Friday, May 01, 2020

Metropolis (1927)

Many years ago, I bought several sets of movies on DVD.  They were all distributed by St. Clair Vision and contained about 10 movies each.  (This was the last movie I hadn’t watched on the collection of nine Tales from the Future.)  I had done this with the intent of reviewing them on Epinions as entries into a promotion or contest.  The right promotion didn’t come around often enough and I ended up with a lot of unreviewed movies.

It took me a while to get around to Metropolis.  Part of it was that I wasn’t as motivated to write once Epinions shut down.  The other part is that St. Clair Vision wasn’t known for having the best prints.  They would often get the cheapest copy they could, even if the video and audio quality were in the basement.  Metropolis was no exception.

It takes place in a future where workers live and work below ground and the elite enjoy luxury above.  One day, a woman takes some of the workers’ kids above ground to see one of the parks that the elite enjoy.  The son of the city’s leader follows her to the ground and learns how the workers live.

The woman’s name is Maria.  She leads a group of workers and advocates peace and patience, claiming that some sort of savior will come along.  This savior will bridge the divide between worker and elite.  Meanwhile, the leader of the city sends a robot to replace her and begin making the workers revolt.  Eventually, the workers calm down and peace is restored.

Metropolis is one of the better-known movies in the set.  It was known for being a breakthrough in technical achievement, but looks dated by today’s standards.  (The movie is almost 100 years old, after all.)  I can see a lot of people turning it off partway through.

There are also several cuts of the movie, with the original being 153 minutes.  The one I had was 117 minutes.  I’m not sure how much was left out or how much it changed the story.  There were several places where it looked like people were talking, but there were no corresponding cards with dialogue.  The movie seemed easy enough to follow, but it also seemed rather simplistic.  (It’s almost like a parody of silent films that I’ve seen in other movies.)

I think it would be a perfect selection for a class on the history of movies.  I don’t know that most silent films are going to be much different.

For the average viewer, though, it will probably be too much to sit through.  I don’t think I would have made it through the 153-minute version.  There were several scenes that seemed longer than necessary.  The movie would have people walking around or chasing each other for several seconds.  There were also scenes of the workers going in and out of the factory that seemed to take too long.  If anything, I felt that the movie could have been cut without diminishing the story that much.

I think most modern audiences would find the movie too simple and naïve.  It would also probably be somewhat boring.  I don’t regret saving this one for so long.  At least now, I can put the DVD set away and forget about it.

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