Bottom Line: Great, but only in certain respects.
Directed by: Fritz Lang
Starring: Alfred Abel, Brigitte Helm, Gustav Frohlich
1927 saw the first release of METROPOLIS, German filmmaker Fritz Lang’s silent sci-fi drama about a futuristic, alpine city. For a while, the film ran for nearly an hour and forty minutes, but as this was a length considered extremely long for the time, it was truncated by 25% of its footage. Today, there have been many efforts to try to find and restore the lost portion of the film (and to the contrary, further truncations, such as Giorgio Moroder’s pop-soundtrack 1980s edition), but as of 2012, we are left with the entire plot, beauty, and mystery of the film in its hour and fifty-eight minutes.
METROPOLIS is the film that defines the most classical meaning of science fiction: a knowledgeable presentation of what isn’t possible now, and is in fact stunning, but we would like to hope for our future to bring us. The city we have here is purely Utopian, with high-rising buildings, a strict division between the upper and lower classes, and even a much-featured clock.
It has been an entire 85 years since the initial release of this film, and it has not changed much at all. Though I must agree with sci-fi writer Ray Bradbury’s statement that the film is “silly” (well, in some scenes, such as the famous clock scene and the last few scenes), it is still as visually stunning–even with only shades of black and white, and the frequent occurrences of intertitles to equally elaborate upon the story as well as translate the characters’ silent mouth-moving to our comprehension.
I would definitely say METROPOLIS is an essential viewing (and so agree many other cinematic entities, such as IMDb, which ranks this #90 on its Top 250), but only for true film fans and lovers of the science fiction genre. The lack of chutzpah almost begins to take over the massively interesting plot of such a film, and with the banal dialogue it offers (in text), it gets not much more interesting. In a few words, great, but in only certain ways.