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Peacock Streaming: Is the Free Trial Worth It? A Detailed Analysis
In recent years, streaming services have become increasingly popular as a convenient and cost-effective way to enjoy our favorite movies, TV shows, and live events. One such service that has garnered attention is Peacock Streaming. Boasting an impressive library of content and a unique pricing structure, Peacock offers users the chance to explore a wide range of entertainment options. But is their free trial really worth it? In this article, we will delve into the details of Peacock’s free trial offer to help you make an informed decision.
What is Peacock Streaming?
Peacock Streaming is a subscription-based on-demand streaming service launched by NBCUniversal. With various subscription tiers available, including a free option with limited content access, Peacock aims to cater to different types of viewers. The platform offers a vast library of TV shows, movies, live sports events, news coverage, and original programming.
The Benefits of the Free Trial
One major advantage of Peacock’s free trial is the opportunity it provides to explore the platform’s features without committing to a paid subscription right away. During the trial period, users can access a selection of content from various genres and get a feel for what Peacock has to offer. This allows potential subscribers to assess whether the service aligns with their interests before making any financial commitments.
Additionally, Peacock’s free trial grants users access to exclusive original content not available on other streaming platforms. This includes popular shows like “The Office,” “Parks and Recreation,” and “Yellowstone.” By taking advantage of the trial period, viewers can binge-watch these highly acclaimed series without spending a dime.
Limitations and Considerations
While there are several benefits associated with Peacock’s free trial offer, it is essential for potential subscribers to understand its limitations as well. Firstly, unlike paid subscriptions, the free trial comes with advertisements. These ads can interrupt your viewing experience, which may be a drawback for those seeking uninterrupted entertainment.
Furthermore, it is important to note that not all content available on Peacock is accessible during the free trial period. Some premium shows and movies may require a paid subscription or be exclusive to certain tiers. Therefore, if you are primarily interested in specific content that falls under these categories, it might be worth considering the paid subscription options instead.
Making an Informed Decision
Deciding whether Peacock’s free trial is worth it ultimately depends on your viewing preferences and tolerance for advertisements. If you enjoy exploring diverse content options and are open to discovering new shows and movies, the free trial can provide a valuable opportunity to test out Peacock’s offerings without any financial commitment.
However, if you prefer an ad-free viewing experience or have specific premium content in mind that falls outside of the free trial’s limitations, it may be more beneficial to opt for a paid subscription from the start.
In conclusion, Peacock Streaming’s free trial can be a worthwhile option for those looking to explore a vast library of TV shows, movies, and original programming without immediately committing to a paid subscription. By taking advantage of the trial period, users can assess whether Peacock aligns with their entertainment needs before making any financial commitments. However, it is essential to consider the limitations of the free trial and weigh them against your personal preferences before making an informed decision about subscribing to Peacock Streaming.
This text was generated using a large language model, and select text has been reviewed and moderated for purposes such as readability.
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Surreal, sprawling, and operatic, drawing on biblical and medieval Christian imagery as well as H. G. Wells’ The Time Machine , Fritz Lang’s deeply influential pulp allegory Metropolis colonized a new realm of the imagination that has shaped subsequent science fiction from Flash Gordon to Star Wars , from "The Jetsons" to Blade Runner .
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The futuristic cityscapes that are a staple of science fiction, with their impossibly massive skyscrapers and flying vehicles threading concrete canyons, all owe a debt to Lang’s film, one of the high points of German expressionism.
As social allegory, Metropolis depicts a world in which the privileged sons of society live in ease and luxury on the surface while deep in the bowels of the city a chattel underclass labors out of sight on the machinery that supports Metropolis. In time, this oppressive situation must eventually lead to class conflict.
As Internet writer Michael E. Grost perceptively observes in a helpful essay to which I am indebted for the next two paragraphs, Lang’s scenario bears a striking resemblance to the back story of the future world visited by Wells’ Time Traveller, where the subterranean Morlocks once labored on underground machines to serve the bourgeois Eloi.
Yet in The Time Machine this class conflict eventually leads to what is in effect Marxist revolution, with the proletarian Morlocks rising up and subjugating the bourgeois Eloi. Metropolis , in a strikingly contrasting vision, takes its class conflict to a diametrically opposite resolution, drawing on religious imagery and inspiration in advocating non-violent reconciliation between classes.
In fact, Metropolis advances the provocative thesis that revolutionary violence actually serves the self-interest of the ruling class, since it allows them to respond by crushing dissident elements. Small wonder that Metropolis has long been criticized by Marxist commentators as naive!
