Gerlach, Neil, and Sheryl N. Hamilton. "Preserving Self in the City of Imagination." Review. Canadian Review of American Studies 2004: 115-34. Project Muse. 21 Nov. 2008 <http://proxy.library.upenn.edu:2298/journals/canadian_review_of_american_studies/v034/34.2gerlach
This article discusses the way the metropolis shapes the film Dark City. Neil Gerlach and Sheryl Hamilton, the authors of the article, delve into the ways in which a large city affects the mood and the theme of the film as well as past films that influenced the prominent use of the city in Dark City. The two also highlight the human psyche of the city and how it leads to the alienation of its citizens as well as the seedy, unnatural feeling of a large metropolitan area.
Dark City, with clear ties to Metropolis, acts as a modern day example of the ways a city’s architecture can drive a films plot as well as reveal facets of characters motivation and drive. Hamilton and Gerlach both give credit to Metropolis for revolutionizing the idea of using a city landscape as a reflection of the film’s motif: for Metropolis that would be the dehumanization of humanity through technology. As seen in the characters of Frederson, who lives high up on the building of the city, the further away he is removed from the ground, the further he is from the human soul and loses the very essence of humanity. This is exactly what Gerlach and Hamilton discuss in the article, concluding with the idea that most protagonist of these films, which rely upon the architecture of the cities to convey their moral, attempt to return to nature. In Metropolis’s case, this would be Freder choosing to be with Maria, the character who represents motherly, earthy nurturing.
Higley, Sarah L. "A Taste for Shrinking: Movie Miniatures and the Unreal City." Camera Obscura. 2001. 20 Nov. 2008 <http://proxy.library.upenn.edu:2298/journals/camera_obscura/v016/16.2higley.html>.
This article by Sara Higley describes the optical techniques used by filmmakers that allowed them to give the daunting impression of an overbearing metropolis. Going through movies from different generations and genres, Higley offers insight into how these techniques were applied and in what ways they added to the film’s message. Separated by the specific technique, such as miniature cities or dark auras, with a movie that represents the described technique, the article connects many important aspects of movies that rely on the daunting affects that cities instill.
The section that is devoted to Metropolis offers an interesting insight into the way in which the city that adds so much to the film was designed. Lang used a miniature version of the metropolis to allow the feeling of helplessness to overtake the viewer. As it is the intent of Lang to make an individual who may walk in this futuristic city, the towering buildings that outlay the city, this miniaturized city allowed Lang to create these overwhelming towers without the need to actually build life-size models of them. Higley also mentions the use of shades of gray that Lang uses in this metropolis, which convey the idea of the questionable morality of those who live in these monstrosities. It is the architecture of the buildings and their coloring in the film that conveys these ideas of the “evil” rulers of the city and the lower “pure” worker motives. Additionally, Higley touches upon the different shapes that are used to construct the city. Much in the same way as Jacobsen and Sudendorf mention how the lack of uniformity emits a confusion and daunting feeling, Higley reaffirms this by mentioning the multitude of geometric figures that make up the buildings of this horrifying world.
Norden, Martin F. "The Avant-Garde Cinema of the 1920s: Connections to Futurism, Precisionism, and Suprematism." Leonardo 17.2 (1984): 108-12.
In this book, Martin Norden discusses the ways in which Futurism, Cubism, and Precisionism appear in film. Taking into considerations films of the 1920s, Norden discusses how each of these movements have influenced films and the ways in which one would be able to spot the attributes of these movements in film. Going into detail into what constitutes each of these artistic factions, Norden offers a unique way for viewers to pick up on directors’ subtle use of set designs in order to convey a message latent in the film.
Metropolis’s set design, specifically its city landscape, utilizes two of these movements to help Lang further his theme of the overbearing upper-world versus the underbelly where the workers thrive. Futurism and Precisionism both come into play in the ways in which Lang conveys the city, helping pronounce how the juxtaposition of the architecture movements between the futuristic metropolis and the ancient ruins of below reveal the individual motivations of the working class and the ruling class. Futurism shows up in much of the working class world, giving the workers an almost mechanical motion taking the humanity out of them. The very place in which they work is built around the idea of Futurism, having the machines have very intricate and specific designs, symbolizing the very jobs of the workers. Precisionism, an American idea of using sharp geometric shapes in the city landscape, is also very prominent in Metropolis. This movement adding an aspect of passionless intent to the upper-world, the sharp design of most of the buildings reveals a character attribute of the cold, heartless rulers of this world.
