1927 - dir. Fritz Lang

(Book and screenplay by Thea van Harbou)


son of the white mare stars



(beware spoilers!)



Content Warnings

- Religious themes

- Nudity

stars stars


I will admit, I was first enticed to watch Metropolis because of its notoriety as being lost media. To imagine it was baffling: a two-and-a-half-hour science-fiction pioneering German film known for its set design and special effects, entirely lost for years on end before being found in an Argentinian movie theater, unknown to the theater owners that they were the only ones in the world to have such a priceless gem of a film!

Being curious, I dedicated a few nights to watch it, knowing well that there was no way I could finish a lengthy silent film in one night alone – and what a wonderful choice it was! Metropolis is a spectacle of phenomenal special effects, set design, art direction, and more; this, combined with the fact that it was created in 1927 – almost a hundred years ago now – makes it truly astounding to witness. Every single set, from its miniature models of a beautiful city to its Gothic cathedrals and shrines is so masterfully crafted, making it clear that both the director and the many designers and workers held so much passion for their careers and craft. It’s impossible to deny that Metropolis had any influence on science fiction. There are obvious examples – (say, the Machinenmensch looks an awful lot like C-3PO from Star Wars!) – but even the more subtle aesthetics, like a neon city with fast cars and endless skyscrapers and an abandoned world below it – it all comes from Metropolis. To say that Metropolis inspired science fiction is an understatement; it practically set a standard.

I quite enjoyed the acting, as it still had that wonderful over-the-top melodrama that made the silent film era so charming. Gustav Frohlich and Brigitte Helm as Freder and Maria were a delight to watch, especially Helm as both the real and fake Maria (the Machinenmensch). Freder, our protagonist, serves as a representation not only of the innocent of his world becoming aware of his place in society, but also as a lens for us to realize the suffering of this world being caused by those in charge; at the beginning of the film, Freder wears all white and is lost in the bliss of high society. However, as he learns more about how this world has been crafted by the blood of nameless workers, his wardrobe darkens – his clothes become torn and ragged, and at one point he switches with a worker and dons their black work uniform. When he discovers the machine underground, he moves fluidly, a stark contrast to the jaggedness of the workers; their machinated movements make them nothing more than pieces of the machine they power, faceless to the viewer as they’re turned away and part of a bigger scheme that they will never benefit from. As Freder witnesses this all, he sees the ruthlessness and cruelty of his father’s design: as long as he and his father remain in their place in society, the people below them will always suffer.

Metropolis is both in admiration of societal progression, while at the same time a critic of it. It shows the glory of technology and the people that suffer under its thumb. It shows the dichotomy of pacifism and violence, and how communication can lead to a better tomorrow. While almost one hundred years old, its message is as relevant now as it was in the advent of a dangerous time. It is a hope for the future and a reminder of the present, seeking to show that we can better ourselves as people by acknowledging those we have wronged and seeking to heal with them; it strives for peace, not violence, and the betterment of the common man. By lifting each other up, people can build a better tomorrow.



- Social hierarchy and class divide

- Dystopia vs. Utopia

- Artificial intelligence

- Religion

stars stars back