Metropolis

Fritz Lang’s epic vision of a futuristic city where workers toil for their domineering overseers has proved an immeasurable influence on science-fiction filmmaking.

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Introduction

“A futuristic, visually compelling allegorical look at relations between capital and labor in a Big Brother society ruled by robots, antagonism and fear. An impressive monument to Lang’s artistic vision.”
Ephraim Katz, The Macmillan International Film Encyclopedia, 1998

Fritz Lang claimed to have been inspired to make Metropolis by his first glimpse of the New York skyline. The result is the grandest science fiction film of the silent era (and for many years to come), a seminal prediction of a megacity where the masses work as slaves for the good of a ruling elite.

The DNA of huge swathes of sci-fi cinema is traceable in Lang’s production, from the mad-scientist creation of the robot Maria, which would feed into Hollywood’s Frankenstein (1931), to the imposing Art Deco cityscapes (ingeniously created using miniatures by Eugen Schüfftan), which became the model for later depictions of dystopian cities, from Blade Runner (1982) to Brazil (1985). The strikingly angular set design is characteristic of the German Expressionist cinema of the 1920s.

Less famous, but equally pioneering, Lang’s subsequent science fiction outing Woman in the Moon (1929) is often credited with inventing the 5-4-3-2-1 rocket launch countdown.

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