Raving the latest restoration/incarnation of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, dance critic Mindy Aloff noted at the last, “The problem is that it’s Metropolis.” No matter how Lang’s most famous science-fiction epic is doctored, expanded or otherwise amended, it is still Metropolis.
So long as it hews to expressionistic representations of robotic mass labor, Metropolis is a great film. Alas, while these give the film its most memorable and trenchant images, not to mention social import, they make up only a small part of the film’s broad design. Grandiose, frivolous, silly, most of the film is far from successful—and now that it is the twenty-first century, in which the film’s futuristic action is set, Metropolis seems especially lame. The grand joining of hands between ownership and labor is purely a matter of narrative neatness, the aesthetics of facile plot resolution. Capitalism’s enslavement of the masses, currently deepened by globalization, and the harshness of industrial labor continue to convince; nothing else in the film, though, bears any ring of truth.
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