Metropolis (1927)

As Samir pointed out in a comment on my last post, Pyaasa was one of the films (in fact, the only Hindi film) to find a place on Time Magazine’s all-time 100 best films list. That’s something Pyaasa shares in common with this film. Metropolis, a silent film made in Germany thirty years before Pyaasa, is also on the list. It was directed by Fritz Lang, who co-wrote the screenplay along with his wife Thea von Harbou. The result is a film like none other.

Metropolis is set (where else?) in the vast, machine-run, glittering and futuristic city of Metropolis, sometime in the future. Metropolis has a daunting cityscape of neon-lit buildings, overhead bridges jam-packed with cars, train lines and skyscrapers that soar high up into the sky (all supposedly inspired by Fritz Lang’s first sight of the New York skyline). Metropolis is powered and run by vast, towering machines that make the city what it is.

Deep under Metropolis, in the cavernous depths of the Earth, live those who power these machines. These are the workers, people who live in dark, gloomy and ramshackle hovels, their clothes ill-fitting and dirty, their faces furrowed with hunger and suffering – and their entire day taken up by the machines of Metropolis. These are the people who work at the machines, in ten-hour shifts that reduce each of them to a mere automaton, struggling to keep the machine going, so that Metropolis keeps going.

It’s a completely different world far, far above. Here live the elite of Metropolis: the wealthy and powerful. The master of Metropolis, Joh Fredersen (Alfred Abel), is the mightiest of them all, the man at whose command all of Metropolis works.

Joh Fredersen’s son, Freder (Gustav Fröhlich) is, like the rest of the sons of the moneyed, spoilt and utterly unaware of anything except the luxurious, carefree life he leads. Freder’s Metropolis is a place of gleaming theatres and stadiums, vast mansions and every comfort money can buy.
There is even, for Freder’s enjoyment, a choice of luscious young ladies eager to help him pass his time in the Eternal Gardens of Metropolis:

…until one day, when he’s cavorting with one of these, there’s a sudden, unexpected interruption:

This girl turns out to be Maria (Brigitte Helm). She is one of the working class and has brought with her, to the Eternal Gardens, a group of children. To them, she points out Freder and his cronies, telling the children that “these are your brothers!”

Freder is shocked – he has never known before that people so gaunt and dirty and obviously hard-up could exist. But he’s also fascinated by Maria. He therefore, somehow, follows her down, from the Eternal Gardens and the Metropolis familiar to him, and into the depths where the workers operate their machinery.
Here, Freder is witness to a ghastly example of exactly what is the fate of the workers. An old worker, tired and weak from constantly struggling against a hard-to-operate machine, ends up dead – the machine explodes, smashing him to bits.

Freder, suddenly painfully alive to the harsh reality of life for the workers of Metropolis, goes rushing back up to the surface. He goes to Joh Fredersen’s office, to tell his father all about what he, Freder, has just discovered.
To Freder’s bewilderment, Joh Fredersen does not seem at all perturbed. It’s obvious he does not care what happens to the workers – how they live or how they die.

His only reaction, instead, is to fire one of his assistants, Josaphat (Theodor Loos). The reason? It should have been Josaphat – who was responsible for keeping a close watch on the machinery at Metropolis – to have informed Joh Fredersen of the explosion. Now Josaphat has to pay for his mistake: not just by being thrown out of Joh Fredersen’s elite corps of assistants, but by being sent down to join the workers.

Once out of the office, a dejected Josaphat tries to kill himself, but is stopped by Freder. Freder proposes a plan: that Josaphat should work for him. Josaphat is relieved, of course, and grateful.

In the meantime, though, Joh Fredersen has been worrying that Freder appears to be drifting down the path of no good; this strange girl Maria’s revolutionary ideas of equality and whatnot are bound to cause trouble. So he appoints one of his men – the Thin Man (Fritz Rasp) to spy on Freder and to report periodically to Joh Fredersen.

Freder, now with Josaphat’s help, manages to make his way down to the machines, and is just in time to see a worker struggling to control a machine. The man is close to collapse; the machine will run riot and explode any moment. Freder jumps in and saves the man, #11811 (Erwin Biswanger) and takes over the operation of the machine.

When #11811 recovers a bit, Freder offers to switch identities with him: Freder will take his place at the machines, and #11811 can go on up, to experience the glories of Metropolis – the Eternal Garden, the ‘Club of Sons’ (with its theatres and stadiums), and the red-light district of Yoshiwara. #11811 is easily persuaded.