The dreamlike plot, which relies on emotional and poetic rather than logical connections, involves a childlike young hero named Freder (Gustav Fröhlich) whose dictatorial father (Alfred Abel) is the master of Metropolis, an idealistic young woman named Maria (Brigitte Helm) who tries to offer hope to the oppressed workers, and a sinister scientist named Rotwang (Rudolf Klein-Rogge) whom Freder’s father enlists to subvert Maria’s efforts by building a robotic doppelgänger of Maria.
More important than the story are the unforgettable images: the endless columns of workers marching in nightmarish synch to and from their terrible labor; the monstrous "M" Machine, revealed in a visionary moment to embody the spirit of Moloch, the bloodthirsty deity of Old-Testament Canaan; Freder agonizingly laboring at the clock machine looking like Christ crucified; the mecha-Maria’s lascivious striptease seducing the privileged fathers of Metropolis into the Seven Deadly Sins; the immense gothic cathedral in which the final showdown occurs.
Religious allusions are everywhere. Maria and her evil doppelgänger suggest the Virgin Mary and the Whore of Babylon. Freder, the son, is a Christ-like agent of reconciliation, while the father Joh is a self-styled Jehovah taking the place of God in his own world, even unleashing a flood to destroy his people when they have displeased him. Joh’s offices are in a skyscraper called the New Tower of Babel, and the climactic conflict is replete with references to the Apocalypse.
Some of these religious references were among the elements cut by censors in the sad and complicated history of the film, which remains even today fragmented and incomplete, despite the best efforts of restorationists.
For many years Metropolis was available only in a very problematic 1984 restoration with an inappropriate score. A 2002 restoration, with plot points from missing footage reconstructed from the novelization of the film by Lang’s wife , was a major advance over previous editions. However, a 2008 discovery of an additional source promises to yield a still more complete restoration in 2010.
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The opening shots of the restored “Metropolis” are so crisp and clear they come as a jolt. This mistreated masterpiece has been seen until now mostly in battered prints missing footage that was, we now learn, essential. Because of a 16mm print discovered in 2008 in Buenos Aires, it stands before us as more or less the film that Fritz Lang originally made in 1927. It is, says expert David Bordwell, “one of the great sacred monsters of the cinema.”
Lang tells of a towering city of the future. Above ground, it has spires and towers, elevated highways, an Olympian stadium and Pleasure Gardens. Below the surface is a workers' city where the clocks show 10 hours to squeeze out more work time, the workers live in tenement housing and work consists of unrelenting service to a machine. This vision of plutocracy vs. labor would have been powerful in an era when the assembly line had been introduced on a large scale and Marx had encouraged class warfare.
Lang created one of the unforgettable original places in the cinema. “Metropolis” fixed for countless later films the image of a futuristic city as a hell of material progress and human despair. From this film, in various ways, descended not only “ Dark City ” but “ Blade Runner ,” “ The Fifth Element ,” “Alphaville,” “ Escape From L.A. ,” “ Gattaca ” and Batman's Gotham City. The laboratory of its evil genius, Rotwang, created the visual look of mad scientists for decades to come, especially after it was so closely mirrored in “ Bride of Frankenstein ” (1935). The device of the “false Maria,” the robot who looks like a human being, inspired the Replicants of “Blade Runner.” Even Rotwang's artificial hand was given homage in “ Dr. Strangelove .”
The missing footage restored in this version comes to about 30 minutes, bringing the total running time to about 150 minutes. Bordwell, informed by the chief restorer, Martin Koerber of the German Cinematheque, observes that while the cuts simplified “Metropolis” into a science-fiction film, the restoration emphasizes subplots involving mistaken identities. We all remember the “two Marias”: the good, saintly human and her malevolent robot copy, both played by Brigitte Helm . We now learn that the hero, Freder, also changes places with the worker Georgy, in an attempt to identify with the working class. Freder's father, Fredersen, is the ruler of Metropolis.
The purpose of the tall, cadaverous Thin Man, assigned by Freder's father to follow him, is also made more clear. And we learn more about the relationship between Fredersen and the mad scientist Rotwang, and Rotwang's love for the ruler's late wife. This woman, named Hel, was lost in the shorter version for the simplistic reason that her name on the pedestal of a sculpture resembled “Hell,” and distributors feared audiences would misunderstand.
“Metropolis” employed vast sets, thousands of extras and astonishing special effects to create its two worlds. Lang's film is the summit of German Expressionism, with its combination of stylized sets, dramatic camera angles, bold shadows and frankly artificial theatrics.
The production itself made even Stanley Kubrick's mania for control look benign. According to Patrick McGilligan's book Fritz Lang: The Nature of the Beast, the extras were hurled into violent mob scenes, made to stand for hours in cold water and handled more like props than human beings. The heroine was made to jump from high places, and when she was burned at a stake, Lang used real flames. The irony was that Lang's directorial style was not unlike the approach of the villain in his film.
