Metropolis was an expressionist epic science fiction drama film made in Germany in 1927. The silent film was directed by Fritz Lang and written by him and his wife, Thea von Harbou. Filming took place in 1925 at a cost of approximately five million Reichsmarks.
In 2026, in the city of Metropolis, wealthy
industrialists reign from high-rise tower complexes, while underground-dwelling
workers toil to operate the machines below. Joh Fredersen is the city's master.
His son Freder idles away his time in a pleasure garden, but is interrupted by
the arrival of a young woman named Maria, who has brought a group of workers'
children to witness the lifestyle of the rich.
Maria and the children are ushered away, but Freder, fascinated, goes to the
machine rooms to find her. Freder secretly rebels against Fredersen by deciding
to help the workers, after seeing his father's ignorance towards the treatment
of the workers.
The inventor Rotwang shows Fredersen a robot he has built to ‘resurrect’ Hel,
the woman he loved but who married Fredersen and died in childbirth. They
examine maps which show a network of catacombs beneath Metropolis, and the two
men go to investigate.
They eavesdrop on a gathering of workers, including Freder. Maria addresses
them, prophesying the arrival of a mediator (the heart) who can bring the
working (the hands) and ruling classes (the head) together. Freder believes that
he could fill the role and declares his love for Maria.
Fredersen orders Rotwang to give Maria's likeness to the robot so that it can
ruin her reputation among the workers, unaware that Rotwang plans to use the
robot to kill Fredersen and Freder. Rotwang kidnaps Maria, transfers her
likeness to the robot and sends her to Fredersen.
Finding the false Maria urging the workers to rise up and destroy the
machines, Freder accuses her of not being the real Maria. The workers follow the
false Maria from their city to the machine rooms, leaving their children behind.
They destroy the Heart Machine, which causes the workers' city below to flood.
The real Maria, having escaped from Rotwang's house, rescues the children with
the help of Freder.
The foreman Grot berates the celebrating workers for abandoning their
children in the flooded city. Believing their children to be dead, the
hysterical workers capture the false Maria and burn her at the stake. A
horrified Freder watches, not understanding the deception until the fire reveals
her to be a robot.
Rotwang chases the real Maria to the roof of the cathedral, pursued by
Freder. The two men fight as Fredersen and the workers watch from the street.
Rotwang falls to his death. Freder fulfills his role as mediator by linking the
hands of Fredersen and Grot to bring them together.
Metropolis was met with a mixed
reception upon release. Critics found it pictorially beautiful and lauded its
complex special effects, but accused its story of naiveté. The film's extensive
running time also came in for criticism, as well as its alleged Communist
message. Metropolis was cut substantially after its German premiere,
removing a large portion of Lang's original footage. Numerous attempts have been
made to restore the film since the 1970s.
[adapted from Wikipedia and other sources]
Ann Marie Thomas is the author of three medieval history books,
a surprisingly cheerful poetry collection about her 2010 stroke, and the science
fiction series Flight of the Kestrel. Book one, Intruders, is out now.
Follow her at http://eepurl.com/bbOsyz