Precious Bodily Fluids


Fritz Lang’s Metropolis was an exercise in geometric film-making laden with special effects with a political/economic admonition. At the risk of bringing up W. Anderson again, the symmetry alone makes Lang’s influence on him hard to ignore; then there’s the String Quartet in F Major by Ysaÿe Quartet, as used in Tenenbaums.

Inhuman imagery – machines, buildings, backs, lined-up, faceless, same clothes. Clock – slaves to time, schedule, machines. Uniform movement, no identity, shrouded in sameness. Height of camera – humans as ant workers. Life above: pleasure, life, interaction, animals, identity, games, smiles – counterpoint to homogeneity; love, close-ups. Massive, tiered set – balanced perfectly. 90-degree shots (vertically & horizontally). Geometric mis-en-scene. “Transforms people into a monstrous destructive power.” “Metropolis” – name implies allegory? Shots portray sense of imbalance – conflict, struggle, one side to another. Symmetry vs. lack. Strong use of foreground/background in 90-degree shots. Man becomes clock/machine in attempt to operate it, but cannot control it. “No further use for human workers.”

Robot centered – above 2 men – female – implied misogyny? Perfectly symmetrical scene. Inventor fittingly loses hand creating robot, which “dominates” him in shot. Arms on clock machine emphasize geometry, as with buildings. Tower of Babel – disconnect of communication between workers and those with ideas. Must be mediator between head & hands: heart. Christ-imagery: waiting for a mediator to deliver. Remarkable effects in transformation. Memory/dream montage sequence. “Woman”/Robot dances & entrances men: men swarm to her/it; skeleton – death with scythe; she/it incites them to violence, but real Maria has preached patience. Many 90-degree shots as machines are destroyed and flooding begins. They destroy machines and thus destroy themselves – their city is underwater & children “dead”? Identification with machines. Lack of symmetry during conflict/violence. Symmetry still interspersed. Film ends with perfectly balanced shot: one man between two others shaking hands.

This entry was published on April 9, 2008 at 12:03 pm. It’s filed under 1920s Cinema, German Film and tagged , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink. Follow any comments here with the RSS feed for this post.

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