16 August, 2012

Metropolis - My Tryst with a Silent Film.

It took a blogathon for me to truly appreciate and admire a silent film. Growing up, the only silent films I can remember watching are Mel Brooks' Silent Movie and an Indian film titled Pushpak. I have seen Chaplin as well, bits and bobs on TV, never in entirety. So, when Lesya from www.eternityofdream.blogspot.com decided to run a "Speechless Blogathon" I took on the challenge, one that also resulted in me searching all around for a couple of weeks to lay my hands on a silent film. 

As the title of the post suggests, Metropolis was the chosen one. It is a film that has been talked about in the film circuit on a regular basis. My first shock about the film was its length. This Frits Lang's masterpiece runs for a whooping two and a half hours plus (the restored version) which meant that I had to watch it in breaks over a couple of days. Nevertheless, the film stayed with me during the intermissions and its brilliance cannot be expressed, but I’m going to give it a shot anyways... 


Speechless Blogathon
Metropolis is the story of a modern futuristic city built on the sweat and blood of the working population who has been living in the depths of the earth, under the city they helped built. The film is as much a commentary on society and mankind as it is a love story between the son of the city's planner and a girl from the lower strata. 

As the playboy son (Gustav Fröhlich) of the city's planner (Alfred Abel) discovers the harsh realities of the how the city has stomped over the very people who built it, he begins a self imposed quest to become the "mediator" between the "head" (the rich who live a carefree life on the surface) and the "hand" (the workers). 

The city of Metropolis has become a place where machines have taken over, metaphorically. They have become so important that man needs to be at the beck and call of the machines at all times, if not, then it can only lead to death and despair. With a revolution in the horizon, the film beautifully forms a tapestry of subplots; mystery, secrets, power, and anticipation of things to come that run parallel to the main plot. 

A story about revenge, love, despair, hope, and the will to achieve, Metropolis relies, at times, on theatrical acting by the cast which makes dialogues unnecessary. Featuring gigantic set pieces and impressive special effects, it is understandable why Metropolis has stood the test of time and can be seen in a number of Top 10 lists of all time. 

Another aspect of the movie that stood out was the music which brought to life the mood of the scene being enacted and changed seamlessly as the scenes changed from that of despair to joy. 

Metropolis captivated me and kept me interested for its entire length. It glorifies the power of cinema in a form that we hardly see anymore, but one that is commendable and not easily achieved.
  

As the film finished I wondered what would happen if it was remade now, not as a silent film? Would it loose its point? Would the modern day special effects take away from the story? 

Here's hoping we never find out, because this is one film that should be appreciated in its original form. 

Rating 5/5 Stars

16 comments:

  1. I too wonder what this film would shape up like if it were made today. But then again development today is built on the dreams and lives of the marginalised, who have no voice. So in a sense we can see the film playing out in present times.

    And no, I have not seen this film. My comments are based on your review. But it is a film I've marked to see. Thanks for pointing me towards it.

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    1. Thanks. The film does somewhat reflect the present day society as well... although not to the extent that is shown in the film. Try and get the restored version which I think is longer and easier to watch because the original version can be hard for the eyes.

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  2. I thought you'd be used to long films. Isn't there a rule in Indian cinema that no film can be less than three hours long? That's what it feels like sometimes. :-)

    This truly is a classic of the genre. I hope you continue to explore silent films. For a drama try The Passion of Joan of Arc. For a comedy try either Chaplin's Modern Times, Keaton's Our Hospitality, or Lloyd's Safety Last.

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    1. You know chip I thought the same too, but firstly I found myself paying more attentive because since there was no speech I had to pay much more attention to the actions. Also unlike Hindi films there were no dance sequences (okay there was one, but different from what we have). But in general I think I wasn't expecting for it to be this long. Still the brilliance is that it kept me captivated throughout. Thanks for the list and I shall look these films up for sure.

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  3. This sounds pretty awesome. I considered watching this for the Blogathon but went with suggested Chaplin instead. I'm gonna have to watch this now.

    Awesome post! I love the way you explained it.

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    1. Hi Bruce, thanks and I purposely didn't go too much into the story (something I hardly ever do in my reviews) because there is just so much going on that telling it all would spoil the film. Looking forward to reading your entry. Cheers!

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  4. Nice job! I enjoyed reading your first impressions about Metropolis (one of my personal favorites). It's hard to count how many films have been influenced by its stunning visuals and themes over the years (Blade Runner and Akira are some notable examples).

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    1. Thanks Barry. I still find it hard to believe that this film was made in 1927 and it's influence is evident.

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  5. Great movie and an equally good review. I think there was something so powerful in silent films which I don't find in many films of today. Thanks for bringing this film to light :)

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    1. Yeah, it was quite unexpected for me too... Although I watched it over two days, but it never left me inbetween. Thanks

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  6. Good review! The movie Dark City is one that very much resembles a remake of Metropolis. Also, if you're going to explore silent movies more, I have to recommend that you check out The Passion of Joan of Arc, which is an all-time great.

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    1. Thank you. Yes, Passion of Joan of Arc has been recommended and I am not eager to watch it since it is a story that I really find fascinating.

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  7. I still have not seen this, but I hope to watch it somewhere this year...nice review!

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    1. You know initially when I sat down and saw the length I was like I'm going to regret this and the next thing you know I was totally into it. It's amazingly captivating.

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    2. Just watched it yesterday and it looks stunning. I do think it moves along very slowly...gave it an 8/10.

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    3. I watched it over two sittings so maybe that's why I didn't feel that way... But it was pretty engrossing. Thanks

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