There is now a shift in setting. In the middle of Metropolis, in a forgotten old house (which looks rather like a very barebones gingerbread house) lives the genius inventor, Rotwang (Rudolf Klein-Rogge). Rotwang may be a genius, but he’s also more than a little mad: he still mourns Joh Fredersen’s long-dead wife Hel, whom Rotwang had also been in love with. Hel had chosen Fredersen, however, and ever since, Rotwang has held that against Fredersen. He hates Fredersen with all his being, and is intent on somehow seeing Fredersen and his massive city destroyed.

Fredersen now comes calling on Rotwang, trying to – for the nth time, it seems – persuade him to let go of his mad obsession with Hel. Rotwang isn’t easily put off, though. On the other hand, he drags Fredersen off to show him the latest manifestation of his, Rotwang’s, passion for Hel.

This is the ‘Machine-Man’. It’s a robot, a highly intelligent and sophisticated robot that Rotwang has created. He crows to Fredersen that he can even make the robot look and act exactly like a human being – so convincingly, in fact, that nobody will be able to say that the Machine-Man isn’t a normal human being.

They go on to talk about why Fredersen has called on Rotwang, and Fredersen shows Rotwang a couple of tattered old plans that they’ve been discovering in the pockets of workers. This has been going on for months now, and nobody on Fredersen’s staff has been able to guess what these plans are all about.

Quick switch now, and we’re back to the depths of Metropolis, where a haggard and exhausted Freder is trying hard to control the machine he’s now in charge of. As he’s going about his work, a plan – old and tattered – falls out of his pant pocket (remember, these were, till a few hours back, the pants of #11811). A passing worker, seeing Freder retrieving the plan, whispers to him that “At two… At the end of the shift! She has summoned us again!”

So, when the shift ends and the workers start plodding back home, some workers – Freder among them – follow the map shown on the plan and go down, past the machines and into the ancient catacombs that lie below.
Here, in the depths, is a gathering of workers. Tall crucifixes stand, leaning here and there at mad angles, behind a platform on which tall candles burn – and Maria stands in front.

Freder is soon mesmerised by what this girl is saying. She’s talking about how the workers are the ‘hands’, while the rulers – Fredersen and his class – are the ‘head’ of Metropolis. Maria uses the analogy of the Tower of Babel to show that those who dreamed up the concept of the tower, and those who laboured to build it, were at cross-purposes. Neither side knew how to deal with the other, and so what resulted was chaos.

This is what will happen, says Maria, if the situation in Metropolis continues. The ‘head’ and the ‘hands’, she says, must come together – there must be a mediator between them, and that mediator must be the heart.
Maria’s speech moves all her listeners, and Freder at least is completely on her side by the end of it. He’s also very much in love with her – and she reciprocates.

Unknown to them, Rotwang and Fredersen are spying on them. Rotwang, examining the plans Fredersen had shown him, had guessed that these pertained to the catacombs, and the two men have heard Maria’s sermon and seen the passionate embrace between Maria and Freder. Now Fredersen is worried that he will lose Freder to the workers and to Maria; and that, equally terrible, Metropolis will collapse if Maria is allowed to influence the workers any longer.

…so Fredersen gives Rotwang an assignment: to kidnap and imprison Maria, and to then use her face, her hands, her personality – to be imparted to the Machine-Man. But the Machine-Man’s mind will be controlled by Fredersen himself. The plan is that the Machine-Man, disguised as Maria, will spread havoc among the workers and undo all that Maria has managed to achieve.

And so poor Maria finds herself caught and bound in the insane Rotwang’s lab, where her features and figure and all her external attributes are transferred to the Machine-Man. And in Metropolis, a new evil arises: a woman who sits “upon a scarlet coloured beast, full of names of blasphemy, having seven heads and ten horns. And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet colour, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication”.

What will happen to Metropolis? Will it survive? Will Freder and Maria live to see a better day? What of Fredersen and his sworn enemy, Rotwang? What of the workers who continue to toil and die, while the rich of Metropolis live in comfort?

