Metropolis Show Notes – Brokebot Mountain
Who is the Father of Science Fiction?
Some will argue it’s the 1927 Futuristic film, set in 2026 “Metropolis”. Directed by Fritz Lang, the silent film is considered a science-fiction masterpiece. The story is set in a highly stylized futuristic city where a beautiful and cultured utopia exists above a bleak underworld populated by mistreated workers. When the privileged youth Freder (Gustav Fröhlich) discovers the grim scene under the city, he becomes intent on helping the workers. He befriends the rebellious teacher Maria (Brigitte Helm), but this puts him at odds with his authoritative father, leading to greater conflict.
Made in Germany during the Weimar Period, Metropolis is set in a futuristic urban dystopia and follows the attempts of Freder, the wealthy son of the city’s ruler, and Maria, a poor worker, to overcome the vast gulf separating the classes of their city. Filming took place in 1925 at a cost of approximately five million Reichsmarks. The art direction draws influence from Bauhaus, Cubist and Futurist design.
Metropolis was met with a mixed reception upon release. Critics found it pictorially beautiful and lauded its complex special effects, but accused its story of naiveté. The film’s extensive running time also came in for criticism, as well as its alleged Communist message. Metropolis was cut substantially after its German premiere, removing a large portion of Lang’s original footage.
Numerous attempts have been made to restore the film since the 1970s. Music producer Giorgio Moroder released a truncated version with a soundtrack by rock artists such as Freddie Mercury, Loverboy and Adam Ant in 1984. A new reconstruction of Metropolis was shown at the Berlin Film Festival in 2001, and the film was inscribed on UNESCO‘s Memory of the World Register in the same year, the first film thus distinguished. In 2008 a damaged print of Lang’s original cut of the film was found in a museum in Argentina. After a long restoration process, the film was 95% restored and shown on large screens in Berlin and Frankfurt simultaneously on 12 February 2010.
In the futuristic year of 2026, in the city of Metropolis, wealthy industrialists reign from high-rise tower complexes, while underground-dwelling workers toil to operate the underground machines that power the city. Joh Fredersen is the city’s master. His son Freder idles away his time in a pleasure garden, but is interrupted by the arrival of a young woman named Maria, who has brought a group of workers’ children to witness the lifestyle of the rich. Maria and the children are ushered away, but Freder, fascinated, goes to the machine rooms to find her. Witnessing the explosion of a huge machine that kills and injures several workers, he hurries to tell Fredersen about the accident. Grot, foreman of the Heart Machine, brings to Fredersen secret maps found on the dead workers. Freder secretly rebels against Fredersen by deciding to help the workers, after seeing his father’s cold indifference towards the harsh conditions they face.
Fredersen takes the maps to the inventor Rotwang to learn their meaning. Rotwang had been in love with a woman named Hel, who left him to marry Fredersen and later died giving birth to Freder. Rotwang shows Fredersen a robot he has built to “resurrect” Hel. The maps show a network of catacombs beneath Metropolis, and the two men go to investigate. They eavesdrop on a gathering of workers, including Freder. Maria addresses them, prophesying the arrival of a mediator who can bring the working and ruling classes together. Freder believes that he could fill the role and declares his love for Maria. Fredersen orders Rotwang to give Maria’s likeness to the robot so that it can ruin her reputation among the workers, unaware that Rotwang plans to use the robot to kill Freder and bring down Metropolis. Rotwang kidnaps Maria, transfers her likeness to the robot and sends her to Fredersen. Freder finds the two embracing and, believing it is the real Maria, falls into a prolonged delirium. Intercut with his hallucinations, the false Maria unleashes chaos throughout Metropolis, driving men to murder and stirring dissent amongst the workers.
Freder recovers and returns to the catacombs. Finding the false Maria urging the workers to rise up and destroy the machines, Freder accuses her of not being the real Maria. The workers follow the false Maria from their city to the machine rooms, leaving their children behind. They destroy the Heart Machine, which causes the workers’ city below to flood. The real Maria, having escaped from Rotwang’s house, rescues the children with the help of Freder. Grot berates the celebrating workers for abandoning their children in the flooded city. Believing their children to be dead, the hysterical workers capture the false Maria and burn her at the stake. A horrified Freder watches, not understanding the deception until the fire reveals her to be a robot. Rotwang chases the real Maria to the roof of the cathedral, pursued by Freder, and the two men fight as Fredersen and the workers watch from the street. Rotwang falls to his death. Freder fulfills his role as mediator by linking the hands of Fredersen and Grot to bring them together.
Watch the Official 1927 Trailer from Metropolis
April 28, 2017 is when a film, set in 2026, that has a very large history will be screened in Cofrin Family Hall of the Weidner Center for the Performing Arts at the University of Wisconsin-Green Bay.
Setting the screening apart is this: A new, very large score will be played live. The film is “Metropolis,” from 1927. It is famed in cinematic circles for myriad reasons, including its view of a future that is now only nine years away. As the real 2026 approaches, it’s likely that the name “Metropolis” will pop up with regularity because the perpetually studied film is instantly identifiable for its all-out imagination.
Michelle McQuade Dewhirst is associate professor on the UWGB music faculty. She has a doctorate from the University of Chicago. Her instrument: French horn. She and her husband, Michael Dewhirst, a cellist, have a son, 7. www.michellemcquadedewhirst.com.
Kevin Collins, who will be conducting: I think I would recognize this as Dr. McQuade Dewhirst’s work because Michelle has a very individual characteristic of being able to take difficult and dark circumstances and make them beautiful in music. The sounds that she brings are so engaging. Her palette is so broad – ranging from minimalism and minimalism rock music (and along the way) you’ll hear 1920s stylized jazz. There are so many different things that she’s bringing to her writing. And always, she searches for a unique and memorable sound that stays with you.
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Kate is the owner of See, Here’s the Thing and the co-host of See, Here’s the Podcast. Her love of writing propelled her to create a blog where people could discuss their pop culture passions. The supplemental podcast grew out of her love for movies, theatre, TV, and music.
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