was initially dismissed as a silly and soulless film in 1927, but it has since become a pioneering work in science fiction cinema and has influenced various forms of media.
- Modern filmmaker Christopher Nolan, known for movies like
The Dark Knight
one of his favorite films, highlighting its timeless qualities and relevance to today’s world.
tackles themes such as social inequality, the corruption of power, and familial relationships, making it relatable and thought-provoking for audiences regardless of the time period. Its avant-garde style and imaginative design still captivate viewers today.
Hailed as the father of science fiction, H.G. Wells proclaimed in 1927 that one of the newest silent productions featured in his genre (at that time) to make its way into movie theaters was “quite the silliest film.” The New Yorker’s own Oliver Claxton echoed Wells’ opinion by saying that this expressionist feature, which was over two hours long, was “soulless” and “unconvincing.”
Oh, how nothing stays the same. Almost one hundred years later, Metropolis is not only regarded as one of the pioneers of true science fiction cinema, but the pictorial epic has also been referenced in many popular works of today, which include TV shows, music videos, comic books, and even Japanese manga. To top this all off, the Fritz Lang directed work depicting a frightening future and cruel civilization was named by modern filmmaker Christopher Nolan as being one of his favorite films.
Being the man behind the camera on titles like 2014’s Interstellar and, most recently, 2023’s Oppenheimer (with all having received numerous accolades over the years), Nolan naming Metropolis as one of his more preferred films not only says a lot about this film’s place in the world of cinema but also shows how timeless this movie is as well. The events, themes, and problems that Metropolis presents can easily be transcribed into modern times, and the characters portrayed therein can be resoundingly felt by the people of today, wherever they may be in the world.
Metropolis Features a World Come Alive by Machines
- Release Date
- February 6, 1927
- Fritz Lang
- Alfred Abel , Gustav Fröhlich , Rudolf Klein-Rogge , Fritz Rasp , Theodor Loos , Erwin Biswanger
With the 1927 film being adapted from a novel that was released two years earlier (written by German writer Thea Van Harbou), Metropolis takes numerous themes that are as old as time itself (the rich against the poor, seven deadly sins and familial relationships) and frames all of them in a society that is catastrophically polarized. Just as Lang was thinking about the unbalanced societal structures and social issues almost a century ago, we still undoubtedly hold that same opinion today. A gap is growing between the classes each and every day.
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Even though the symbolic definitions come from a religious origin, the way that Rotwang’s robot (better known as The Machine Man) brings about the seven deadly sins to the city reminds every generation that decides to watch this movie that there is always something out there that can corrupt us as a people if we let it. Hidden underneath Metropolis’s encompassing story, familial issues are at play that become relatable to the audience—guiding children when they need it the most, always maturing (even as a parent), and reaching a fair solution. As time becomes ever more distant from when this movie was made, these life lessons will always be great foundations for anybody to live by.
The Avant-Garde Inside Metropolis
Viewers will come to notice Metropolis’ shared inspiration from the Avant-garde art form. When Freder (the main character) wanders into the machine halls, his human size sorely pales in comparison to the multi-manned machinations on the walls that keep the city upstairs alive and thriving. He imagines one part of the machine turning into a devil-like beast, and the audience witnesses the transformation.
Later on, when the lavish city of Metropolis is fully revealed, the streets and buildings are constructed in a way that is more imaginative in design than most cityscapes from modern movies. The aesthetic construction is just off-kilter enough to hypnotize the viewer. Most notably, there is a strong innovative sense when Maria is seen as the Machine Man for the first time by Freder at his father’s office.
We take these types of cinematic sequences for granted these days, but a hallucination done properly in the 1920s was a feat unseen. Lang and his team go about this in the most characteristic way that compliments the movie’s tone: momentarily turning the Machine Man (Maria) into an evil monstrosity from the ancient city of Babylon. Such a sight would be hard to believe, but considering the familiar but otherworldly tone Lang has already set up in Metropolis, this feels like the next best step.
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This film is not only a favorite of modern-day director Christopher Nolan but has also become a world he is inspired by as well. The British American filmmaker says that The Dark Knight Rises aimed to explore the same city landscape scope that the 1927 movie did. Nolan’s Inception offers familiar family conundrums (regarding father and son and romantic relationships).
As you can see, Metropolis may be visibly dated because of its lack of audio and black-and-white color scheme, but what is presented in the film through plot lines and art style easily sticks with those watching and those behind the camera. You don’t have to be a science fiction fan to see why it resonates with so many today. Metropolis is available to stream on numerous streaming platforms, including YouTube, Tubi, Hulu, and Prime Video.