Sunday, 11 October 2015

Space Oddities - Metropolis

Fritz Lang’s future scientific fiction Metropolis, was released in 1927, a silent German Expressionist film. Set in a futuristic city, where the elite live in a city of spectacular opulence. An astonishing concrete jungle of cutting-edge architecture and forms, aerial traffic bridges that intermingle with the cities blueprints, buzzing with a constant flow of futuristic cars on what seems a traffic systems that can cope. Metropolis’s technological advances seems on the surface to have a environmental impact as the city seems clean from pollution despite its monumental size. 

However, this is a city of two classes, while the elite evolve in this sparkling utopia, they are oblivious to the dehumanized Working class, slaves to the machinery that keep the whole city alive. Their hands prepared to obey others unquestioningly. A world full of boiling, steam driven industrial machines that need constant attention of blood, sweat and tears. Bellowing out this torturous and oppressive smog. Lang’s vision of class reflects on the government and social order in Germany at the time.

The way in which Lang portrays both sides of Metropolis through forward thinking special fx produced in the 1920’s was a significant step in the Sci-Fi genre. Huge scaled down models of the city where hand crafted and lit, so that all the perspective angles and viewpoints where believable to the viewer that metropolis was real. A technique made by “Eugen Schüfftan “ called the Schüfftan effect used specially crafted mirrors to reflect the actors to the scaled size of the large city models, creating the illusion that the actors where roaming these streets - this process is still used in today’s features films - lord of the rings - return of the king. Dedicated teams of artisans, stylised  magnificent, full sized set designs creating an overwhelming sense of scale and intensity, pulling the viewer into Lang’s expressionist vision for a monumental viewing experience.

Figures 1, 2, 3

“Metropolis employed vast sets, 25,000 extras and astonishing special effects to create two worlds: the great city of metropolis, with its stadiums, skyscrapers and express-ways in the sky, and the subterranean workers’ city, where the clock face shows 10 hours to cram another day into the work week” (Ebert, 1998)

A key scene that could shows Langs political views through Metropolis, is when Mary, a woman of passion to others and well being is abducted by the Mad Professor who has designed a android, programmed to infiltrate and corrupt the innocent minds of the working class to bring down the city and Rebel against the government. Mary is transformed into the robot Avatar (which has become such a iconic scene in many sci-fi and fantasy genre films). Now the Avatar version of Mary moves in such a quirky, strange and unsettling way, but uses seduction of the female form to produce coercion. Again Lang using this viewpoint to show how German politics uses force as a means of control exercised by the state.

ex machina - god from the machine - The term has evolved to mean a plot device whereby a seemingly unsolvable problem is suddenly and abruptly resolved by the contrived and unexpected intervention of some new event.

Figure 1

Figure 2

Figure 3


Ebert, R (1998) Metropolis At: Accesed on: 29/09/2015

1 comment:

  1. Interesting review Mark :)

    Couple of bits... don't forget to italicise your quotes. Also, have another look at the referencing guide to see how your illustrations list needs to be compiled -

    I'm not sure if your 'ex machina' bit at the end is a note that got left on by mistake, or if you were going to use it in some way, but it is hanging around a bit randomly at the moment...