Week 2 Blog Assignment

The second silent film I have ever watched (next to The Artist), Metropolis Restored has shed light on a completely different side of the silent film that I had previously never experienced or even been able to acknowledge.  Ultimately, I was shocked at how the sci-fi plotline could be so vividly and successfully conveyed, considering the limited cinematic technology of the time, as well as how clearly-expressed and tangible the intensities of the actors’ and actresses’ emotions were.

One of the scenes that made the biggest impact, in my opinion, was the transformation of the robot into Maria’s clone.  The dramatic transformation of Maria’s image was very pronounced; as soon as the robot clone version of Maria opened her eyes, she immediately set off a completely different aura, clashing with her original character.  Her initially angelic façade had reconstructed itself into a much more sensual, daring façade, emphasized by the use of makeup on her features, making them bolder.

The scene’s effects were also very intricate and visually stunning considering the resources available for the cinema at the time; the large rings of light surrounding the robot magnified the dramatics of the scene.  Also, the orchestral soundtrack heavily influenced the tone of the event, beginning as curious and wonder-filled with a hint of mischief, then culminating into a crescendo with the event of the clone’s transformation in the form of a steady, sustained melody – awe-struck, exalting, and happily resigned, signaling one of the film’s plot pinnacles.

Inevitably, there seems to be a certain social commentary concerning Maria that refers to the strictly-dichotomized (dual nature) role that women were expected to fulfill at the time – the innocent, pure, motherly figure vs. the sexually bold, lust-embracing figure.  It is suggested that women are only allowed to adhere to one of the two stereotypes.  Maria’s transition depicts two separate ideas of beauty; her original conveying the caring, chaste, and deeply moral type of beauty vs. her clone that emits a more intimidating, destructive, dangerous side of beauty.  One has the power to cast a spell over men, to enchant them; however, the other has the ability to almost control the actions and thoughts of men entirely in a much more violent manner, stirring up their rage.

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Week 2 Blog Post

The scene that really caught my eyes was when Freder first discovered the Heart Machine and sees the sight of all the workers toil at the machinery relentlessly without break.

Here the workmen put in all their effort into keeping the machinery alive, “feeding” them their labor. The rhythm of their movements keeps itself in sync to the beat of the accompanying music. Almost like clockwork. The matching of movement and music itself makes feelings of tension arise. It greatly does so by intensifying the pace of the music, thus placing the workers into a hyper mode of work.

The scene is first shot as a long shot frame that shows the entirety of the Heart Machine and the workers that toil at its body. It then alternates between different portions of the machine and the workers tending to the parts. Similar to an accelerated montage that quickly transitions to the eventual explosion that occurs in front of Freder.

The aftermath of the explosion includes majority of the workers scalded by the searing steam/flames released from the machine. I believe this enforces my own thought that the workers city is symbolic of hell: an underground area where men toil relentlessly and are burned by the flames. In Freder’s eyes, the machine becomes akin to a demon that eats away at the workers.

Week 2 Blog Post

            As a whole, Metropolis has many examples of the things we’ve been talking about in class, from types of shots to different varieties of montage. One of the very first scenes, the Eternal Gardens sequence, is as good as any other to analyze for these qualities.

The scene opens with a group of fancily dressed women approaching a man in a fantasy-like forest. The initial view we get is a long shot, which takes in the entire scene, before closing in on several middle shots of different various characters. Next, we get close up shots of a woman having her makeup touched up and then the man who is speaking to the women. After this, another long shot is used as Freder enters and playfully chases the women around. This cycle of long shots, then mid-range shots, then close ups is used frequently, particularly in this sequence.

            When Maria enters the garden with the children and sees Freder for the first time, evidence of several types of montage becomes evident. Parallel montage shows Freder about to kiss another woman when the doors open and Maria appears. The shots are taken completely independent of one another, but when shown back to back they give the appearance of something happening in the same area at the same time, just from different perspectives.
         Another thing to note in this scene is use of what Bazin calls “plastics”. In Metropolis, both men and women are heavily made up. Though the reason is not 100% clear, it is 100% evident; these people do not look natural, except perhaps for Maria. Is this possibly an indicator that she does not need worldly things to be complete, or that she is more pure and goodhearted than other characters? Also, though the sets/costumes are quite elaborate, many of the background images are quite obviously painted or drawn and do not look very realistic. But hey, what do you want from a film made in 1927?
          For the first silent film I’ve ever seen, Metropolis was pretty good! It was interesting, yet had so many good examples of what we discussed in class and it brought to life the things that Bazin talked about in his essay.

Metropolis Analysis

Metropolis was an experience that I definitely enjoyed. The movie was unique; introducing new aspects of film making to me. The costume, acting, and mannerisms were so different, I could not help but be surprised by them.