I have to admit (and this is quite a confession!) that I generally approach silent films with a little trepidation. I tend to find many of them tedious, the acting theatrical – and sometimes the sheer lack of dialogue that my generation has so got used to, is wearying. Not that I haven’t seen silent films which are not merely good, but superb (Bronenosets Potyomkin is an example, as are a fair number of Chaplin’s films). But.

This one, I am glad to say, left behind impressions stronger than most films, silent or talkies, English or Hindi or any other language. Metropolis is a film that stayed with me for long after I watched it – I couldn’t sleep that first night after I saw it, the images were so deeply entrenched in my mind.

A must, must watch.

What I liked about this film:

The sheer visual power of the film. Metropolis was made at a cost of approximately US$200 million (adjusted in 2007 for inflation), which makes it the second most expensive non-English language film ever made. And it shows. The shots of the Metropolis cityscape may seem a little contrived and obviously set-like to eyes accustomed to CGI, but there’s no denying that they must have been quite a feat back in 1927. The climax, the shots of the machinery, the huge cast – there are memorable frames of the Tower of Babel being built, or the workers at the Metropolis machines changing shifts, one lot shuffling off while another moves in – everything is larger than life.

Equally (and to me, even more memorable) was the way the entire film had been shot. There were the exaggerated expressions of the actors (especially in the cases of Rotwang and Maria). There were fantastic close-ups, dark kohl-rimmed eyes and heavily lipsticked mouths filling the screen. There were some brilliantly choreographed sequences (best of all: the Machine-Man, in Maria’s form, dancing crazily in a wisp of shimmering clothing) – even the movements of the workers on the machines, moving as if they were clockwork toys, not human beings.
(For those who like to collect trivia: here’s a titbit. The Machine-Man was the inspiration for C3PO in the Star Wars series).

Lastly, I was intrigued by the inspirations Lang and von Harbou seem to have drawn upon for their screenplay. The exploitation of workers reaching the breaking point, at which they rise up against a privileged elite brought to my mind the Russian Revolution, which would have been just a decade ago at the time Metropolis was made. At the same time, there are numerous (and obvious) references to Christianity – the ‘brotherhood of man’, the tale of the Tower of Babel, and the ‘evil woman’ avatar of the Machine-Man are all based on the Bible. (That description of the woman – enacted so eerily by Brigitte Helm – is from the Book of Revelation, chapter 17).

Plus, there are references to the seven deadly sins, and the grim reaper who comes sweeping through with his scythe. There is also the catacombs scene – possibly a nod at the oft-held theory (now supposedly disproved) that the catacombs of Rome were used by early Christians as a place of refuge and to hold prayer meetings in the time of persecution.

What I didn’t like:

The end – just a little too simplistic for my liking. But for a film that has so much to recommend it, I’d call that forgivable.

Watch Metropolis; it’s unforgettable.

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48 thoughts on “Metropolis (1927)

  1. Wowww, this is so old, yet so well-archived!! Thanks so much for the recommendation. Now if you tell me, where do I get it from?

    • Actually, a large part of the film – more than a quarter of it – had been lost, until large sections of it were found in Argentina. There have been numerous restorations of it (including digital restoration) and a musical score, based on the original music, has been added.

      It’s easily available on Amazon.com, but if you don’t want to go through all that bother, you can watch it on Youtube. You might want to spend a few minutes trawling through the different versions available to find one with English intertitles (unless you can read German). Also, look for the latest version – it was restored in 2010.

  2. I have to say that your review of this film even caught ‘my’ attention :)
    The story sounds very interesting and I like the word ‘machine man’ instead of ‘robot’.
    So perhaps this would be one silent film that I would like if I ever saw it. Which brings me to repeat Sharmi’s question – where do I get it from?

    The linking of this post to the previous one via them both being on the Times’ list is a clever one which I would never have guessed. That *was* the link, wasn’t it?

    • Yes, pacifist – that was the link between this post and the last one – I wanted to do different things in the way of links, so thought I should go a little way away from just shared crew/cast/story. :-)

      This is a fantastic film – I’d recommend it whole-heartedly to anyone who was interested in cinema. The story isn’t awesome, but the visual imagery brands itself onto you – as I mentioned, I couldn’t sleep for the first night after watching this film, because I just couldn’t stop remembering it! Amazing. Have a look at my response to Sharmi’s comment to see where you can get hold of it. If it isn’t too difficult for you, I’d suggest trying to buy the latest version from Amazon; the quality is excellent, and even in places where the original print has been lost, they added text to explain what originally happened in the story at that point.

      http://www.amazon.com/Complete-Metropolis-Alfred-Abel/dp/B0040QYROA/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1311230303&sr=8-1

      • Thanks DO.
        Just ordered the bluray version available in Europe (region 2).

