Week 2 Blog Assignment

Metropolis is another form of supporting evidence for Andre Bazin’s thesis in The Evolution of the Language of Cinema. Bazin argues in favor or mise-en-scene, and denounced the use of montages in filmmaking. He also states that the earlier, silent movies used montages to tell the story, while later films starting in the late 1930s started using mise-en-scene. The film Metropolis would have been a perfect piece of evidence for Bazin to use to prove his observation. It is a silent film from 1927, and is rife with montage, specifically parallel montage and the montage of attraction. In one scene in particular, where Maria is experimented on by the doctor Rotwang and used to create a robotic double, one can really notice the montage used, along with the vast spectacle created by director Fritz Lang.

The first piece of evidence that supports Bazin’s thesis is the parallel montage used when the scenes alternate between Maria struggling to escape from the clutches of Rotwang and Freder rushing into Rotwang’s lab to try and save Maria. Lang uses this montage here to build up the suspense leading to the intertwining of these two alternating scenes as Freder sees the robotic Maria in an embrace with his father, and becomes sick.

Another aspect of this scene that could contribute to Bazin’s idea is the spectacle created in this scene by the director. Lang uses vast sets, lighting, props, makeup, and special effects. After struggling with Rotwang, Maria is bound to a table with various scientific looking tools all around her. This is followed by electricity and explosions as the robot transforms into a human. This vast use of plastics is another aspect of montage that Bazin did not favor.

This film is a spectacle, and is meant to intrigue the audience with its themes and symbolism. It uses montage much more than miss-en-scene, and is a prime example of what Andre Bazin writes about in The Evolution of the Language of Cinema.

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2 thoughts on “Week 2 Blog Assignment

  1. I agree with you in that Bazin probably would have disapproved of Lang’s use of montage and also the plastics of the scene – to a certain extent. However, I would also have to say that he would have perhaps greatly praised the mise-en-scene in this film. I would argue that this film uses as much montage as it does mise-en-scene so it, in a way, would balance out. Without really diving into German expressionism and the plastics, (that’s another discussion) I feel that Lang used the proper technique wherever it was necessary. In this particular scene, yes, montage was used, but so was the mise-en-scene. A shot that comes to mind is when Maria is on the table in the foreground and Rotwang is looking down at her facing the camera. All the while, this ominous, not-yet-alive-machine stares down on the scene in the background. The depth of field, and general composition of the shot, creates this haunting mood that he would not have gotten had he only used montage. Montage here is used as an enhancement to the scenes suspense, as it is in so many other portions of the film. I just feel that Bazin would have commended Lang for his techniques and effect more than anything else, despite his disapproval of montage in general.

  2. Interestingly, while it was well before the Bazin article we read, Bazin became interested in film during his time serving in World War II, and when he returned to Paris, he organized film screenings for fellow enthusiasts. One of the early films he screened was Metropolis. I’m quite interested to find out how his opinion of the film held up over the intervening years, as it is definitely an excellent example of both montage and depth of field.

    Great post!

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