Metropolis is a silent film directed by Fritz Lang and remains perhaps his most stunning achievement. I watched a DVD version of his film, which had some editing done due to an estimated 25% of the film missing, replacing the missing parts with text to explain what happened. It is very unfortunate that such a classic film has missing parts, but I have heard that recently a full print was found and it may make its way into a release.
The film centers on a town with two economic classes. The working class lives underground in a sort of ghetto, while the upper class "thinkers" live above ground. The city is run by a man named Joh Frederson, who has a son named Freder. The tension between these two classes is the basis for the film.
The city itself is stunning and it is remarkable that Lang was able to create such scenes using what was available at the time. The film's budget set a record and nearly bankrupted the studio, but the result was a major milestone in the movie business. The architecture used is sort of an art deco futuristic style.
The story follows Freder, showing him at first ignorant of the working class living underneath the city. After a working class woman named Maria sneaks into the city, he follows her to the city below, only to discover the terrible living and working conditions there. He begins a masquerade, even taking a man's place at a machine for a ten hour shift, in his quest to find the woman. Eventually he discovers that she is something of a revolutionary, seeking to find a peaceful solution to the inequalities that existed.
However, Joh Frederson discovers their secret meetings and decides to take drastic action. He orders an inventor to create an evil robotic clone of the woman to entice the working class to revolt in a violent fashion. The plan works and chaos ensues, with Freder desperately trying to find the woman he loves and also trying to stop the madness.
The acting in the film is exaggerated, as it is with many silent films, but this helps compensate for the lack of spoken dialogue. I thought all of the main actors did an excellent job given the resources that they had. The person playing Freder certainly did a good job of displaying his emotions and the woman that played Maria did an excellent job of playing the good and evil sides of her character.
One thing that really impressed me was the special effects. There was one scene where they managed to form a collage of different actors' faces shouting, something I thought impossible given the technology at the time. Also, the laboratory scenes and wide shots of the city were very impressive, especially considering how early this film was made.
Overall, I felt the film was a masterpiece and certainly an interesting look into film history. The acting, direction, and sets all make this film a beautiful thing to behold. I highly recommend that any film buff rent this film to get a good taste of Fritz Lang's silent films.