Critique of Metropolis

Samantha Smith English 1102 R March 12, 2008 Metropolis Critique In Fritz Lang’s silent film Metropolis, several key characteristics made the movie what it is. One important feature is the Art Deco and Modernistic architecture, which gives the setting a futuristic feel considering these movements were exploding at the time. Another characteristic is the character’s costumes and make-up. Since the movie was a silent one, artists had to make the visual impact very vivid. Hands, used as a motif and/or theme throughout the film, were also a critical influence to the expressions of the characters.

Overall, I thought the movie was innovative, but at the same time dull. However, during the late 1920’s I probably would have thought that Metropolis was an alarming and possibly accurate way of looking into future, considering everything that was taking place at the time. I say that it was dull simply because I have never seen a silent film before and I am used to the action-packed loud Hollywood movies. I also thought Metropolis was innovative (at the time) because there was no other film or book like it before.

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Metropolis was a big step onto the limb of futuristic science fiction. Costumes and make-up were used in Metropolis to accentuate the acting and expressions of the characters. As with any other dystopian book or movie like Equilibrium, Anthem, and 1984, the suppressed dehumanized population wore similar or alike uniforms. This created uniformity and abolished individuality. In Metropolis the working women, like Maria, wore same color and style dresses. Working men wore equally identical pants and shirts. In the film characters wore a large amount of make-up.

Because the film was a silent film, the characters’ faces needed to be accentuated so their facial expressions could be seen and understood better. I noticed and thought that the make-up characteristics looked similar to those of a mime. For instance with Freder, Fredersen, and Maria, their eyes were darkened and their faces were very bright. I liked this aspect because you could see more clearly what the characters were trying to get across (the clarity and quality of the film were rather mediocre, but considering the time of it’s making, it’s alright).

Throughout the movie I noticed that the workers and sometimes the thinkers would raise their hands reaching towards the sky. I believe that this symbolizes struggle and chaos among the groups. For instance, the scene where the workers of the completed Tower of Babel all reached their hands up to tear down the monument and lift the struggle from their shoulders. To relate this to religion, congregations will sometimes raise their hands, I guess, to relieve struggles in their lives and to receive their higher power’s love.

We see this raising of hands again in the scene where the underground city is flooding and the children reach up to Maria and Freder on the gong monument in hopes of help and rescue. I believe, overall, that this raising of the hands derived from a religious stance since most religious fanatics associate the sky with heaven and God. Architecture in Metropolis blended with the new movements of Art Deco and Modernism of the early 1900’s. Although modernism isn’t so modern and Art Deco is an old style in our eyes, these types of architecture were new to the people of the early 1900’s.

At the time the style was revolutionizing and was considered futuristic to many. One notable example of Art Deco architecture is Rotwang’s laboratory decked with lights and industrial machinery. An example of modernistic architecture is the Tower of Babel the workers built. It was characterized with many curves, angles, and new heights, unlike the old-time architecture. Films and books like Metropolis (1927), The Fountainhead 1949), and Blade Runner (1982) have influenced societies with their new architecture.

As new ideas came out, movie producers used these ideas, which in turn, influenced society to accept and build on the ideas. All in all, I thought that the movie had some high points and low points. I liked the futuristic dystopian plot and the vivid make-up on the characters’ faces. I respect the fact that Metropolis is about 80 years old and was the first film of its kind. Silent films allow viewers to get a different perspective from other ordinary movies. Silent films let the characters’ emotions and expressions do the talking to the audience.

This is one of my least favorite dystopian books/films plot-wise. I thought the plot wasn’t that creative or entertaining, particularly the ending. I think the message of the story would have been more powerful if Maria was actually killed. Then Freder could have gotten so mad and upset that he went and killed his father and ended the divide between the thinkers and the workers. But this is not how it went; therefore, that is why I did not like it as much as some other futuristic stories.

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