Metropolis (1927)

Genres - Science Fiction  |   Sub-Genres - Psychological Sci-Fi  |   Run Time - 115 min.  |   Countries - Germany  |   MPAA Rating - PG13
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Set around the apocalyptic year of 2000, Metropolis has had a seminal influence on science fiction and futuristic movies as diverse as The Bride of Frankenstein, Blade Runner, and Dark City. Featuring literally a cast of thousands, Metropolis creates a reality so complex and artistically unified the viewer gets swept away to this future world. Director Fritz Lang's surreal and occasionally incomprehensible storyline is overwhelmed by a visually spectacular exercise in German expressionism. Master cinematographer Karl Freund fills the screen with an array of stylized shadows, oblique camera angles, geometric images, and nightmarish labyrinths. The film's dialectical theme may seem dated in these post-Marxist times, and its message that the head and the hand can do no good without the heart may seem a little romantic to more cynical ages, but the warnings about techno-demagoguery continue to have modern relevance. The actors give typical silent-film performances, full of exaggerated expressions and broad gestures, but they express their characters' fragile humanity despite these mannerisms. Rudolf Klein-Rogge's unforgettable work as the evil genius Rotwang became the template for all subsequent mad-scientist performances. Despite being a critical and popular disappointment on its initial release, the film eventually gained cult status and was rediscovered by critics and audiences alike. When it was re-released in the 1980s, some missing footage was restored and a synthesizer-heavy soundtrack by Giorgio Moroder was added, to much gnashing of critical teeth.