Wednesday, 30 November 2016

Metropolis Revisited

I'm baaaack! Yeah I know it's been a while, what can I say? College life is merciless. Anyways, I've been holding off this review for a while now, and although I haven't (re)watched Metropolis in over a year now ( I make it a point to watch it a several times a year), I can remember every detail of it. Because apparently, learning about Turbines and Aerofoils didn't override memory of this masterpiece.

Now, let's get a few things out of the way. First, I've been absent from the movie reviewing scene for a while mainly because of college, so sorry for not being as active as I used to be ( I was on my gap year back then, of course I'd be active). Second, I know that I've reviewed Metropolis already, about two years ago (damn.), all you old school fans know this. So why am I reviewing it again? Because the version I reviewed was the Giorgio Moroder version, which had a few nice colors added in as well as a modern soundtrack. At that time, I haven't seen the "complete" version of Metropolis along with the original soundtrack. I believe it is time to review the "real" thing. Lastly, do look forward to more movie reviews, I've got a pretty long break from college and I believe that now's the time to do what I do best. Just felt like I owed you fans that explanation.

Ah Metropolis, what can I say? It has a soft spot in my heart (not many movies earn that privilege), a masterpiece that sparked a cinematic revolution. Every Sci-Fi movie ever made is indebted to Metropolis. Had it not been for Fritz Lang, Sci- Fi wouldn't be the way it is today, or maybe, just maybe; not have existed at all (total exaggeration, because Murphy's Law). Set in the futuristic dystopian city of Metropolis, it tells the story of Freder (Gustav Frohlich), the son of the city's ruler, in his attempt to uncover the secrets of the city after seeing Maria (Brigitte Helm) giving a tour to a bunch of children showing them the lifestyle of the rich and wealthy who live above. Freder of course oblivious to the fact that the city is kept "alive" by workers who dwell in the bowels.

Talk about an "orderly fashion"
For me, the story is pretty basic, strip it off of it's futuristic look and effects, and you got yourself a pretty standard romantic movie (which as you may or may not know, I loathe). BUT, Metropolis' selling point is definitely not it's story. First and foremost, let's talk acting. One of the main reasons why I really take interest in silent movies is because the cast have a very tough job conveying emotions using expressions and body language. It is well known that if you wanna judge the performance of an actor/actress, try checking if they've done any silent movies. And the cast here weren't short of spectacular. Brigitte Helm gave an exceptional performance doubling as Maria and the Maschinenmensch (I totally did not copy and paste that), in fact her performance was so good, I had a hard time convincing myself that that wasn't done by two different actresses.

Breaking the fourth wall with that wink? 

Another factor that sets Metropolis apart is its set design. Bearing in mind that this movie was released in 1927, the set design is just phenomenal, attention to detail was overwhelming, and the sets really gave the movie a futuristic edge. From the Son's club to the Tower of Babel to Yoshiwara, right down to the worker's city, it is all bloody fantastic. The special effects were fucking brilliant, for a movie made in 1927, I must say that the special effects can compete with any modern movie out there. Everything was so convincing, and the fact that they accomplished this in 1927! Just watch out for the scene when the Maschinenmensch  transforms into evil Maria (One of my personal favorite scenes).

Let's take a second to talk about the Maschinenmensch, which by the way is the first robot ever shown on the big screen (where do you think C-3PO takes it's inspiration from?). With it's tantalizing splendor and beautifully scary expressionless face, the robot was definitely the star player in Metropolis, but it came to be with a bit of hardship. Apparently, the robot isn't made of metal, but rather of plastic wood, a new material at the time. it was molded to fit Brigitte Helm's body, but the mold was taken whilst she was standing up (very...clever), so it was very difficult for her to shoot whilst sitting down; this resulted in Helm getting cuts and bruises from wearing the robot suit. Moreover, the scene where Rotwang the Inventor introduces the robot to Joh Fredersen took 9 DAYS to shoot! But, was it worth it? Fuck yes.

I believe Rotwang was a Satanist
The score of the movie is played by an orchestra and they did a fantastic job highlighting the highs and the lows of the film, although a bit repetitive, the score was definitely the movie's backbone. A modern soundtrack was featured in the Moroder version of Metropolis, although I'm not a huge fan, it does put the film in a bit of a different perspective. What more can I say, a masterpiece in any way you look at it, Metropolis is the grandaddy of Sci-Fi, and fans all around world should be thankful to Fritz Lang for bringing us this magnum opus. Every time I watch it I notice something new, and I've watched it many times...many..times. But each time it inspires me and teaches me more about film making. For me, Metropolis is a "comfort movie", I can spend all day talking about it and its references, but I've yet to find someone to discuss it with, probably because everyone else lost interest. And that's a huge problem, moviegoers in Bahrain do not want to delve into the world of classic masterpieces, all they want is an action packed superhero movie (what has changed, eh?). But then again, I can't change the trend alone, so help me...please (ambitious as fuck).

It's a silent movie there are no quotes...

Ahmed J. Almatrook