The one scene that got me thinking was actually a shot: the shot of the future world that is Metropolis. The shot displayed cars moving across roads in the sky, climbing from building to building. There were also planes that flew between buildings. I deeply analyzed this shot, as this was when I realized that it was a science fiction film set in the nineteen twenties. What was interesting was that the cars were the same as in the old days, and so were the planes. Modern cars and planes like we have today were not pictured in the shot of Metropolis. The most change was that the buildings were instead huge, fancy, with a ton of lights. The cars and planes moved with freedom, un-restricted by gravity. Science fiction today also depicts a lot of technological advances that refer to being more free, versus being limited by resources.

The shot of the “depths” of Metropolis was instead dark. The costume was dull. There were no planes, and no cars. A few panels in the ceiling of the city let in some light. The people walked, unable to reach any state of freedom. This city would represent a place where technology has not graced its presence, and a place where there are no resources to lift the limitations of the earth.

In some way, there is alway symbolism in films. Once you get to analyzing the different aspects of the film, you begin to realize that there is much more depth to it than you would have imagined. I was unaware that films would be so sophisticated almost a hundred years ago. Even though it lacked sound, the quality of the film was by far more impressive than some of the movies made today. I definitely look forward to watching and learning more about films.

Week 2 Blog Assignment

The scene that was the most dramatic for me was the one in which Maria was trying to save all the children in the underground city while their parents were celebrating about destroying the heart machine. The “plastics” of the scene played a huge role in portraying the suspense and action of the film. The sets were very elaborate for this scene because they had to show the water rushing into the city, as well as the heart machine and the entire city being destroyed. However, while these effects were elaborate, I thought that the attention to the actual storyline was lacking. This relates to what Bazin felt about the use of montage and that it can sometimes take away from the storyline. This is what I felt was happening here. I was a bit confused in this scene as to how the parents were not concerned or thinking about their children. The worker at the heart machine told them that the city would be flooded if they destroyed it, so did they not realize that their children were in danger? I didn’t understand how all the parents could have left their children unattended as such. In this scene I thought that the main focus was on how the city was being destroyed and not about the actual storyline.

This scene is also essential in portraying the true character of Freder. In this scene we see his acts of heroism in saving Maria and the children. Freder’s character up until this point was not very involved in helping the worker’s situation, even when he spent one day working. His love for Maria brought out the bravery and courage in him and he felt obligated to do as much as he could to save the children that Maria deeply cared for.

This film was very interesting and it just makes me realize how movies have changed  from the 1920’s until now!

Week 2 Blog Assignment

It seems to me that many movies have drawn inspiration from Metropolis. This can be seen in similarities of scene, as in the similarities between the bell-ringing scenes in Metropolis and Disney’s The Hunchback of Notre Dame, or in similarities in plot like in this year’s Elysium: both it and Metropolis involve the poor (who live in dejection) being subjected by the rich who live lavishly in a world above.

All that aside, my favorite scene was when Freder finds Georgy, a worker about to pass out from being overworked, and decides to not only do his job for him, but basically give him all he has. This scene is refreshing in that it depicts a young, rich man who works too little switching roles with a poor man who works too hard. This simple action shatters the class barrier and displays the rich man and the poor man as equal. This is the kind of good heartedness that builds credibility for Freder as a protagonist to stand behind; he is the good guy, and who doesn’t want to root for the good guy?

This scene adds a lighthearted feeling to the sort of sad tone that the film was following up to that point. Seeing an action as simple as this one performed today (headline: Mark Zuckerberg Trades Lives with Local Hobo) would not only make headlines but serve as a heartwarming tale, an ideal to strive towards for philanthropists everywhere.

This scene also carries a certain amount of symbolism and actually employs one of the film’s recurring motifs: the clock. Not only does the action that Freder is performing once he starts working at Georgy’s post look like he is turning the hands of the clock, but a clock is actually superimposed on the machine when Freder is shown laboring later on in the prelude. The metaphor here is that the work is so cumbersome, that time likely goes slower for the worker, making it seem that his work will never end, at least until he passes out (like Georgy almost did) or dies.

Metropolis

In Metropolis, a truly powerful scene is Freder’s first visit to the underground factory. Searching for Maria, the scene opens to a long shot of Freder gazing at the enormous machines. By using the long shot, Lang conveys a sense that the factory is ultimately an impressive yet intimidating sight through Freder’s reactions. Paying closer attention to the scene, the workers seem to be working in an almost synchronized manner. The audience can interpret this synchronization as depicting the life of a factory worker as a continuous, never ending routine. As the scene progresses, however, it shows an older factory worker struggling to continue his work to the point in which he seems to be collapsing from mere exhaustion. While the worker struggles, the movie cuts to show a meter that continues to rise at a fast pace. As it rises, the worker’s look of fear seems heightened; he knows the dire consequences of the meter if he does not continue his work.