Call#: Van Pelt Library PN1997.M436 M48 2000
The chapter concerning architecture covers a large array of issues concerned with the structure of the buildings and thus their symbolic meaning for the film. The two authors discuss how that there is a mixture of architectural styles that lacks “uniformity and balance” but by putting these two side by side, it emphasizes the coexistence of two conflicting ideologies. The large buildings that make up the majority of the city landscape cannot be anything without the older, cathedral like buildings. This juxtaposition conveys the idea of technological progression. Additionally, it is this necessity of having the older buildings, like Rotwang’s place and the catacombs, and the larger, extravagant building, like the modern Tower of Babel, that makes Lang’s message of the dangers of the dehumanization quality of technology possible. The architecture in this sense is essential for the main purpose of the film to shine through.
Call#: Van Pelt Library PN1997.M436 F75 2000
In this piece called "The Mediation of Technology" by R.L. Rutsky within Fritz Lang's Metropolis, an interesting perspective of the influence of the two aspects in which the piece is entitled. Going in depth into how technology drove the main points of the movie, Rutsky describes how it rises from a darker, more primeval area of human nature that makes an interesting conversation into its relation to the film’s overall theme. Further, the comparison of the role of male and female in the film, specifically between Maria and Freder, makes for an intriguing talk in how Fritz Lang really views this interaction of the sexes. Rutsky delves into how the architecture used in the film adds to the theme by juxtaposing the extravagant, modern upper world structures with the underbelly, natural-looking, pagan catacombs of below.
What Rutsky is able to add to the thought of the symbolic methodology of the architecture is how it can be furthered into the ways in which they also represent the two main characters. The earthy feel in which the catacombs where Maria preaches adds to the character’s aura of being motherly as she tries to inspire hope in the workers whose dreams have been repressed by those who rule Metropolis. Frederson, on the other hand, finds home in the lavish, upscale towers of the buildings on the surface, emphasizing his removal from the horrors that is to be a worker in this futuristic world. Additionally, Rutsky takes into account the home of the inventor, Rotwang, and discusses how it acts as the very aspect to contrast with the “home” feeling of the caracombs. He says, “the familiarity and warmth of the home of the ‘good’ mother can be contrasted to the darkness, occult symbols, and secret passages of Rotwang’s house”(Rutsky 230), explaining how the architecture of Rotwang’s house is actually a representation of his character, since he is a complex character being motivated by “secret” motives that are hinted at throughout the movie. It is in this sense that Lang, in an unique way, creates a story by using the architecture that his characters use.
Jurkiewicz, Kenneth. "Using Film in the Humanities Classroom: The Case of "Metropolis"." The English Journal 79.3 (1990): 47-50.
This article gives a detailed description of the film Metropolis by Fritz Lang. Giving insight into the overall plot of the film, the article also outlines the many different character motivations that make the film such a classic. With descriptions and histories of all the main characters, the article provides the reader the opportunity to understand the motivation of the character's action as well as an insight into the psyche of the characters. Additionally, the ending of the article provides critical reading questions that allow the reader to think about the film in terms of it s historical context as well as their own interpretation of Metropolis.
This excerpt written by Kennith Jurkiewicz gives specific examples of Maria as the biblical figure that I argue her to be and how it relates to the architecture of the lower level catacombs. Comparing her to a "futuristic John the Baptist," Jurkiewicz adds to my argument that Lang's clear comparison between Maria, the voice of hope to the working class, and John the Baptist, the voice of the second coming of Jesus Christ, allowed her to sway the hearts of men, both the real "good" Maria and the robotic imposter. This comparison to the biblical figure of John the Baptist gives clear point that it was this complete power to plea to the ethos of the working class, which drew from the motherly intuition of Maria, that made her such an iconic figure to this group of people. This, along with the description of the catacombs offered in the other source, give an understanding of the Christian symbolism that is not only being emphasized by Maria but also the catacombs where she sends her message. The catacombs act as an amplifier of the message of Maria, adding to the importance of the architecture to the film.
