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Metropolis (1927)

Metropolis is a 1927 silent film which is widely considered one of the last silent film’s in the German Expressionist era.  This excellent movie begins with a powerful rendering of the two class system in Metropolis.  The viewer sees many laborers changing shifts with the new group of laborers who all seem very depressed and exhausted.  The camera(s) follows the laborers to their underground dwelling where the audience sees the strenuous synchronized work the laborers put up with.  After this brief scene, the focus changes to the upper class society members at the City of the Sons.  These members of society seem to be enjoying life.  The real shocker in this scene is when Freder, the son of Joh Fredersen, encounters a woman with many children crying out.  This is very significant for the film because it shows that Freder is clueless to the other class in society.  Freder becomes curious as to the origin of this class and chooses to investigate.  Freder’s investigating basically jumpstarts the entire plot to the movie.

The film contained many significant themes as well as strong imagery.  Many symbols and thematic objects were present in this film such as the “New Tower of Babel” and the “M-Machine.”  These two objects projected a hidden message about the power and structuring of Metropolis.  For example, the “New Tower of Babel” is used to clue the audience in as to how Metropolis was built by referring back to the biblical story about the Tower of Babel. The M-Machine is essential to the city but Freder envisions the machine as Moloch which was a Phoenician god who accepted humans as sacrifice.  Other themes noticed throughout the film were equality (or lack thereof), power and its weakness, hope among many others.

The film’s cinematography was pretty amazing.  Throughout this film, the audience can see that the cameras would move back and forth or shake when a particular situation arose where a character encountered movement of the ground.  The close-up’s in this film brought out emotions in the audience.  The biggest change in this film compared to earlier films was how the landscape and buildings were put on screen.  The city looked alive in this film and looked noticeably different from regular cardboard cutouts.

Overall, this film changed, possibly revolutionized, the way audiences of the time would view an onscreen film.  The plot of the film was enjoyable because the struggle of seeing an equal society form is always challenging and interesting.  The film was appropriate for 1920’s Germany because Germany once had societal class problems.  This movie showed that there could be extreme barriers in a society but that would not mean these barriers could not be overcome to create equality.  Metropolis has withstood the test of time in that Metropolis is still a venerable film today.

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