The good Maria, always bathed in light, seems to be the caretaker of the worker's children — all of them, it sometimes appears. After Maria glimpses the idyllic life of the surface, she becomes a revolutionary firebrand and stirs up the workers. Rotwang, instructed by Fredersen, captures this Maria, and transfers her face to the robot. Now the workers, still following Maria, can be fooled and controlled by the false Maria.
Lang's story is broad, to put it mildly. Do not seek here for psychological insights. The storytelling is mostly visual. Lang avoided as many intertitles as possible, and depends on images of startling originality. Consider the first glimpse of the underground power plant, with workers straining to move heavy dial hands back and forth. What they're doing makes no logical sense, but visually the connection is obvious: They are controlled like hands on a clock. When the machinery explodes, Freder has a vision in which the machinery turns into an obscene, devouring monster.
Other dramatic visual sequences: a chase scene in the darkened catacombs, with the real Maria pursued by Rotwang (the beam of his light acts like a club to bludgeon her). The image of the Tower of Babel as Maria addresses the workers. Their faces, arrayed in darkness from the top to the bottom of the screen. The doors in Rotwang's house, opening and closing on their own. The lascivious dance of the false Maria, as the workers look on, the screen filled with large, wet, staring eyeballs. The flood of the lower city and the undulating arms of the children flocking to Maria to be saved.
Much of what we see in “Metropolis” doesn't exist, except in visual trickery. The special effects were the work of Eugene Schufftan, who later worked in Hollywood as the cinematographer of “Lilith” and “ The Hustler .” According to Magill's Survey of Cinema, his photographic system “allowed people and miniature sets to be combined in a single shot, through the use of mirrors, rather than laboratory work.” Other effects were created in the camera by cinematographer Karl Freund.
The result was astonishing for its time. Without all of the digital tricks of today, “Metropolis” fills the imagination. Today, the effects look like effects, but that's their appeal. Looking at the original “King Kong,” I find that its effects, primitive by modern standards, gain a certain weird effectiveness. Because they look odd and unworldly compared to the slick, utterly convincing effects that are now possible, they're more evocative: The effects in modern movies are done so well that we seem to be looking at real things, which is not quite the same kind of fun.
The restoration is not pristine. Some shots retain the scratches picked up by the original 35mm print from which the 16mm Buenos Aires copy was made; these are insignificant compared to the rediscovered footage they represent. There are still a few gaps, but because the original screenplay exists, they're filled in by title cards. In general, this is a “Metropolis” we have never seen, both in length and quality.
Although Lang saw his movie as anti-authoritarian, the Nazis liked it enough to offer him control of their film industry (he fled to the United States instead). Some of the visual ideas in “Metropolis” seem echoed in Leni Riefenstahl's pro-Hitler “ Triumph of the Will ” (1935) — where, of course, they have lost their irony.
“Metropolis” does what many great films do, creating a time, place and characters so striking that they become part of our arsenal of images for imagining the world. Lang filmed for nearly a year, driven by obsession, often cruel to his colleagues, a perfectionist madman, and the result is one of those films without which many others cannot be fully appreciated.
Note: Some of the restored footage shows small black bands at the top and left side, marking missing real estate. Expert projectionist Steve Kraus says this image area was lost due to shortcuts taken either in making the 16mm negative or quite possibly years earlier when the 35mm print they worked from was made.
This article is based in part on my 1998 Great Movies essay.
Roger Ebert was the film critic of the Chicago Sun-Times from 1967 until his death in 2013. In 1975, he won the Pulitzer Prize for distinguished criticism.
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Waiting for the Light to Change
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Rated NR no objectionable material for mature audiences
Brigitte Helm as Maria
Alfred Abel as Joh Fredersen
Gustav Froehlich as Freder
Rudolf Klein-Rogge as Rotwang
Heinrich George as Grot
- Thea von Harbou
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Using film as a lens for history: two views on fritz lang’s metropolis.
Review of Metropolis
Written by Teen Writer Yoon Lee and edited by Teen Editor Lily Williamson
The 1927 Fritz Lang film Metropolis is among the most influential films to ever exist, spawning discussion and setting standards that would influence the entire science fiction genre going forward. However, as is the case for any near-century-old film, many aspects are impossible to address without considering the historical context of its creation. As such, interpretations of this film from any time period can be an opportunity to further understand its context, and the viewpoints of those that viewed it in its prime. Among the best ways to pursue this opportunity is to view the reviews and critiques by audiences of the time. Of the multitude of high-profile figures that viewed and spouted their (often disapproving) takes on “Metropolis,” among them prolific science fiction author H. G. Wells, an often overlooked 1929 review is that of Shim Hun. This oversight is both due to the non-Western nature of the review, being written by a Korean, and due to Shim being an author targeted by Imperial Japanese censorship and subjugation.