        Luckily I checked at amazon.co.uk, because the link you gave doesn’t play in Europe, and to my great delight found the bluray version.
        Looking forward to being bowled over by the visuals in colour and in more digitally enhanced detail :)

        Will let you know its effects on me in about a fortnight’s time as I’ll be away on holiday.

        Thank you so much for letting us know about this.

        • I’m not sure if it’s coloured. Just took it for granted that all blurays are coloured.
          The reviews over at .co.uk give it a 5star, but don’t mention whether it’s coloured or not.
          It’s also mentioned that the lost 25 minutes have been added here, but stands apart because of the poor resourse material, which doesn’t diminish the pleasure.

          • I’m glad you managed to get your hands on that, pacifist – and I do so hope you enjoy it! Fritz Lang’s original was shot in black and white, but I read somewhere that some of the frames were tinted in different colours – something like what appears in The Light of Asia. Have a look at the screenshots in Greta’s review and you’ll know what I mean:

            http://memsaabstory.wordpress.com/2011/02/08/the-light-of-asia-1925/

            The version I saw was B/W all through – no tints, even – but one could certainly see sections that had obviously seen more wear and tear than the rest of the film. Those were probably the ones that had been found later. It didn’t detract much from the overall film, though.

            Enjoy!

            • Thank you for the link DO.
              I was just getting excited to find it on bluray. I’m sure I’ll enjoy the highly defined black and white fillm as well :)
              This will be my first b/w bluray and I’m really looking forward to seeing the result.

  3. It sounds so wonderful! I haven’t seen a silent film yet. And this sounds like the right one to start with. I have the same question as Sharmi and Pacifist – where do I get it from?

    I second Pacifist that it was a very clever link. But what if Samir had not posted that list in his comment? U had this film in mind even before that? Just curious so that we can at least try making a guess next time onwards…I was reading at harvey’s blog about few things you already have in mind (like the qawwali list) but have pushed them ahead so that you could complete the ‘linked-posts-cycle’. :-)

    • Now you know where you can get hold of the film. :-) Of all the silent films I’ve seen, I’d probably rate this as among the very best so far. It was absolutely fascinating… memorable.

      Oh, Samir’s comment was just a coincidence (in fact, if you have a look at my response to his comment, you’ll see that I’ve written that it’s eerie, but that he’ll see why when I publish my next post!) I’d already – more than a month ago – decided the entire ‘route’ my linked posts were going to take. So I know exactly what I’m going to be writing on next and next and so on. :-)

  4. I really DO love this film with its epic sets, swarms of extras filling each scene! I’ve seen almost each version and shamefully I do like the 80’s pop soundtrack and coloured one quite a bit! But I had to admit when i saw the restoration I was laughing too much at Brigitte Helm’s sexy ‘Helen’ dance and the overblown acting in some parts! Glad you reviewed this gem!

    • Thank you, Rum!

      I haven’t seen the coloured one (did it have tinted frames? I remember having read somewhere that that’s how Fritz Lang had originally made the film, and that was what the coloured version tried to replicate). But this one, at least, blew me away. It was fabulous and so absolutely unforgettable. Brigitte Helm’s ‘Helen’ dance was perhaps a little too sexy for Helen (!! ;-)), but I thought her acting – the wide-eyed, innocent Maria and the evil, one-narrow-eye Machine-man masquerading as Maria – was OTT but very good. And to think she was only 18 at the time! Wow.

  5. This film is amazing – the concept, the execution. I too have seen the restored version found in Argentina.
    Glad you reviewed it – mean a few more people will see it.

    @sunheriyadein: there is a treasure trove of films you should see then – Charlie Chaplin, Buster Keaton and Harold Lloyd to start with and Eisenstein’s masterpiece The Battleship Potemkin.

    @dustedoff: Daughter played live to accompany a classic silent short film, at a festival of classic silent shorts in the Barbican Centre, London

    • I am very impressed, bawa, that your daughter played to accompany a silent film! From what I’ve heard of her playing, I guess I shouldn’t be surprised – she has a lot of talent.

