Metropolis, Happy Anniversary! Debuted on January 10th, 1927.

Metropolisposter

Metropolis premiered in Berlin, Germany at the Ufa-Palast am Zoo Movie Theater on Monday, January 10th, 1927…

Metropolis has been written about repeatedly, with those authors having direct access to much of the archival records of this celluloid monument to Science-Fiction. So, I will not attempt to winnow any new information from the threshing floor of its history; this short article is about how Metropolis changed the way I thought of Silent Film.

Metropolis poster 2

 

Up to the point that I saw Metropolis I had viewed the silent era as darkened, scratchy and unclear, with much over-exaggerated movements of body, face and eyes and to make matters worse there was no dialogue. But, here was a movie that challenged my thinking and my preconceived conceptions of non-talking films. This was movie making at its finest, regardless of decade. From the sets to the costumes, the story, the lighting, the cinematography, acting and direction, Metropolis was for that time and for this new century a Masterpiece.

This science-fiction juggernaut was based on the novel of the same name by Thea von Harbou, published in 1926 after principle filming began on May 22nd, 1925; Harbou wrote Metropolis with the purpose of making a film from it and the novel was serialized in 1926 leading up to the movie’s release.[1]  There is some confusion as to which journal it was published in, but the three candidates are: Illustriertes Blatt, Berliner Illustrierte Zeitung or Beliner Illustrierte. Harbou and husband Fritz Lang scripted (Lang uncredited) Metropolis which leaps to and fro, one genre to the next all under the control of the imaginative directorial hand of Lang. As is with vocal harmony, intimacy lends depth and texture that is often lost with an unfamiliar voice, but here as with the other silent works of Fritz Lang, Harbou and he collaborating on the script, brought a lush simpatico of the visual, the written and the aural to the silver-screen.

metropolis hardback cover

Fritz Lang and wife Thea von Harbou

Fritz Lang

 

Most of the cast were unknowns or as with leading-lady Brigitte Helm, no experience at all, yet, Lang gained exactly what he wanted from his ensemble and multitude of extras, as well as from his crew which for this venture was of the most importance. It was in this visual perspective that Metropolis communicates its story. Driven not by words, not even action, but conveyed by the art and stylizations of the sets and costumes we the audience are caught up in and thrust forward by this creative visual contrivance of Fritz Lang to tell this dystopian tale. It has been a while since first I laid eyes upon Metropolis, yet, I cannot forget that I immediately found within its frames, beauty, thoughtfulness and an uncertainty of the future. Today, I am none the less impressed by this classic film, it is two hours that is well spent enjoying a piece of history and at the same time marveling at this piece of art that is: Metropolis.

Brigitte_Helm

Metropolis-city03 metropolis-moloch Metropolis-new-tower-of-babel metropolis(2) Metropolis metropolis_F metropolis_kino_blu-ray_k1 METROPOLIS_USA_NTSC-592 metropolis5 metropolis07 metropolis_productionstill_300dpi_15

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Behind the Scenes, Lobby Cards, Posters and Magazines:

metropolis6OKsx metropolis12metr.slide1 metropolis10995100343_8d2037094a_o metropolisbehindmetropolisarchicinema004 Metropolis-flood-scene metropolistumblr_me4hdn0Mpx1rdzko8o1_500 metropolisuntitled metorpolisuntitled

 

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Metropolis 5

metropolis-poster

metropolis-movie-program

 

metfrench

Motion Picture News, March 18, 1927

Motion Picture News, March 18, 1927

Photoplay, January, 1927

Photoplay, January, 1927

Photoplay, May, 1927

Photoplay, May, 1927

 

By C. S. Williams

 

[1] Fritz Lang’s Metropolis: Cinematic Visions of Technology and Fear, edited by Michael Minden and

Holger Bachmann, published by Camden House, 2000, page 11

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