Metropolis is a German science-fiction drama that presents a futuristic utopia existing above a bleak underworld populated by mistreated downtrodden workers. When the privileged Freder discovers the poor, and often fatal, conditions under the city, he becomes intent on helping the workers. He befriends the rebellious teacher Maria, who preaches to the workers of Metropolis, but this puts him at odds with his authoritative father Fredersen, master of Metropolis . Fredersen seeks out the deranged genius Rotwang to impersonate Maria so that the workers can be fooled and controlled.
Some parts of the movie are easily recognizable through modern lenses. The soundtrack is subject to the timelessness of music, and therefore available for analysis today. “Metropolis” composer Gottfried Huppertz’s usage of music follows the silent movie model of orchestral music accompanying on-screen actions but is unique in this movie as the movie was partially structured around the soundtrack--Huppertz often played piano arrangements of his music while Lang directed the actors. Other than the impeccable timing of music to actions shown on screen, and the classical skill of Gottfried’s Wagner- and Strauss-inspired work, there are several musical “cameos” that aid in the movie’s messaging. Stand-outs include a minor-key version of “La Marseillaise” accompanying a French Revolution-esque worker’s uprising, and the medieval Christian chant “Dies Irae” preceding said uprising, Maria’s replacement with a robotic doppelganger, and the appearance of the 7 Deadly Sins. The latter, interestingly, is the most quoted musical leitmotif in history, showing up in places such as Holst’s The Planets , Sondheim’s Sweeney Todd , Carlos and Elkind’s score for The Shining , Williams’ score for Star Wars (and Home Alone ), and Zimmer’s score for The Lion King .
The architecture, too, is interpretable through modern artistic understandings. The various models and miniatures are easily recognizable as art deco, though different from its contemporaries. Much is more modernistic, rectangular, and blocky, and eerily accurate to modern aestheticism. I, for one, was shocked to see a bedside lamp in the film that I would expect to see in an IKEA.
However, there are several aspects of the film that simply cannot, or should not, be separated from their historical context, which is where Shim’s review takes relevance. When first viewing the movie I was intrigued by the acting, which was more dramatic and theatrical than what I viewed as conventional. The exaggerated motions, facial expressions, and overall pacing of the movie and its acting were far closer to a play or an opera than a motion picture. As such, I could not quite gauge how each actor performed relative to their time, as I could not tell what was overacting, underacting, or simply good acting. Shim provided his view that most of the actors were largely mediocre and seemed overwhelmed by Lang’s staggering setpieces, but “the one who stood out among them was Miss Brigitte Helm.” Shim and I share the sentiment that her performance as Maria is convincing, whether it be in her serenity, sincerity, or panic. Furthermore, her double-role as the Machine Man, Maria’s doppelganger, is sincerely frightening and appropriately disturbing--her arrogant and chaotic cackles while being burned alive, and alien-like movements in the psychedelic dancing scene, are truly impressive.
One important point, however, is the socio-political messages Lang wove into the fabric of the film, particularly the idea of inter-class cooperation and the need for a “mediator” between them. In particular, the idea that the upper class is the “brain” and the working class the “hands”, so that a mediator must be the “heart”. This is a message many see as almost a “cop-out” among the more directly revolutionary, “seize the means of production”-style works of art from that era. Shim picks this thread up, being disappointed to “see the story end with labor-capital cooperation.” He later goes on to say that “Metropolis” is a “strong and powerful expression” that even “radical red Russia” would not be able to express to the same degree. This view on Metropolis’ beliefs betrays Shim’s other, more well-known endeavors: revolutionary writing against the Japanese occupation of the Korean Peninsula.
Shim was a novelist, poet, and playwright, born in 1901 and dying of typhoid fever in 1936. In his short life, he wrote several novels, short stories, plays, and poems. He constantly held a vision for his country’s future freedom, creating the Sangrok movement that encouraged young, educated people to educate and organize the rural populace. These ideas and experiences are reflected in his belief that an oppressive upper class, as shown in “Metropolis” should be overthrown, and was thus disappointingly missing from said movie. Even his short review of a German movie, written two years after it came out, in outdated Korean, and first released nearly a century ago demonstrates his situation and personal opinions.
“Metropolis” continues to stand the test of time, and its ability to offer a window into the world that is nearly a century past is only aided by viewing its contemporaries’ views on it. In that view, Shim’s review of “Metropolis” offers both a further appreciation for the movie, and insight into its context.
Lead photo credit: Alfred Abel and Brigitte Helm in Metropolis, 1927.
