Guess what everyone?! You don’t have to read about something Japanese today! It’s something German instead!
My Filmhouse cinema does “European Cinema Season” which apparently started tonight. I wasn’t in it for that, I just wanted to see a Fritz Lang film, because they are cited frequently in every film textbook I’ve ever read.
So apparently when Metropolis was shown in theaters back in 1927-28, the distributors (Paramount in America) cut out scenes from Fritz’s final cut. So for eighty years, people watched Metropolis not the way Fritz intended it to be seen.
Until 2008, when an original 16mm film stock of Metropolis was found in Buenos Aires. The version I saw tonight was the best restoration and as close to the original cut as they could approximate. It was 153 minutes long (which I think is pretty impressive for a silent film). The scenes that didn’t make the first theatrical release were obvious because their restoration wasn’t as successful. But what I saw was brilliant, and I have no idea how those studios in the 20s decided to cut major chunks of the film, because I feel like the meaning of the story completely changed with those scenes they deleted.
Anyway, I found myself very distracted during the film. It was silent, obviously, so all the dialogue was on those great black plaques. But since it’s a German film, they were in German. English subtitles provided. But I was so excited to test out my waning German skills that I tried to read the German first and then the English…which usually resulted in me missing half of the dialogue. So the first half of the movie I wasn’t really sure what was going on. Then I just decided to only read the German, and I actually understood it just fine! Occasionally I’d flick down to the English to make sure I knew what a word meant, but I’m pretty proud of myself. 🙂
Now, as a film, and not analyzing any further than that, I was significantly impressed. Movies are supposed to show and not tell, which is a craft I’ve found seriously diminishing, especially in certain genres (okay, I’ll say it. Chick flicks). But you don’t really have a choice when your film is silent. Towards the end of the movie as I discovered I was grinding my jaw in anxiety about the children who were all about to die, I took a step back and thought, this is just music and images. That’s it. Nothing build up through dialogue. And here I am having an intense emotional reaction to it. Brilliance. Absolute brilliance. So goal: rewrite and revise until my stories have that kind of power, that even when nothing’s being said, the emotion is so present people are having physical reactions to it.
Now for symbolism. If you didn’t already figure out how obsessed I am with symbolism, let me tell you now. I am obsessed with symbolism. Particular when it’s gender-related.
I don’t want to spoil too much of the action in the movie, because I strongly encourage everyone who hasn’t seen it to seek it out and see it for themselves. We’re going to put aside all the Masonic symbolism here, and just talk about this girl, Maria. Not only is the choice for her name fascinating, let’s talk about the fact that she looks like a renaissance painting (seriously, compare her with this woman holding a unicorn:
Maria is cloned and her double used by the men in power to corrupt society. The real Maria is a motivational, free-thinking peace-promoter. The cloned Maria is Babylon incarnate. They literally quoted this scripture from Revelation 17 and dressed her up accordingly, with the seven sins holding her aloft and the whole bit:
4 And the woman was arrayed in purple and scarlet colour, and decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations and filthiness of her fornication:
5 And upon her forehead was a name written, Mystery, Babylon the Great, the Mother of Harlots and Abominations of the Earth.
Now here’s another quote to ponder:
Will what happened in cradles and kitchens prove to be more controlling than what happened in congresses?
AKA, Metropolis depicted very clearly the influence of a woman. The men in power could not personally influence the corruption of society they sought. The workers in Metropolis could not personally persuade each other to change their circumstances. Both needed a woman to do that for them. Here we have one woman who is kind, compassionate, hard-working, and filled with hope, and one woman who is dancing around half-naked (I was surprised at how little clothes she had on considering it was the 20s) and allowing men to act upon all the seven deadly appetites to get her way with them. Which of these influences led to happiness and prosperity? I don’t think I need to tell you.
I’m fascinated that an 85-year-old film could never be more relevant than it is now. A) The sign of a true masterpiece. B) Kind of Orwellian. Maybe he was influenced by Maria, too. C) I must own this film.
Okay, I’m done talking about gender roles for now. Until next time. 😉