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#042. Fritz Lang

If there was one word that I could use to describe Fritz Lang’s films it would have to be “trailblazing”. With a career that spanned forty years, Fritz Lang really set the bar incredibly high when defining genres, as well as cinematography techniques. And while the majority of his films are dark in tone and in presentation, they hold meaningful and thought-provoking messages. Of course, with a director that is so unyielding with his works, Lang was a difficult director to work for (much like Alfred Hitchcock). And yet, the adamance of a director to hold to his artistic vision generally produces unforgettable results. Even today, some of his style can still be seen influencing modern cinema, much like it did back when the new medium was just getting into its groove. This week’s two movies cover the foundation of Fritz Lang’s career.

Metropolis
Year: 1927
Rating: Not Rated
Length: 153 minutes / 2.55 hours

It is interesting to note that since Fritz Lang was a well known and successful director in Germany, the Nazi party actually asked him to direct some of their propaganda films. Fortunately, he turned down the offer since his Catholic upbringing clashed with the Nazi’s ideals. Of course, if the Nazis had seen Metropolis as it was intended, they would have known that he wasn’t going to work for them even before they asked. Unfortunately, since the content of this science fiction masterpiece was a lengthy and blunt examination of class struggles and a partial advocate of governmental overthrow, the German government at the time censored the film, editing it down to a fraction of it’s original length and rearranging the scenes to produce a less meaningful movie.

Fortunately, as of four years ago, a full, unedited version of Metropolis was found in Argentina, and now we can enjoy most of the film as it was intended. This is great news for the film’s legacy, especially after some less than successful restorations and revivals (including an 1985 version with a soundtrack by Queen). The plot for Metropolis starts out with the son of the master of the mechanical utopia discovering that not everyone who lives in the city is as well off as he is. Finding the underground workings of the city, he becomes enchanted by the working class, who keep the machines that run the city functioning and operational. Of course, after being at the machines’ beck-and-call for so long, the workers cannot take it much longer and are tricked into a revolt by a scientist who has figured out how to create artificial life. As the utopia becomes a dystopia, eventually everyone realizes just how reliant they are on the machines they just destroyed.

M
Year: 1931
Rating: Not Rated
Length: 117 minutes / 1.95 hours

While Metropolis broke much ground in terms of special effects and camera techniques, M really defined much of the mystery / film noir motif. The importance of Metropolis was to give the impression of scale, through some impressive sets and a lot of “smoke and mirrors” (literally). However, the key to M‘s mystery lies not in what is shown on screen, but what isn’t shown. There’s an unnerving feeling that runs down your spine when a familiar tune is heard while an innocent object slowly progresses across the screen, indicating a very sinister action taking place.

All of Berlin is in a panic after the murders of many small children. When the local police step up their game to try and catch the perpetrator, the lowlifes of the crime world are caught up in the investigation. As the murders continue, the dregs of society decide to take matters into their own hands, otherwise their livelihoods are at stake. Using the connections only found in the underworld, eventually the murderer is identified and caught. Unfortunately for the child murderer, he’s not caught by the police. Pulled before a makeshift tribunal court, the man is judged by those he has affected as a mere consequence of his actions. But are his actions those of a flamboyant psychopath, or a haunted sociopath?

2 sum it up: 2 films, 2 Fritz Lang masterpieces

Bacon #: 3 (Contempt / Jack Palance -> Cops and Robbersons / Dianne West -> Footloose / Kevin Bacon)

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One response to “#042. Fritz Lang

  1. Pingback: End of Act One | Cinema Connections

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