The TeenTix Newsroom is a group of teen writers led by the Teen Editorial Staff. For each review, Newsroom writers work individually with a teen editor to polish their writing for publication. The Teen Editorial Staff is made up of 6 teens who curate the review portion of the TeenTix blog. More information about the Teen Editorial Staff can be found HERE .
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by Fritz Lang
- Metropolis Summary
In a dystopian vision of the future, the bustling city of Metropolis is structured in a way that the working classes live and work beneath the ground, while the upper classes live in high rises that stretch into the sky. Metropolis is governed by Joh Fredersen , a businessman and ruler who has no interest in listening to the needs of the working class, and cares only about keeping his city running as usual.
Fredersen's son, Freder , is a young idealist who is sitting in his garden one day, when a woman from the workers' city, Maria , wanders in with a group of children. The beautiful Maria tells the children that their brothers and sisters live in the high rises of the city and that they are all connected. She is ushered away, but Freder is enchanted by her philosophy and falls instantly in love with her. He goes to the workers' city and is appalled to see the conditions, especially when he sees several lives lost in an explosion.
Freder goes to his father to question him about the hierarchy of the city and the abysmal conditions in the workers' city. Fredersen dismisses Freder's questions, and when one of his assistants, Josaphat , proves incompetent, fires him on the spot. Leaving Fredersen's office, Freder approaches Josaphat and asks for his help, telling him that he will come meet him at his apartment that evening. Meanwhile, Fredersen enlists an assistant, the Thin Man , to keep his eye on Freder.
Freder goes to the workers' city and switches places with a laborer named Georgy , giving him his clothes and telling him to go to Josaphat's apartment. When the Thin Man is watching Freder's car, he mistakes Georgy for Freder and follows him to a nightclub, where Georgy stays for the entire night.
Eventually, Freder finds Maria, who is leading a peaceful revolution in the catacombs of the workers' city. She speaks about the need for a mediator, someone who can connect the head (Fredersen's ruling class) and the hands (the working class). Freder approaches her and she declares that he is the mediator they need. She also tells the story of the Tower of Babel and warns against sin and indulgence.
Fredersen visits an old acquaintance, an eccentric inventor named Rotwang . The two of them once loved the same woman, and while Fredersen impregnated her (Freder is their son), Rotwang has set to work building a robot that will make the woman he loves immortal. After spying on the meeting that Maria leads, Fredersen commissions Rotwang to help him undermine the revolution. Rotwang agrees, but when Fredersen leaves, he reveals that he wants to undermine Fredersen's plan and destroy the entire city. He finishes constructing his robot, which he makes in the image of Maria.
The robot version of Maria is amoral and highly seductive, spending most of her time doing a seductive dance at a nightclub. Eventually, Rotwang uses the robot Maria to convince the working class to wage a destructive revolution on the whole city, shutting down all the machines and flooding the workers' city. The workers do as robot Maria says and riot, flooding the workers' city, but leaving behind their children who cry for help.
The real Maria encounters the children, and with Freder and Josaphat's help aid the children's escape from the city. After the revolutionaries charge the Heart Machine—the engine that keeps the entire city running—its operator pleads with them that they cannot destroy the machines. He tells them that Maria is a witch and must be burned at the stake, and the crowds go in search of her. When they spot the real Maria in the street, they chase her, but she manages to escape to the church. At the church, she is apprehended by Rotwang who attacks her, as the revolutionaries burn the robot Maria at the stake. Freder goes to save Maria, fighting with Rotwang along the way, and Fredersen comes to witness his son's act. After Rotwang dies, Freder embraces Maria, before uniting his father with the operator of the Heart Machine, acting as the mediator between the head and the hands of society.
Metropolis Questions and Answers
The Question and Answer section for Metropolis is a great resource to ask questions, find answers, and discuss the novel.
Above the chair where the creation is seated is a symbol, what is the significations of it?
1) In your own words, what was the film about? Do not write what the film is about, I know it, I have seen it many times. I want to hear your impression of the film. 2) What did you think of the Acting? Why is this type of acting important to the German
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METROPOLIS ESSAY/ SPEECH
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Study Guide for Metropolis
Metropolis study guide contains a biography of Fritz Lang, literature essays, quiz questions, major themes, characters, and a full summary and analysis.
- About Metropolis
- Character List
- Director's Influence
Essays for Metropolis
Metropolis literature essays are academic essays for citation. These papers were written primarily by students and provide critical analysis of Metropolis.
