Fritz Lang’s 1927 silent classic Metropolis was set in 2026…
Not long now folks!
I’ve always had a weakness for how the past sees the future; especially as it rapidly becomes the present.
In the sprawling megapolis of Metropolis, aeroplanes fly between skyscrapers, there are elevated railways and automobiles choke multilane aerial freeways. It is a place uncannily like New York in 1927 come to think of it.
The rich live a vapid jazz-age existence in luxury penthouses, while the poor live in underground tenements and toil in monstrous subterranean factories.
Ferder is the son of the plutocrat who owns the city. When a beautiful proletarian woman, Maria, smuggles a group of worker children up to his roof garden, he immediately falls in love with her. Following Maria underground to the slums, he witnesses an explosion kill some workers.
Feder’s father, the plutocrat, visits the mad scientist, Rotwang, to discover the meaning of a map found on the dead workers. Instead he finds Rotwang building a female robot – intending to resurrect his lost love: Ferder’s dead mother.
The two see Ferder conspiring with workers. When Ferder declares his love for Maria, his furious father kidnaps Maria and orders Rotwang to give the robot her likeness to destroy his son’s infatuation.
Robot-Maria and Ferder’s father embrace in front of Ferder, driving him mad with grief and jealousy.
Robot-Maria ferments rebellion among the workers unleashing chaos.
Unable to believe Maria is evil, Ferder goes underground where he sees Maria flood the workers’ slums. Believing their children dead, the workers’ burn Maria at the stake. The flames strip off her flesh revealing her a robot.
The real Maria escapes Rotwang, who dies in pursuit. Together, she and Ferder rescue the workers’ children from the flood. In the final scene, Ferder helps reconcile the workers and his father. And no doubt gets the girl for his troubles.
As one of the first full length science-fiction films, Metropolis showed there was an audience hungry for Sci-Fi and led to the development of a whole movie genre.
While praised at the time for its impressive set designs and special effects, it was criticised for a simplistic plot. Something still levelled at today’s blockbusters.
Funny, but I don’t remember moaning too much watching Avatar; which is basically Pocahontas in space. With a lot going on, you need an easy plot.
Maybe film critics need to shut up and enjoy the show. After all, Metropolis is now considered ground breaking genius, and still fascinates.