“An exaggerated dream of the New York skyline, multiplied a thousandfold and divested of all reality,” is film critic Lotte Eisner’s apt description of the Expressionist cityscape created by Lang and his team for Metropolis, about a dystopian city of the future where the working masses live underground, enslaved by the wealthy few. When Fredersen, the Master of Metropolis, fears a revolt among the workers, he enlists the aid of a scientist to create a robot built in the image of Maria, a young woman whose rhetoric has inspired the downtrodden to turn on the elite class. In the end, disaster is averted and all are reconciled, a trite finale that undercuts much of what precedes it (Lang himself claimed to have “detested” the final product). But the visual daring of Metropolis pays tribute to Lang’s architectural training, and his masterful choreography of crowds and machinery creates a kind of visualized sound rarely before seen in cinema.
Publication excerpt from In Still Moving: The Film and Media Collections of the Museum of Modern Art by Steven Higgins, New York: The Museum of Modern Art, 2006, p. 115.