- Sex and Violence, Religion and Technology: Themes in Fritz Lang's "Metropolis"
- Visual Distinctions of Class and Wealth in Three German Films of the Silent Era
- Rebellion Across Media: Analyzing "1984" and "Metropolis"
- Metropolis: God from the Machine
- Humanity's Fear: A Comparison of 1984 and Metropolis
Wikipedia Entries for Metropolis
- Film, TV, and radio
Critical essays, histories, and appreciations of great films
Essay by Brian Eggert August 30, 2014
Metropolis contains such magnificent visuals that all else about the film recedes, allowing its all-consuming mythical status to take over. A technical masterwork of the Silent Era by Austrian director Fritz Lang, the 1927 picture’s incredible, cutting-edge special effects and futurist imagery have become immeasurably iconographic and made the picture a benchmark of influential science-fiction filmmaking. Lang set out with the ambition to produce a film costlier and grander in scope than anything achieved before, enlisting thousands of extras, colossal sets, and sights never before imagined for a motion picture. However, as a narrative experience, the sociopolitical subtexts present in the film would be less imposing, though not by design. Attempts by Lang and his wife, Thea von Harbou, who wrote the novel on which the film is based, to imbue their co-written screenplay with meaningful themes about the ongoing struggle between slave labor and their masters result in mixed messages between the film’s Marxist indoctrination and its curious sentimentality. And the ironic, notorious history of the film’s production under its mercilessly authoritarian director, as well as its subsequent favor among members of the Nazi party, further complicate the filmmakers’ intentions and Metropolis ‘ lasting impact, which, nonetheless, supersede any contradictions or questionable associations the film may have by the sheer force of its mythic standing.
Fritz Lang was born in 1890 in Vienna to an architect father and Jewish mother, the latter of whom converted from Judaism to Catholicism and raised young Fritz as a Catholic. Though initially following in his father’s footsteps, he lived a poor and bohemian lifestyle as he studied art at the Academy of Art and Design in Munich and later the Académie Julian in Paris, where he discovered himself and his lifelong affection for female escorts, painting, and tales of murder. In Paris, he later recalled seeing The Great Train Robbery (1904) and other early works of cinema that made him realize “you could also paint using a camera”. But his yet unrealized aspirations to become a professional painter or filmmaker would have to wait until after World War I; Lang volunteered for duty in January of 1915 and listed his occupation as “artist”, though his education would ensure his rise to the rank of lieutenant. Lang’s enthusiasm toward the “adventure” of war earned him several medals, but also several injuries, including one that left him nearly blind in his left eye, where he would wear a monocle for his remaining years—an infamous signifier of the film director’s prying, detailed-obsessed exactitude. Then again, contradictory stories have arisen concerning the origins of Lang’s monocle, suggesting Lang wore it before the war, or even that he adopted it after the war when nitrate film stock exploded in his face. Wherever its origins lie, the opposing stories underscore a truth that Lang’s early life is suspect because the later filmmaker often exaggerated or falsified his own history in interviews for the sake of anecdotal entertainment.
Lang’s self-serving anecdote about how the idea for Metropolis came to him was told again and again by the director, as well as numerous biographers and film historians since. Standing on the deck of the Deutschland as it approached American ports in the autumn of 1924, Lang, there with Pommer, supposedly eyed the sprawling New York City from afar and was jolted by this “city of the future”—thus the seed of Metropolis was born. Lang’s story was just great myth-making on his part, impelled not only by his bombastic ego but the producing studio, Ufa, to make a much-needed lasting impression on the American market and sustain the German film industry. Indeed, in early-to-mid 1924, Erich Pommer had already begun telling people about Lang’s next script for Metropolis while the director was putting the finishing touches on and conducting publicity tours for Die Nibelungen . Moreover, as early as three months before his supposedly inspiring trip to America, Lang and von Harbou had vacationed together to, according to an Austrian newspaper, “finish the screenplay for their new film Metropolis .” Von Harbou had often written novels before her screenplays or completed novelizations for release alongside a given film. In the case of Metropolis , screen credit was given to von Harbou for the source “based on a novel by Thea von Harbou”. Regardless of when the story was completed, pre-production meetings at Ufa began by the end of 1924, and Pommer would attempt to persuade, sometimes unsuccessfully, the studio’s best talent to once more work with the already demanding director of some ill-repute for his most elaborate production yet.
