Sunday, October 24, 2010


So, on Thursday evening CM and Miss V and I went to see a screening of The Complete Metropolis, courtesy of SIFF. We went on Thursday so we could catch one of the showings with live musical accompaniment and sound effects provided by Alloy Orchestra. The title was a bit of a misnomer in that the film wasn't completely complete, but barring discovery of still more forgotten footage in an archive or attic or barn somewhere, it's about as complete as it's likely to get.

It's also quite long for a silent film -- nearly 2 1/2 hours -- and I was concerned that Miss V would be bored silly. But she wasn't. She was fascinated by the film, interested in the live accompaniment, and as she put it, "after a few minutes you get used to" the fact that it's silent. Alloy did a fantastic job of using the junk rack to create ambient noises like the rusty squeak of a rising guardrail, the howl of the factory whistles, the sound of Death's scythe as it sliced diagonally through the air. The new footage fleshed out the story well and made it much more understandable. It was well worth seeing.

On our way out of the theater, I looked up and saw the Space Needle, pale and shining in the darkness, and wondered how much of its design could be attributed to the look featured in Metropolis. It also struck me that we live in a world more futuristic than Fritz Lang could have possibly dreamed of in 1927.

Lang's Metropolis is a city of gleaming modern towers cheek by jowl with early-model automobiles and biplanes, a city planner who employs three stenographers rather than a single secretary with a Dictaphone or voice recognition software, hordes of workers performing the kind of dangerous menial labor machines are now routinely designed to do, and a half-dozen key characters who can't get in touch with each other because they have no cell phones -- such a device was unimaginable in the 1920s.

Yeah, we don't have flying cars yet. But we also don't have Sandmen or Soylent Green, which I think is a pretty good tradeoff, don't you?

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