So, a few nights ago I started this whole endeavour off with an appropriately clueless blunder. I thought I would get myself started off easy learning German by watching a German movie. I did a quick google search, and when Metropolis came up I jumped on it. It had been on my to-watch list for a while, and if I could get it in while learning a bit of German, well. Even better.
It took me about half an hour to realize that Metropolis is a silent movie. Smooth one, Saskia.
Now I’m clearly no film connoisseur. But the experience was interesting for other reasons. I had never seen a silent movie before, and I got to enjoy for myself some of that exquisitely theatrical acting. Lots of anguished clutching-of-the-chest.
I also never knew that, made in 1926, Metropolis was the most expensive film yet made in Europe, and the first feature-length science fiction film. The plot was not particularly extraordinary – In a futuristic city, Freder, son of Joh Fredersen, the city’s master, meets the beautiful working-class Maria. He rebels against his father’s treatment of the workers, and when the workers rise up against his father, he and Maria make the peace. (There’s more to it than that – like the evil robot/clone – but if you want more you’ll just have to watch it) The most striking thing about it, to me, was the ending. When I hear a story about a revolution, I expect something to change. In Les Miserables the revolutionaries are defeated and the city mourns; in The Hunger Games the social order is ultimately overthrown. In Metropolis, it seems that things just…go back to normal? Maybe it’s a difference of the times, but to me that’s a puzzling conclusion. What is the director trying to say?
However I may feel about the plot, it’s been described as a “bravura display of film craftsmanship”, and I must say the sets were impressive. It kind of puts me in mind of a 1920’s Avatar. Undeniably dazzling, but ultimately a little bit underwhelming in message and story.
There are those who would disagree. Apparently, the film was admired by Hitler, who even said he would like Lang (the director) to make propaganda films for him. Joseph Goebbels even offered him a job as the Head of the German Cinema Institute. Lang never accepted. In fact, he left Germany for Paris soon after. I have to wonder what was so appealing to them about the film. Maybe it was the message of unity, the implication that issues in society can be resolved without directly challenging those in power.
Either way, this was an…interesting way to kick of a year of learning German. Let’s hope my future attempts have a little bit more German in them!
Until next time,
…Oh, yeah. I also was half-convinced at several points that the movie I was watching was about to turn into a gay romance. Which actually would have been really cool. 1920s, black and white, sci-fi, silent, gay, romance film about the ills of industrial society, anyone? I would watch that.
Some day, people. Some day. Just wait until I’m a famous German filmmaker.