At this point, Lang uses parallel montage by cutting to the synchronized workers and the rising meter. Alongside the dramatic soundtrack, suspense, discomfort and chaos accompany the rise of the meter. The suspense reaches its climax when the meter hits a certain point that causes an explosion throughout the factory. In reaction to the explosion, Freder is thrown back, seeming to have hit his head and begins to hallucinate. Through the use of effects, the factory is suddenly transformed into what seems to be a Mayan temple in the form of a beast. It then seems as if the workers themselves are being sacrificed into the mouth of the temple. This moment serves as a metaphor to the savagery that exists within the factory itself. This is the true message that Lang is trying to convey in this scene.

Metropolis

This was my second time seeing Metropolis and both times, my favorite part was when they were portraying Maria both as sort of evil and as good at the same time. This parallel montage was very interesting to me as they were both approaching the same goal and location but in very different ways. I also really liked how the evil Maria had subtle but distinguishing different physical characteristics, such as more eye makeup and her dress being pulled apart as well as messier hair. It was obvious that her personality was different but it still showed that it was the same body. Although at times it wasn’t blatantly obvious from her differing appearance, her mannerisms and just the look in her eye made it easy to tell which version of her it was. Something else that really intrigued me about this transformation was the impressive science they performed! For 1927, it’s a pretty big deal. It seemed to be very ahead of its time technologically and did a lot of pretty amazing things. Something else I noticed about this character development was the build-up leading up to her transformation. It was interesting that an enemy and a hero can be physically the same person but have a different persona. Metropolis is definitely a movie that I appreciate mostly because of the progressions it made for its time. Seeing it a second time definitely made me more attentive to the details such as the lighting, montages, and character body language. Watching a movie without sound is a surprisingly refreshing experience because the viewer is forced to pay close attention to the body movements and expressions. There are subtleties that I’m sure would go unnoticed if you could hear what the actors were saying. The character development and symbolism in Metropolis were very impressive and although it might not get as much credit today, doing something so revolutionary and different in 1927 is most definitely noteworthy.

Metropolis and Rotwang

The most interesting symbolism in Metropolis was Rotwang, the creation of Mecha-Maria, and science! Keeping with the German expressionist theme, he seemed vaguely reminiscent of Faust, of German legend. He sacrifices himself, though in Metropolis, it is his hand, for science, and has pentagrams all over his house, which is incongruous in it’s dilapidated exterior and futuristic interior; a place out of time. He also builds his Man-Machine (which is definitely a woman) which echoes Mephistopheles, the demon servant sent to Faust in the original German legend. Mecha-Maria wreaks chaos and brings about the end of Rotwang, parallel to Faust and his demon. The final nail in the coffin? Faust means “fist” in German. What does Rotwang give up in his quest for the Man-Machine? His hand. Germans aren’t known for their subtlety. The scene framing also fits the Van de Graaff generator in the middle of the pentagram, as well as the Machine-Man. The entire scene is framed and intended to be an affront in the face of God, as Metropolis so subtly hinted that Mecha-Maria was the Whore Of Babylon.

Blog 2 Metropolis

 

Metropolis

 

A scene that really stuck out for me was when Freder, on his quest to find Maria, ends up in the pits of the working class’s underground. He is unsure what he will find but he holds true to himself. The journey to the depths of the workers brings him to a monstrosity of a machine that is worked day in and day out by the enslaved workers. The machine has many steps, levers, pipes, and mechanical parts but as Freder thinks he sees just a large machine he realizes it is not just a machine, but a monster that lives on the flesh, blood, sweat and tears of the enslaved and working class. This film was essential and revolutionary in its set design; that is why this scene left such a lasting impression on me.

 

The machine monster had an Art Deco design which was what the 1920’s were known for in Europe. Deco designs originally came from a combination in craft designs and most importantly machine materials and imagery. The ornate features of the monster and the bold geometric shape clearly give this monster a fearsome quality of the path in which mankind might be headed to.

 

The guards at the lips of the giant machine had a very ancient quality in the method of sacrifice although their attire is very “Si-fi-esque” and very different for the time of 1927. The uniform downward heads of the workers inching their way up to the top exemplifies that the workers have accepted their fate. However the guards show now mercy, they show no regard for human life and see it as a vehicle for progress. This scene uses historical allusions of ancient cultures to prove its ever repeating point of the continual disregard of the rights and liberties that the underclass should be granted as working members of society.