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Metropolis. Contemporary Reviews.

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  1. Metropolis

  2. Contemporary Reviews • “Even the workers, never mind the machinery (Moloch!) are too stylised, and too much deals with cheap emotional effects. Simply terrible. A serious theme cruelly debased. The effects do not deal with serious points of view by themselves but only because the tricks of the film demand it. Finally the ending - weepy reconciliation of workers and employers - is just frightful.” • Berliner Börsen-Courier, 1927

  3. Contemporary Reviews • “The grandiose artisty of the vast engines with which Fritz Lang, film director, portrays the grim civilization of the industrial future is gripping in the extreme. So too are the black hordes of brutish toilers chained to their machines far underground, while up in the vast, airy city above, their masters dissipate the fruits of their labour. Lang's conception of this futuristic Tower of Babel is a superb stroke of the imagination. Likewise his creation of an artificial woman whom the superlord of the industrial realm - his physical resemblance to Henry Ford is amazingly close - seeks to use against his rebellious slaves, but whom her inventor turns against the inhuman system she so sensationally epitomizes, fairly made the audience gasp.” • New York Times, 1927

  4. Marxism – a quick recap • Marx wrote that power was held by the ruling classes; the only thing the lower classes owned (and could sell) was their ability to work • Capitalism took advantage of this fact and Capitalist business owners sought to maintain the status quo in their favour • Marx also held that revolution or uprising from the working classes was an inevitable result of the way the class-system was set up.

  5. Metropolis as a Marxist Film • JohFredersen as Henry Ford (or captain of industry) • Grot as the voice of the workers Compare the representation of these two characters in the film.

  6. The Moloch Machine • Watch the Moloch scene • What possible/5 interpretations of the Marxist issue are explored here?

  7. Themes - doppelganger • Freder & 11811 • The two switch places and experience the horrors of each other’s lives • Freder’s unwitting control by his father (via Thin Man) • 11811’s laborious toil at the machines • Symmetry of the ‘name’ 11811

  8. Themes - doppelganger • Maria/Maria-Bot • Perhaps the clearest example of doppelganger in the three films. • What are the characteristics of each character? • What points are made about identity?

  9. Themes - doppelganger • Maria/Hel • Rotwang and JohFredersen loved the same woman (Hel) • Maria’s resemblance to Hel • Rotwang’s desire to re-create Hel supplanted by his desire to revenge on JohFredersen • He was going to use the Bot to recreate Hel – now he uses it to recreate Maria

  10. Themes – head, hand, heart “Between the head and the hands, the heart must mediate” Discuss the theme of love (all kinds) in the way this idea is explored in this film.

  11. Production Aspects • The film cost 5.3m Reichsmarks to produce • Adjusted for inflation, this comes to $200m (US) in today’s money • The film nearly bankrupt its production company: Ufa • Ufa was a state-controlled film production company that was eventually hijacked by the Nazis to make propaganda films • Before then, it was the envy of the world for its high production values and excellent catalogue of films (of which less than 10% remain)

  12. Production Aspects • The film was conceived as a blockbuster... The first of its kind • It received moderate reviews on its initial Berlin screening • The 153 minute version was edited down for international distribution • There are rumours that the original took over 3 hours to watch (at 16 frames per second)!

  13. The Restored version • All versions that we know today are considerably shorter. The film was originally cut by about 30 minutes by Paramount studios in the US; • About four months after the German premiere, Ufa studios also cut it for German distribution and export in a similar manner • In 2008, nearly 30 minutes of lost footage was found in an Argentinean archive: this represents the most complete version of the film for over 80 years!

  14. Editing – the role of the Thin Man • Watch the following two scenes from two different versions of the film • Old version chapter 12 • New version chapter 8 • How has the character of the Thin Man changed between each clip? • Focus on issues like Performance & Editing… • If the earlier three scenes (NV:14) with the Thin Man (& 11811) are taken out, how does this change the interpretation of the Monk scene?

  15. Representation – Patriarchy • JohFredersen • Father • Dead wife • Leader of industry • Leader of city? • What characterises the relationship JohFredersen has with his dead wife, his son, his business and the city

  16. Representation – Patriarchy • Rotwang • Fought with Fredersen over Hel • Created a woman • Happy to use Maria (and, symbolically, to rape her) • Watch the following extended scene (12, 15) in which Maria is ‘raped’. Comment on the director’s use of:  • Lighting • Types of shot • Performance • The way the scene juxtaposes with the cutaways What can be said about Rotwang’s attitude towards women? How is the audience positioned in relation to this attitude?

  17. Representation – the role of Maria(-Bot) • Maria as Mary (mother of Jesus) • Christian significance • the archetypal ‘mother’ • Comment on her costume and posture in this shot 

  18. Representation – the role of Maria(-Bot) • Rotwang stalks, imprisons and violates Maria by stealing her physical form • What is the symbolic significance of the transformation? • How is the audience positioned in relation to it??

  19. Representation – the role of Maria(-Bot) • Watch the following scene (NV:15 – 1h30m) where the Maria-Bot is tantalising the übermen of the upper world • Comment on: • Fritz’s Lang’s choice of shots in the scene • The sequencing of the editing • The representational aspects relating to gender • The invocation of the whore of Babylon

  20. Representation – the role of Maria(-Bot) • Comment on Maria(-Bot)’s power over übermen & untermensch How does the representation of Maria change when the Bot takes over?

  21. Representation – voyeurism • Why might Fritz Lang have included so much voyeuristic imagery in his film? • What comment on Weimar society might he be making?

  22. The Style of the Film • The film’s visual style is based on art deco • This was very popular in Weimar Germany • It was a symbol of wealth and status (and so of the borgeois) • What is the effect of using it in the futuristic setting of Metropolis? How does this work? • How does the mise-en-scene contrast the different types of characters in this film?

  23. Representation – the role of Maria(-Bot) • Maria as reconciler • She is the one who opens up Freder’s eyes to the truth about the hands, the head and the heart: • JohFredersen lost his wife • He has forgotten how to love • Maria’s love for Freder rekindles his father’s love (heart) What criticisms are there of the way ‘the heart’ idea is presented to us?

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