No one imagined that this Expressionistic film of the silent era would become an inspiration for other film directors fifty, sixty, and seventy years afterward. The imagery and message of this film are so powerful that even almost 100 years after it opened in theaters, it still looks progressive and keeps reflecting the time in which the story takes place, that is 2027.
The story takes place in… the future?
Metropolis unfolds in the year 2027, 100 years after the film itself was created. In a dystopian society, Freder, the son of the city builder, and Maria, a girl from the workers’ neighborhood that lies underneath the great city, fight against social differences and contradicting views on life to bring all the inhabitants of the place together.
Do a dystopian society and different views on life sound like fiction in 2020?
Uniting Society would seem reason enough to launch all the events that happen in this story, but there is always a villain, of course.
For a number of reasons, Rotwang, the bad guy in the film, programs his recently created female robot, Futura, to look like Maria. Futura creates a lot of turmoil the way that she only can, and things get even more complicated.
Fritz Lang and Thea von Harbou, his wife and scriptwriter, had a vision of a world where technology was a protagonist.
They envisioned flying vehicles in the city skies, video phones, giant power generators, sentience robots that would follow commands a-la-Alexa, and offices with computers. It is hard to imagine that the people who made this movie could imagine a world like that in the 1920s. It just foresees our world today.
It was difficult for directors in the following years after Metropolis hit the screen not to be influenced by its imagery.
Movies like “Star Wars”, “Blade Runner”, “The 5th Element”, even “The Jetsons”, are influenced by Metropolis and its vision of a society of the future with flying cars, audio-video communication, artificial intelligence, and computers.
For example, C-3PO, the robot from “Star Wars” is a version of Futura, the evil robot. Remember that sequence in “Blade Runner” where you can see flying vehicles roaming around the city? That same sequence happened before in Metropolis. What about the scene where a man calls his little daughter via videophone from a space station in “2011 A Space Odyssey”? They had phones with video capability in Metropolis long before, too.
Did only Movies get inspiration from Fritz Lang?
Not really. The music industry has also used Metropolis images and made them their own.
In 1989 Madonna recorded her song “Express Yourself” and the music video presented in MTV was completely based on the movie. In it, Madonna appears as the prisoner of the city’s master and is chained to her bed in the Babel Tower, one of the locations in Fritz Lang’s film. We can also see the rest of the workers in the rain, dancing next to the machines the make the city thrive in the machine rooms.
We see Metropolis imagery in the film “The Bodyguard”. Whitney Houston’s character, Rachel Marron, sings “The Queen of the Night” in a nightclub wearing and outfit that remembers Futura, the robot, while scenes of the classic film appear on television screens.
Thanks to mishandling and creative differences that occurred when the film was launched in 1927, the movie was chopped and many sequences were seemingly lost. After many restorations and the finding of a complete copy in Buenos Aires, Argentina, today’s public can enjoy Metropolis in all its glory, with the beautiful musical score used the night of its first screening that, at the time, was played by an orchestra. The film can be enjoyed on DVD and Bluray.
Whenever you have the chance, let yourself be captivated by the magic and mystery of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis.