I have a thing for German Expressionism. Personally, I blame it on The Nightmare Before Christmas, which I've loved ever since I saw it in theatres as a little girl. I think that one early experience sneakily made its way into my mind and deep enough to affect the way I look at and enjoy films now - which explains my soft spot for Hitchcock, Billy Wilder, Orson Welles, film noir from the 1940s, and anything else involving Tim Burton from the early 90s (especially his Batman series and Edward Scissorhands). It really opened up the world of science fiction to me, too - something I wasn't into until later - in film and video games. Blade Runner is easily one of my top five films. Dark City is a great movie and games bearing the dark mark of Expressionism are some of my favorites - Deus Ex and Bioshock, to name a couple.
Since I love this creative style so much, it seemed crazy to me that I had never sat down and watched Metropolis. After hearing about the film and director Fritz Lang, I automatically expected to love it and it didn't let me down, really - focusing on a utopian city in the year 2026, Metropolis is the story of the lower world workers and their oppressors, the privileged and wealthy planners living in the city above. One day, the son of the master of the city falls for a woman from below, and his love upsets the balance between the working class and the upper class in perilous ways.
Metropolis exists in a world stuck between an alien-like future and old lore from the ancient past, with no real in-between. Its walls are filled with mad scientists, angular buildings, towering monuments from past civilizations, dusty catacombs and opulent nightclubs with shining floors and art deco embellishments, high contrast and ominous use of shadow and light. Costumes are lovely. Every glimpse of 1920s fashion is a delight, from Maria's simple mid-length dress with laced-up front and contrasting white collar to the decadent regalia of the concubines dressed in shimmering lace, sequins, art deco jewelry touched with ornate stones, and Rococo-style hats and dresses. The Dance of the Seven Deadly Sins (the creepiest scene of all time), towards the end of the film, features a decadent beaded cape and headdress.More screenshots here.
If you've got 2 1/2 anti-multitasking hours to spare, definitely see Metropolis.. the restored version is available on Netflix Instant right now. So is The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, actually.. which is my personal favorite. Silent horror movie night? And if you find yourself getting obsessed with German Expressionism - The Golem, Faust, and Nosferatu also fit into this genre and are available on Netflix Instant, as well.. lots of creepy German cinema at your fingertips for a dreary January day. Happy Wednesday!