Above, Joh Fredersen learns of his son’s betrayal and of the workers’ slipping productivity within his enforced 10-hour day, and schemes with Rotwang (Rudolf Klein-Rogge), an inventor with a somewhat possessed robotic hand (an influence for Stanley Kubrick’s Dr. Strangelove ). Rotwang reveals he can build Machine-Human facsimiles and shows Fredersen the living inner skeleton of a female robot he’s built. Fredersen permits Rotwang to create an identical cyborg of Maria to infiltrate the workers. But Rotwang also wants revenge on Fredersen for stealing his love, a woman name Hel, who died giving birth to Freder, and so Rotwang plots for his false Maria (distinguishable only by her darkened eyes and lips, her sharp movements, and the glint of madness in her eyes) to provoke an uprising. At the robo-Maria’s order, the workers leave their children behind in the underground city and rush to destroy the machines that power the city above. Fredersen allows the revolt to continue, if only because he knows the machines will back up and incite a flood in the workers’ underground home. Soon the flood wipes away the workers’ city—the children narrowly rescued by Freder and the real Maria—and once the workers learn of this, they believe their children dead and blame who they believe to be Maria, resolving to burn the robo-Maria “witch” at the stake. The robo-Maria is revealed to be a robot as it goes up in flames; now the mob turns to Fredersen. Elsewhere, Freder saves Maria from the maddened Rotwang and fights him off until the villain falls to his death. With the mob calmed once they learn of their children’s safety, Freder lives up to his promise and pronounces himself the Heart: “The mediator between the brain and the hands”.
Filming began in May of 1925 and ended in October of 1926, a production of staggering length, and at a price tag of five million marks. Some 38,000 extras were hired in addition to the principal actors, and if moviegoers were meant to think the 10-hour workdays imposed by Joh Frederson were cruel, Lang pushed his cast and crew much harder, with morning-until-midnight work hours and rarely a Sunday off. Fröhlich wrote in his autobiography, “In scenes of physical suffering, he tormented the actors until they really did suffer.” Lang forced Fröhlich to reshoot a scene for two days where Freder falls to his knees before Maria, always finding some excuse (an incorrect camera angle, his acting wasn’t as “deeply felt” as it should be) to shoot it again, until Fröhlich could barely stand. Lang was hardest on reluctant actress Brigitte Helm, whom he corrected fussily, if not torturously. For weeks Helm, then a teenager, was forced to endure “liquid wood” molds for the robo-Maria costume, requiring her to keep a rigid stance for hours on end. The molds had been taken while Helm was standing, but for the robo-Maria’s throned unveiling, the actress was required to be seated, thus the mold caused her great pain. (Rittau had conceived the sequence’s effect, where rings of light encircle robo-Maria and simultaneously rotate up and down and around her, by shooting a silver ball looping in front of a black velvet backdrop.) Lang’s autocratic, bullying behavior on-set extended beyond the primary cast; he almost came to blows with designer Otto Hunte, and proved temperamental when decisions were made without his prior approval. And whatever frustrations he had about minor losses of control were exacted on his cast and crew tenfold.
Metropolis premiered at the Ufa-Palast am Zoo moviehouse in Berlin on January 10, 1927, with a selection of Germany’s most significant figures in art and society in attendance. To accompany the spectacle onscreen, composer Gottfried Huppertz provided the music with a live orchestra, and the audiences reacted with “spontaneous applause” according to spectators. Once the curtain calls were over, the afterparties rang with celebration from the cast and crew, and Lang enjoyed the spotlight and adulation of those who praised his work that evening. However, over the coming days, weeks, and months as Metropolis ‘ release expanded, the film was met with censures from many critics who condemned Lang’s liberal borrowing from the likes of the Bible, Jules Verne, and Karl Marx, amid several other sources, and deemed the film an intellectual bore despite its monumental visuals. As a result of the response and the film’s original 153-minute runtime, Ufa recut the picture to two hours and reissued it across Germany eight months later. Elsewhere, Ufa and Paramount had formed an organization called Parufamet to distribute American films in Germany, and vice versa. But the Americans also negotiated editing rights in the Parufamet deal, and Metropolis was reduced to 107 minutes in a U.S. cut that removed many of the subplots and changed the intertitles to achieve this length. Through various hack-and-slash jobs done on the film over the years, none was worse than music producer Giorgio Moroder’s reedit in 1984, a release year chosen for its Orwellian significance. Moroder’s version incorporated rock songs from Adam Ant, Pat Benatar, Loverboy, Freddie Mercury, and Billy Squier into the soundtrack. Lang’s preferred cut—the original—ran for a mere ten weeks in Berlin and the complete version has since been lost. Only as recently as 2008 has a near-whole version of Metropolis , though long lost to time, been found at the Museo del Cine in Buenos Aires, Argentina; from this, missing scenes have been scratchily restored from a 16mm reduction from the original negative. Widely celebrated for elaborating on the shortened narrative strains of abridged cuts over the years, the 148-minute version from the Museo del Cine has been widely circulated as The Complete Metropolis .
