Almost 90 years since the release of Fritz Lang’s 1927 ‘Metropolis’, one of the most ground breaking and influential films in history continues to inspire the world of cinema, fashion, architecture and even music.
Metropolis, a German expressionist, Sci-Fi drama, is the first in it’s genre to be of feature-film length and one of the first to portray a futuristic, dystopian world on screen, through it’s unforgettable imagery and memorable plot. The beautifully dark visuals portray a world in which the machine age will eventually take over and consume our lives, both rich and poor.
This remarkable classic was produced in 1927 Germany, where Fascism was at a high, inflation and unemployment were at critical levels and the economy was crashing. The political status heavily influenced the plot of the film; a harsh social class divide between the perfectly happy and rich, with their extravagant belongings, and the unfortunate factory workers that lived underground, working day and night solely for the purpose of keeping the Metropolis money machine running. This divide is only disrupted when Johann Fredersen’s son, Freder, discovers the horrific working world underground, and falls in love with the beautiful, angelic worker, Maria. Johann Fredersen’s is the mind behind the underground work world and capitalist exploitation in the film.
Metropolis was heavily censored and many scenes were cut; these scenes have not yet been fully restored and the film is still not shown in its original length due to lost and damaged scenes. The original feature film ran at one hour and fifty-three minutes whilst the censored version ran at only one hour and eighteen minutes as many of the scenes were seen as ruthless and cruel. The striking imagery used within the film is largely influenced by the Art Deco movement, and is one of the reasons the film was so widely appreciated on it’s first release. Although the plot was not always valued, the imagery and visuals were so aesthetically pleasing they were continuously being praised by film fanatics around the world.
Metropolis has influenced many films visually, with futuristic sky scrapers, and robotic systems, though many of these films have also been influenced by the depiction of a harsh social divide seen in the film. The impact it has had on the film industry is very substantial, with productions like ‘Star Wars’, ‘Blade Runner’, ‘The Fifth Element’, and Alfred Hitchcock’s 1929 ‘Blackmail’ bearing great resemblance to the original Metropolis.
‘Blade Runner’ released in 1982, almost 50 years after the release of ‘Metropolis’, is a science-fiction classic that has profoundly been influenced by the plot and outstanding visuals of Metropolis. Blade Runner also has striking visuals of sky scrapers, and fast paced city life, separating the rich from the poor by using the buildings and robotic, cinematic imagery to illustrate the machine age. Blade Runner mimics the opening scenes of Metropolis, with beautiful photographic shots of sky scrapers and a futuristic hectic city life. The plot is also similar to Metropolis, as Deckard, a privileged citizen, falls in love with Rachel, a less fortunate character in the film, this disorders the Blade Runner world by unsettling social divides that are important for the function of the city. Blade Runner will also be released again later this year, as a remake. This is showing how continuously influential the original of Metropolis was.
Metropolis has also influenced major franchise Star Wars, which is globally recognized as one of the best Sci-Fi series. The visuals in Star Wars are one of the most apparent inspirations drawn from the classic, Metropolis. The futuristic Art Deco visuals of the Metropolis city are also seen in the city of Coruscant, with the taller than imaginable buildings and gothic elements in relation to colour. Once again the parallels between the two productions are not limited to the visuals, the plot is also mimicked throughout the Star Wars series with the conflict between the lower class and upper class leading to uprisings and disruption of ‘social order.’
Metropolis being one of the most influential sci-fi classics of all time, has not only inspired the cinematic sci-fi genres but has also merged into the world of architecture, fashion and even modern interior design. Iconic designer Karl Lagerfeld, created an entire collection dedicated to Metropolis, ‘Return to Metropolis’ for Vogue Germany in 2012, 85 years after the release of Metropolis. Using the same mechanical, robotic imagery seen in the film, whilst the editorial was shot in black and white, similar to the gothic imagery seen in the film. Lagerfeld uses metallic tones, robotic structure and dark colouring, similar to the world of Metropolis, transformed into a work of art through fashion. Iconic designers like Givenchy’s Riccardo Tisci and Donatella Versace have expressed their love for Metropolis, as they are constantly drawing inspiration from the films beautiful visuals for their own collections.
– Original book cover of ‘Metropolis’ by Thea Von Harbou
It could be said that famous capital cities around the world strongly resemble the city in Metropolis in terms of design, like Dubai, an architectural beauty that is known for its beautiful sky scrapers, luxurious hotels and unrealistically beautiful designs. Whilst the interior design world is broadening; introducing brassy tones, machine like furniture and textures, creating futuristic modern works of art. Metropolis has even crept it’s way into the world of music, appearing in the form of imagery and fashion in pop videos, and even photoshoots. Madonna’s ‘express yourself’ music video is almost a recap of the entire film, including re-enactments of iconic scenes, Sci-fi sky lines and even workers struggling with heavy machinery, the music video is almost like a homage to the original film. Famous photographer, Dave Lachapelle, shot Lady Gaga in a heavily Metropolis inspired photoshoot. The set was designed with sky scrapers, dead workers, and Lady Gaga dressed as a futuristic robot who has taken over. Metropolis is a film that is not only visually beautiful, but it’s plot is attempting to say something important, which is why it has remained so significant in the world of popular culture.
Metropolis, a film for the history books. 90 years on and the influence it has had on cinema, modern art, music, fashion, and even architecture is still very prominent.