Call#: Van Pelt Library PN1998.3.L36 M38 1997
In this chapter of the book, Patrick McGilligan discusses the beginnings of Metropolis. Clearly grabbing influence from the Manhattan landscape, Lang describes how the buildings represented the human plight of the city dwellers. Even the novel in which the film was inspired, the author, Thea von Harbou, discusses how her vision of the city is also similar to the New York skyline. “’The houses dissected into cones and cubes by the moving scythes of the searchlights gleamed, towering up, hoveringly, light flowing down their flanks like rain’”(McGilligan 111). This chapter also describes the way in which different architecture styles came together to form this futuristic city outline that has become synonymous with Metropolis. Additionally, the rest of the chapter delves into the rest of the decisions that went into the designing and artistic view of the film. The talk about how they would use a futuristic language and how casting went.
In terms of the architecture of the film, McGilligan’s novel discusses in depth the thought processes that when into this important aspect of the film. Explaining how Lang wished to infuse Cubisit and Futruist art style into the city landscape truly allowed the symbolic use of the buildings have the impact it did. Not only did this infusion allow the viewer get a clear understanding of the futuristic idea of the city, the daunting and oppressive nature of the buildings and their placement makes them feel as if they themselves are the workers being suppressed to the lower levels of the city. The buildings themselves act as the very means as to give this feeling of being less then those who live up on the very top of these monstrosities. Furthermore, the twisted and abstractness of the buildings’ designs described in this chapter of the book add to the idea of unrealism that the movie seems to take. This distortion of reality adds to the suspension of belief that the viewer takes on to understand the deeper message of the destructive nature of technology as seen through the architectures design.
Susan Smith "Metropolis: restoration, reevaluation". CineAction. . FindArticles.com. 30 Nov. 2008. http://findarticles.com/p/articles/mi_hb3148/is_66/ai_n29174572
In this article Susan Smith describes the restored edition of Metropolis and dives into an in-depth analysis on many aspects of the film. In certain points taking the mindset of Fredersen and Rotwang into perspective, Smith adds a unique discussion towards these characters that are not the focus of the film and how their past history that just recently came out in the restored version adds an interesting dynamic to their relationship. Additionally, Smith really delves into the progression of the father-son relationship and how the plot actually fosters such a look into the Fredersens’ relationship with one another.
Smith’s interpretation of the progression of the city landscape to the lower levels of the catacombs as an attempt to describe Fredersen Sr. escapes from his past, specifically his wife adds an additional depth to my original idea of the importance of the architecture. The architecture in Metropolis, in this interpretation, has a direct connection with his attempt to build away from a past that he wishes to forget. Smith even goes further and argues that the layers of the city act as a manifestation of Fredersen’s mind with the catacombs acting as his subconscious. This view of the architecture seems to fit perfectly with the idea that Fritz Lang used the structures of the buildings in order to convey ideas of the characters and the biblical illusions he wished to use to further the meaning of the movie thus creating a masterpiece that did not even need sound to speak to a generation. It is this unique use of the natural architecture of the catacombs and the man made monstrosities of the city to discuss the loss of humanity from the loss of nature.
White, L. Michael. "In the Catacombs." PBS.org. Apr. 1998. 18 Nov. 2008 <http://www.pbs.org/wgbh/pages/frontline/shows/religion/first/catacombs.html>.
This article gives a description of the Christian catacombs in Rome. Detailing the intricate system of tunnels in this historic city, Professor L. Michael White explains how these catacombs became an integral part in the early Christian movement. Comparing them to “colonies of ants,” the article gives an interesting insight into how these burial areas became comparable to elaborate homes with painting depicting the classic biblical stories.
