The German expressionist science fiction silent film is set in year 2026. A city sharply divided between the working class and the upper class. The workers live in poor conditions below ground and work around the clock to provide the energy for the city owners or the rich who live above ground and with their families. Maria is a working class teacher and prophet, a woman who gives hope to the city’s workers. She predicts the coming of a savior who will mediate the differences between the social groups and give the city the start of new era. Freder is the curious and open minded son of the city’s mastermind, Joh Frederson. Upon seeing Maria, Freder falls in love. But Maria is kidnapped by a crazy inventor and former (and bitter) rival of Joh. The inventor wants to use Maria’s body to bring his robot creation to life. Soon Maria bot creates havoc for the working class. Freder will have to stop the robot and its crazy inventor from destroying Metropolis, and achieve Maria’s goal of making Metropolis a just and harmonious place.
Maria begins the story in the archetype of angel but is turned into a mischevious whore as her robot alter ego. Her wardrobe as Maria Bot is fantastic, if very little. Lots of rhinestones, sparkly head pieces and alluring ebony lips. The iconic imagery of Maria’s soul being extracted and transferred into the robot are among my favorite images in film. As well are images of the plight of the workers in the sub city in which they live. The film cost the equivalent of $5 million to make in 1925. Sadly this science fiction is as relevant as it has ever been today. It is beautiful nonetheless.
For those who fear silent film, Giorgio Moroder released a version with a soundtrack by rock artists Freddie Mercury and Adam Ant in 1984. The post punk new wave works really well with the film and will keep anyone weary or new to silent film feeling pretty comfortable. It’s on Netflix people. You can thank me later.