      I completely agree with your recommendations of Chaplin, Buster Keaton (hehe!!) and The Battleship Potemkin – all are superb. Another I’d like to add is the funny Devushka S Korobkoy (‘The Girl With The Hat Box’), a Russian film made in 1927. Very cute.

      • She said it was great fun. The music was composed especially for each film for the occasion. And the audience response was apparently just great (tickets sold out well in advance). Guess that is one of the advantages of being in a city like London.

        • I can imagine! It must have been quite an experience. I wish someone would try doing that for a silent Hindi film. But I guess as a nation we’re just too caught up in the fervour of being ‘modern’ to have much patience with the past. I have seen films like Tezaab and Kuch Kuch Hota Hai being described on online shopping sites here as ‘new films’.

  6. Thanks for this, you’ve really made me want to see it. I have just started reading some classic literature because I thought there was so much I hadn’t read. Now I’m thinking I should do classic cinema too. I have just started a 40 before 40 list and this is definitely going on there. Thanks for visiting my blog so I could find yours and I’m so glad you enjoyed the broccoli, it’s our favourite dish!!

    • And thank you for visiting my blog! My love for classic cinema began when I was a child (I’m Indian, and TVs became common in households only in the ’80s – the one TV channel we had back then showed plenty of old cinema: Hindi and English. They had a particular liking for Hitchcock and John Wayne! Heh!) Ever since, I’ve never quite got over my love for that period – not all the movies, of course. But the majority – and Metropolis is part of my favourites list.

  7. Dustedoff, thanks for the very detailed writeup of this classic… You’ve also provided lots of information about this film that I forgot. :) (I think I once saw the whole film, but it was a long time ago… Unless I just saw excerpts of it… I know I’ve seen that female robot hundreds of times. :) )

    Anyway, regarding your thoughts about similarities to the Russian Revolution… I went to Wikipedia’s very long and interesting entry on this (highly recommended), and it mentioned that Metropolis was influenced by a Soviet film and novel that came out in the early 20s. Wikipedia says:

    Lang was influenced by the Soviet science fiction film Aelita by Yakov Protazanov (1924), which was an adaptation of a novel by Alexei Tolstoy. The plot of Aelita included a revolution taking place on the planet Mars. However, Metropolis advocates non-violent cooperation rather than the Marxist ideal of “class struggle”.

    But the first thing that occurred to me as I read your description here is that this movie was influenced by The Time Machine, an 1895 novel written by a socialist named H.G. Wells. :) (BTW, that also was made into a couple of movies – I saw the 1960 version, which was pretty good.) Curiously, though, according to Wikipedia, Wells himself reviewed Metropolis and thoroughly panned it. (He also claimed that it ripped off a few other works, including one of his – though not The Time Machine, but another novel, The Sleeper Awakes.) Lang himself ended up disliking the film in retrospect, partly because it became popular with the Nazis(!)…

    Anyway, wow, I’m beginning to think that the history of this film must be more interesting than the film itself :) …

    • I’ve just finished reading the Wikipedia article (well, not all of it – I left out the synopsis and the later stuff about re-releases and restorations), but those bits about where Lang and von Harbou found their inspiration were interesting. I hadn’t known that Lang himself went on to criticise Metropolis, calling it a ‘fairy tale’… and I hadn’t known von Harbou became a devoted Nazi and in 1937 wrote the screenplay for Der Herrscher – which, according to Wikipedia, “celebrates unconditional submission under absolute authority, eventually finding reward in total victory…”

      That sounds quite a sea change from Metropolis. ;-)

      Thinking about it, I don’t recall having watched any films based on HG Wells’ books… no, wait. Of course. Tom Cruise’s War of the Worlds. I wonder what Wells would’ve thought of that.

      • Wow, that Der Herrscher sounds pretty scary!

        Re. Wells… I can’t imagine him having too much fondness for a project Tom Cruise was involved in, but who knows? I haven’t seen that version of War of the Worlds myself, but I saw another film version, a long time ago. Also saw a film version of his novel The Invisible Man (which was somewhat of an influence on Adhi Raat Ke Baad :) ). I may have seen the film version of The Island of Dr. Moreau… If not, then I saw excerpts, as it was made semi-famous again 33 years ago by the post-punk rock band Devo, who used the notorious line from the movie, “Are we not men?” in the refrain to their “Devolution” anthem. (And what would Wells have thought of that?!)

