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Metropolis (1927)

One of the original and most influential science fiction films of all time. With breath-taking imagery, futuristic visuals and creative set design, Metropolis is arguably the jewel in the crown of German Expressionism. Only recently has this silent era film been restored to Fritz Lang’s original vision, with the discovery of a reel in Argentina (of all places) containing thirty minutes of previously lost footage.

It is the story of an advanced nation separated: those who live in the grandiose city above ground, and the workers who slave over the machinery below. The prophecy is that a saviour figure will come to once again reunite the metropolis – ‘The mediator between head and hands must be the heart!’.

As with all silent films, the story must really be told with the pictures and the music. The visual effects here are astonishing for their time – a mixture of matte paintings, miniatures, mirrors and lab work. Suggestive lighting and creative camera angles tell you much about the characters before the title cards need to. The figure that has lived longest in the public consciousness is the iconic metal body - one of the earliest imaginings of a 'robot'. A brilliant and dramatic orchestral score accompanies throughout, soaring and diving into the peaks and depths of the action.

Although Fritz Lang was distinctly anti-fascist, viewing his film as overtly anti-authoritarian, the themes of popular uprising resonated with the National Socialism brewing in 1920s Germany. The Nazis even offered Lang control of their film industry! (he refused and moved to Hollywood to start on his next masterpiece – Sunrise: A Song of Two Humans)

As significant to science fiction as A Trip to the Moon or 2001: A Space Odyssey, Metropolis is a cinematic masterpiece and a motion picture way before it’s time.


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