In relation to Metropolis, the catacombs were the safe haven of the hopes and dreams of the working class. With its rocky, earthy look, the architecture of the catacombs just adds to the Christian ideals that were being preached in the depths of the earth. The location of the catacombs symbolically represents the essential ideals that the character Maria hopes to instill within the crowd she speaks to. As the article expresses, these catacombs were used as a hiding place for Christians during ages of prosecution and an area where they would be able to pray without fear of being caught. This purpose clearly becomes important in the film, where Maria is able to preach to the masses of the arrival of a savior (comparable to the second coming of Jesus Christ) without the worry of oppression from the world above. It is the fact that the architecture is not like that of the luxurious, extravagant style of the upper world that allows the viewer to understand how the workers are desiring a more earthly, spiritual end compared to the demigods of the Metropolis on the surface.
Ginzberg, Louis. "The Tower of Babel." About.com. 18 Nov. 2008 <http://ancienthistory.about.com/library/bl/bl_text_jewslegends1d.htm#_ednthe%20tower%20of%20babel>.
Giving a brief history of the Tower of Babel, Louis Ginzberg highlights the important aspects of the biblical story that led to the creation of different languages. The story goes that in an act of rebellion against G-d, Nimrod agreed to build a tower of epic proportions that would reach to the heavens. It was in this hope that Nimrod and his counselors hoped to wage war with G-d himself and show their true power. As the building of the tower continued, the workers began shooting arrows into the heavens and as the cam hurtling down, they were covered in blood, seemingly confirming their belief that they are slaying those in the heavens. Upon seeing this, G-d decided to send down his angels and “confound their language.” This is where the origin of different languages stems from and it was this confounding of languages that denied the workers the ability to continue working on the tower because they could not understand each other.
This biblical story of the Tower of Babel plays a significant role in the interpretation of the architecture used in Metropolis. At the center of this futuristic city skyline lays a gargantuan tower that holds homage to the story of Babel. Much in the same way that Nimrod used it to defy the glory of G-d, Frederson had the building erected so that he could watch over his city, an attempt to feed to his demigod mentality. It is in this sense of revealing the psyche of the “Nimrod” of our story that Fritz’s placement of this futuristic Tower of Babel becomes crucial to the interplay of architecture of story. It is in this very sense that the viewer gets an understanding of the snobbish, elitist mentality of Frderson and how the very erection of the tower feeds to his idea of greater and lesser human beings.
Hutchinson, Tom. Horror & Fantasy in the Movies. New York: Crescent Books, 1974: 13-36.
Hutchinson goes beyond merely mapping out the history of horror cinema, and dedicates the first chapter of his book to revealing the deeper meanings beyond certain horror films. Behind the blood and monsters, Hutchinson sees social commentary and much more, which the average viewer is completely unaware of. He events of The Day the Earth Stood Still (1951) and concludes that its underlying message is, “that we ought to co-operate or else” (23). Hutchinson writes that Invasion of the Body Snatchers (1956), another 1950s sci-fi film, “carries a warning about loss of identity, an all-too-grim idea in a world where individuality is ironed out into uniform characteristics of thought and yes-saying” (23).
Hutchinson begins his analysis with the birth of cinema and the fantasy shorts of George Meliès. He moves into German Expressionist films, such as Robert Weine’s The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari (1919) and Fritz Lang’s Metropolis (1926) (19-21). He also refers to Hitchcock’s The Birds (1963) and Jacques Tourneur’s Cat People (1942) as further examples of horror films with social messages (23). Hutchinson argues though, that one cannot simply voice these messages, or warnings, to the audience directly. As he says, they must be “wrapped up in trappings of tinsel before they will be accepted” (28).
Don’t Look Now (1972) is one of those films whose meaning is “wrapped in trappings of tinsel” (28). Hutchinson explains that, “[Donald] Sutherland here carries the seeds of his own destruction within himself, but will never know it” (29). Reflexively, we are placed in the same position as Sutherland, because we are also unable to interpret the signs to recognize the future (e.g. our doom). Hutchinson’s argument is that, “[Sutherland] is time-trapped in the way that we all are, unable to move beyond his three-dimensional context” (29). Hutchinson ties into a theme explored in other sources I have encountered, that of time and space (in Don’t Look Now). He, unfortunately, does not give the theme an adequate explication (quickly moving to the next film), but he does place the film in relation to other horror films that do more than just scare. One is easier able to understand Don’t Look Now, when placed in the context of other horror films...