        • Yes, Der Herrscher sounds totally, brutally propaganda. Certainly not a film I’d want to see.

          Richard, you’re a lucky man to have not seen the Cruise War of the Worlds. I don’t usually watch too many new movies, but since my husband is a sci-fi and superhero movie fanatic, I get dragged along to watch every film of that genre that turns up (which means at least one a month!). I had my doubts about this one – I had good memories of reading the book, and wondered if they’d be able to do justice to it. My doubts turned out to be justified. ;-)

          I haven’t come across Devo’s Devolution, but I can imagine it – Wells would probably have something very pungent to say about their asking “Are we not men?”!!

    • I’m really glad for this information, bawa. If I’d known this earlier I would have definitely visited on one of the days that I’ll be there in the coming days. As it is I’ve booked seats for us at a theatre almost every evening (with a vengeance as I don’t get this opportunity in a non english country).

      But I know where to go next time I’m in London.
      Thanks.

    • Bawa, thank you! I don’t know when I’ll ever manage to scrape together the funds to go holidaying in London again (damn the Indian rupee!), but I’m going to keep an eye out for stuff like this. I do wish the Film Festivals that happen in Delhi would make more of a push to get some of these really rare old gems here… Indian or not.

      I wonder how many silent films the National Archives has in its keeping, by the way.

    • Bawa, I didn’t know anything about your daughter’s musicianship. :) But it is interesting that she accompanied those films. I have seen A Trip to the Moon (a while ago, but definitely have seen it). I’m sure I saw the Max Fleischer films too. (Am I correct in assuming that your daughter accompanied those as well?) I’ve been something of a Max Fleischer fan, and I went to a Max Fleischer festival way back in the mid- or late ’80s at the Thalia Cinema in New York City, where I must have seen all of his most famous films.

      Max Fleischer introduced me to the music of Cab Calloway (whose music was on the soundtrack of some of his ’20s-’30s sound films – some good Betty Boop scenes, as I recall). If your daughter accompanied a Fleischer film, then as a musician, she’s in pretty good company. :)

      • No, she is just 1st year! The music was provided by students of electronic music. She just did one film – one about a centaur – but it was the only one which used acoustic instruments (clarinet & violin) apart of the electronic compositions/arrangements. Postgraduate students “hogged” the more famous Trip to the Moon I believe!

        Link to the film here (thought not with the music they played)
        http://animationreview.wordpress.com/2010/06/23/the-centaurs/

  8. I’ve never watched a silent movie before, but your fantastic write-up of this classic makes me curious. Since it was silent, how did you get so involved with the plot, were there subtitles of some sort

    • There are intertitles, bollywoodeewana – ‘dialogue cards’ that actually carry the dialogue. Plus, makeup facial expressions and movements are sometimes exaggerated (as in Metropolis) to prevent you from getting bogged down by the lack of sound. And the ‘silence’ isn’t really silent – there’s background music (as bawa indicates above, live orchestras used to play along).

  9. Also a while ago, I used to care a lot for all those greatest films of all time lists but now (thanks for the link), i tend to see them as the voice of some culturally superior snob (not always the case by the way).

    I find that a lot of films often featured on those lists often pass over me, a great example was Butch Cassidy and the sundance kid, which I finally settled to watch after much ‘hoo ha’ i had heard about it, I found it rather average. At best those opinion polls are often the voice of a select few and can no way account for the taste of all, but still i recognise the hard work and difficulty that often goes into producing such lists but I just hate it when they’re held up as some ten commandments of sorts.

    • In my opinion, one shouldn’t think of those ‘greatest ever’ lists as the gospel truth. After all, they’re just the perceptions of a select few. There is no way the people who made Time’s 100 Greatest Movies list could have watched all the films ever made – it’s physically impossible. So how do they know that Goopy Gyne Bagha Byne isn’t as absolutely fantastic as Dr Strangelove? And in any case, the appreciation of a film is a matter of perception, of personal preference. I agree with you about that ‘finding a film rather average after hearing all the hoo-ha about it’. It’s happened too often with me. Prominent example: The Searchers. It’s supposed to be the best Western ever made, but after I’d finished watching it, I could think of at least 10 Westerns I would rather have given that honour to.

      At the most, I’d say lists like that can be a guide, if you have no idea where to start and are just looking for pointers.