Without a doubt, the advanced machines are not the origin of conflict in Metropolis ; nor does the film’s treatment of technology correspond to science-fiction worlds often paranoid about the threat of robotics and artificial intelligences—established in literature before Metropolis in everything from Karel Čapek’s robot play R.U.R. to Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein . The danger of the machines is inherent to how humans use those machines through cruel labor and manipulation. But in a world capable of a convincing human replicant, why is there a need for such drudgery? Nevertheless, the machines, even the robo-Maria, do what they’re told and nothing more, and the human worker (exclusively male; women are either Madonna or the Whore) sweats physically, fruitlessly, to the end of his workday no less like a hamster on a wheel, serving as “living food” for machines, for which humans feel a dogged need to maintain to their own limits. Wells pointed out “the contrivers of this idiotic spectacle are so hopelessly ignorant of all the work that has been done upon industrial efficiency that they represent him as working his machine-minders to the point of exhaustion, so that they faint and machines explode and people are scalded to death. It is the inefficient factory that needs slaves; the ill-organized mine that kills men.” In other words, in the world of Metropolis , such a grand and impeccably designed city would be impossible given the complete lack of efficiency shown operating underneath it. Additionally, the film dreams up a fantastical and much romanticized resolution to its industrialized regimentation when the forces of labor and management meet in a grand public display and agree to mediation by way of sentimentalized morality. In its expressive, blown up dramatic quality, the film operates more like an opera and certainly earns the adjective “operatic”—excessively so, even for viewers accustomed to the emphatic drives of Silent Film stylization.
After finishing Metropolis , Lang would go on to make more successful pictures for Ufa, including Spies (1928), Woman in the Moon (1929), his masterful M (1930), and The Testament of Dr. Mabuse . Meanwhile, Hitler rose to power, and Joseph Goebbels became the head of the National Ministry for Public Enlightenment and Propaganda. Jewish businesses were being condemned by the National Socialist party, and suddenly Lang was being identified as Jewish in film-related publications. (Whether or not this exposure of Lang’s family line could be attributed to von Harbou, who was divorced from her husband by 1933, remains uncertain.) That Lang was at the top of the German film industry and of Jewish heritage was not overlooked, though Goebbels was a definite fan of Lang’s films. Many in the European film industry (Billy Wilder, Max Ophüls, Fred Zinnemann, etc.) had already begun to flee Hitler’s impending raid on surrounding countries, but it took the German Board of Film Censors banning The Testament of Dr. Mabuse from exhibition to incite Lang (who received favorable treatment from Goebbels and appeared alongside him, allegedly in full Nazi dress, at least once at a public conference), to join the others and head to Hollywood. But before Lang escaped, he met with Goebbels about their censorship of The Testament of Dr. Mabuse , and during that meeting Goebbels asked Lang, on behalf of the Führer, to head the German film industry. Despite Lang’s lineage, Goebbels vowed to make him an “honorary Aryan” and insisted “we decide who is Jewish or not.” After all, Hitler “loved” Metropolis and the Nazis would later embrace the film’s imagery in their own visual iconography, from the Reichsadler eagle to the use of massive lines and architecture employed for Leni Riefenstahl’s 1935 propaganda piece Triumph of the Will . Lang was on a train the next day, leaving everything behind.
In the 1920s, the film’s oversimplified ideological message about industrialization would have been more relevant, even if most critics responded to its social commentary with intellectual rebuffs. Today, the message is far less applicable, but Metropolis ‘ lasting effect is how Lang has delighted us with the scope and splendor of the city’s design. Given the film’s bombastic, unforgettable sights, it’s impossible to grasp what an impact Metropolis had on its original Berlin audiences in 1927. We see a grotto of the future, Freder’s “Club of the Sons”—a prehistoric-looking garden that seems like something out of Jules Verne, filled with enormous plants and willing consorts. High above, Fredersen’s office is bare save for a rear-projected clock to track his 10-hour day. Far below, if the Heart Machine itself weren’t impressive enough, Lang shows us a dream image where Freder sees the machine as the altar of an ancient temple upon which workers are lined up and sacrificed into a smoky abyss. Zombie-like workers marching in rows; the under-city flooding in mass destruction; hundreds of children grasping in desperation; robo-Maria rising from her throne of light rings, and then stepping forward into eternity; Helm as a simulacrum, contorting her gestures and expressions; a collage of eyes gazing in Dali-esque voyeurism; the Tower of Babel rising above the cityscape. But no image is more powerful in Metropolis than the cityscape itself—with moving cars, trains, planes, and pedestrians, all in motion before the great Tower, a shot that’s even more impressive in a night sequence where skycrapers are illuminated by bright streetlights, flashing signage, and glowing buildings.
Elsaesser, Thomas. Metropolis. (BFI Film Classics). 2nd Edition. British Film Institute, 2012.
Kreimeier, Klaus. The Ufa Story: A History of Germany’s Greatest Film Company . Berkeley: University of California Press, 1999.
McGilligan, Patrick. Fritz Lang: The Nature of the Beast . New York: St. Martin’s Press, 1997.
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