In 1927, director Fritz Lang, in collaboration with his wife, screenwriter Thea Von Harbou, produced a cinematic masterpiece of science-fiction that addressed the relationship between society and technology during an era in which that relationship was at its formative stage. The socio-political overtones in the film Metropolis reflect the extreme anxiety that Germans felt during the Weimar Republic concerning the future, at least in regard to the uncertainty of the political direction the government would take. All of this is communicated visually in the film via the Expressionist technique of revealing inner truth by manifesting it corporeally, most often in the environment.
The central tenet of the film: Without the heart, there can be no understanding between the hands and the mind, is the moral writ large by the almost apocalyptic narrative, wherein conflict between the ruling class and the proletariat almost destroys the futuristic city of the film's title. The struggle for political power between left and right during the Weimar era informs the story, and Lang seems to be straddling the fence. The film's worker class lives far below the city in a stark, dismal underworld, apparently underground, further down even than the massive machines that they toil daily which power the gleaming metropolis above. The citizens of the city live a life of luxury in a utopian setting.
[...] Even more than the potential disasters that the film predicts, Lang warns of the dangerous advance of technology. The film opens with spectacular views of the colossal towers of the metropolis. Both of Lang's parents were architects, and the subject had fascinated him since childhood. It was a fascination mixed with awe, as the images of the city, one after the other, threaten to overwhelm the senses. If this view, true to expressionist principle, reveals Lang's inner feelings or unconscious knowledge, than Lang saw the modern metropolis, such as Berlin was becoming, as a colossus capable of crushing its inhabitants. [...]
[...] The unchecked ambition and callous dehumanization that would characterize the Third Reich and drive Lang from Germany are prefigured in his greatest film. Metropolis would prove to be prescient in its portrayal of the dangers that lay ahead for society, but unfortunately overly hopeful in its vision for the future. Bibliography Paul M. Jensen, TheCinema of Fritz Lang (New York : A. S. Barnes, 1969) E. Ann Kaplan, Fritz Lang, A Guide to References and Resources (Boston, MA : G.K. [...]
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