  10. @bollywoodeewana, just watch a good silent film, then ask the question of yourself!!! It would be good to hear how you would analyse your own viewing experience.

    • Yes, I’d love to read what you have to say about your experiences watching a silent film! Try one of the Chaplins or the Harold Lloyd’s, for a start… not very long, and generally very entertaining!

  11. It seems that I lucked into the chain reasoning, I had no inkling the TIME 100 list was the connection. Now your earlier comment makes sense.
    I have not seen this movie, but I will try and do so.
    Thanks for all the bits of info. in the section “What I liked about this film:”

  12. I confess I usually do a bit of speed reading when I read blog posts given the time constraints. Recently however I sat engrossed as I read each word of Greta’s review of Himanshu Roy’s silent fim Shiraz. That is exactly what happened as I read this review. I was totally engrossed. The symbolism in the film appealed to me and in a way reminded me of Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times. Lately I have been seeing quite a few old classic films on the internet so the moment I finished reading the review I searched for it on Youtube and was happy to find it there. The person who has put up the film has added Pink Floyd’s music to the film. It is obviously the restored version, I am going to see it later and for those interested here is the link.

    • I can understand that ‘speed reading’ bit, Shilpi! I am guilty of that at times, mostly when it’s for a film I know very well (in which case, I often end up going through the synopsis pretty quickly), or if it’s a newer film I’m not really interested in. But I’m so glad you found this review interesting!

      I hope you like the film, too. Incidentally, it brought to my mind (only as far as theme is concerned) George Orwell’s 1984. I read that when I was a teenager, and it, along with Animal Farm, had quite an effect on me.

      • Dustedoff, I just saw your reply here and I had to chime in, because George Orwell has had a profound effect on me too. There were those two books first (also read them when I was a teenager – though I read 1984 a couple of times later too), and then there was Homage to Catalonia, which I read a little before seeing Ken Loach’s slightly altered film version, Land and Freedom (made in 1995 – and it was a really good film!)… Also love many of his essays…

        One of the greatest literary influences from 20th Century Britain… Oh, but wait, he wasn’t born in England, he was born in India… And I get the impression he didn’t care much for those British imperialists. :)

        • Thank you for the Homage to Catalonia tip-off, Richard! I hadn’t read that, so will now get around to acquiring it and putting it in my already-huge ‘to-read’ list. And yes, I love his essays too. Not that I’ve read too many of them, but there was this particularly good collection on why he wrote… it’s been a long time since I read that, but I remember he was (as in all his other writing), very intelligent and insightful without sounding pedantic.

          A coincidence: just a few hours ago, driving home from a dinner out, I sprang this trivia question on my husband: “What’s common between Vivien Leigh, Engelbert Humperdinck, Merle Oberon, Gerald Durrell and George Orwell?”

          All born in India, of course. :-)

  13. loved this film, when it was showed “live” on TV at its first screening after its renovation, so to say.
    What a splendid array of pictures and scenes, which still move and are completely true even after all those years or better said, more true in this era

    • Coincidentally, Raja just commented on my Do Bigha Zameen post, saying that the land-grabbing story of that film still holds true – ‘some things never change’. Yes, the constant struggle of the oppressed and the oppressor will always be there, or the rich and the poor, the have and the have-nots. Both Do Bigha Zameen and Metropolis capture that very well, though in very different ways.

  14. Great film! one of film’s most wondrous early achievements!

    Did you the restored version with deleted scenes? That has some great stuff that was removed including the Thin Man. :)

    • Yes, I watched the restored version (though one should clarify – even in that – which restored version, since there are multiple restored versions too). The one I saw did have the Thin Man, plus it had the cards that explained what had happened in the scenes that are still missing.

      • Cool. About 20 minutes were discovered recently in Brazil that provided most of the missing scenes (barring one). The Thin Man is in the regular version but only barely. A lot of his scenes were cut sadly when the film was exported out to the US. :(

        Fritz Lang is a master of camerawork. His visuals are just dazzling. Have you seen M also? That’s another great film by him with a weighty subject matter.

        • I hadn’t known about the portions found in Brazil – South America seems to be turning out to be a treasure-trove for Fritz Lang’s work, apparently! (a large part of the missing sections of Metropolis were found in Argentina).

          I have heard of M, yes – but haven’t got around to watching it yet. So many films to watch, so little time…

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