaw the movie has. It is otherwise a spectacular achievement with groundbreaking special effects, some marvelous camera movements and great shots, gorgeous and highly imaginative and memorable imagery, very original and influential storyline, likable characters and mostly good performances. It is a quintessential German expressionist picture and one of the finest silent as well as science fiction films of all time.

My Rating – 4.5

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Posted in 1920s, 1927, FILM DECADES, Foreign, German, MOVIE REVIEWS, Silent and tagged , , , , , , , , .

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