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movie reviewmovie reviewmovie reviewmovie review out of 4 Movie Review: Metropolis

Starring: Brigitte Helm, Alfred Abel
Director: Fritz Lang
Rated: NR
RunTime: 90 Minutes
Release Date: March 1927
Genres: Classic, Cult, Sci-Fi/Fantasy

*Also starring: Gustav Froehlich, Rudolf Klein-Rogge, Fritz Rasp

Review by Steve Rhodes
4 stars out of 4

Fritz Lang's classic silent film METROPOLIS from 1927 has rightly been called one of the greatest pictures ever made. For its seventy-fifth anniversary, it is being re-released in a restored version that adds a half hour of footage never seen before in the United States. There is still a quarter of the film that is lost forever, but the restorers have added intertitles that explain what happens in the missing scenes.

Operatic in scale, story and music, the movie is an incredible treat, and this new print is sharp in images and sound. Even if you've seen it before, you haven't seen it like this. This is close to how it was meant to be enjoyed when it was first released.

As the story opens, downtrodden workers are shuffling along like an army of zombie soldiers on parade with each head held down. They are the minions who toil at the machines, consisting of big levers, large dials and lots of steam. Although the poor people work like moles, deep underground, the upper class plays on the surface, enjoying the fruits of the workers' labor. The skyscrapers and massive buildings look like they might have been the inspiration a decade later for Albert Speer, Hitler's architect.

Like an opera, most silent films feature exaggerated, almost comical actions and make-up. METROPOLIS is no exception.

Hands down, my favorite part of the production is the symphonic music which fills every frame with great power and emotion. The story is a blend of religious allegory and class struggles. Its ultimate message is, "The mediator between head and hands is the heart." The "head" represents society's intellectuals or brains, and the "hands" are the workers or brawn. The "heart" is the human compassion and mutual understanding that unites us all.

The story includes a messiah or Virgin Mary figure called Maria (Brigitte Helm), a young rebel named Freder (Gustav Fröhlich) and Freder's megalomaniac father, Joh (Alfred Abel). Along the way, the science fiction story includes cities of the future, a Frankenstein-like robot and even the Tower of Babel.

Silent movies may not say anything, but some of the lines on the intertitles in METROPOLIS are priceless, including: "Death to the machines!!!" and "One man's hymns of praise become another man's curses."

In the extremely unlikely event that you aren't mesmerized by the story, just shut your eyes and soak up the music. It is symphonic scoring at its very best. If I had to choose between watching METROPOLIS or listening to it, I'm not quite sure which one I'd go for. Okay, you twisted my arm. I'll pick the music.

METROPOLIS runs 2:04. It is not rated but would be PG for mature themes and would be acceptable for any kid old enough to be interested in seeing it.

Copyright © 2002 Steve Rhodes

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