Wednesday, October 7, 2009

Portrayals of the Future in the Past

Recognize this image? It's a still from a film.

How about this one?

Same film.

It reminds me of this scene from a movie produced 80 years later:

Professor X observed that George Lucas must have been inspired by the earlier flick when he filmed Star Wars. It's funny how we attribute all things related to a movie to the director, isn't it? What about the art director or the visual and special effects people? But I digress...

We went to the Science Fiction Museum in Seattle recently, and Super Son saw this poster for a 1927 silent film:
I really didn't know anything about the film, but was sufficiently intrigued to borrow it from the library once we returned home. The four of us gathered around the magic picture machine last evening to have a communal viewing experience.

Activist/author Susan Sontag once commented Science fiction films are not about science. They are about disaster, which is one of the oldest subjects of art." Metropolis certainly has its share of disaster. We're transported to a dystopia of exploited, exhausted drudge workers who toil so that the privileged class can party hearty. It was fascinating to watch this classic, although I must confess we did stoop to making up some pretty hilarious dialogue as the silent actors spoke at length, heavily emoting. So many scenes had virtually no intertitles, or if they did, there'd be only a sentence of dialogue provided for many minutes of talking. The acting was often highly exaggerated, and movement sometimes almost resembled a ballet. Much of the film was slightly crude; it felt heavy handed.

Still, it was compelling. There's a good synopsis of the story here. Consider the similarities between this scene of a Metropolis shift change.

Click the pic to see the video clip

and this 2009 youtube video post, Cubicle Life Call Centers.

More thoughts on this tomorrow. I have a sink full of dirty dishes, a laundry room full of dirty clothes, and a to do list a mile long.


Bee said...

The Susan Sontag quote helps me frame why I don't like science fiction much. There's already enough disaster around without imagining future possibilities for it.

Interesting post, though. (It's cool that your family watched this together. Your children must be incredibly literate in the visual arts!)

La Belette Rouge said...

We are watching Dr. Who on BBC and I am seeing that the underlying message is about feeling alienated in a culture that is dehumanizing. Almost every episode we watch makes me cry. I never thought a science fiction show could make me cry. Yeah, I am a softy.;-)

Lisa Wheeler Milton said...

I haven't thought about this film in a long time. I saw it when I was 21, at one of my first film festivals.

It was powerful, especially if you consider when it was made.

Anonymous said...

I'm surprised you weren't familiar with "Metropolis". Maybe it's because I'm European, and it's perhaps more well-known over there(?), or because I've got a degree in German, but I recognized those stills straight away as being from "Metropolis" even though I've never seen it. Even that fact alone just suggests how amazing it must be. It's astounding that something can be so visually unique that, all those years after it was made, somebody who has never seen it can recognize its style.

I really need to get around to seeing it. It's always been on "to-do list".