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Ciné-Miroir

Paris, No.133, 21st October 1927

Introduction

The following article was taken from the French cinematic trade paper Ciné-Miroir of 21 October 1927 - the cover for an earlier edition (No.120) is reproduced above. It was translated into English by Philippe Lemieux of Canada during August-September 2000. This item is a synopsis of, and introduction to, Fritz Lang's Metropolis, and perhaps represents a summary of the film as shown to French audiences upon its initial premiere in that country during October 1927. The original Ciné-Miroir article comprised a 2-page spread in the centre of the paper, with 5 stills from the film, including a large centrepiece (reproduced below) of the evil Maria seated upon the seven-headed serpent with the chalice of abominations in her hand. In juxtaposition, the cover of the Ciné-Miroir featured an image of the Madonna-like true Maria, surrounded by children from the workers' city. Whilst the account of the film presetned here is substantially the same as the versions currently circulating, the ending of the film as related below varies. There is no reference to the scene wherein Joh Fredersen and Grot the foreman meet on the steps of the Metropolis cathedral. An earlier edition of Ciné-Miroir, dated 16 April 1927, also featured brief details of the film, with an image of the evil Maria on the cover and a copy of the Boris Bilinsky Metropolis montage as part of the centrespread.

Metropolis

Today, Metropolis is a lost city. It is unknown when it was conceived by a civilisation which would take centuries to discover. The man who created it was called Joh Fredersen. This man - if in fact he was a man and not a calculating machine, a monstrous organism within which a brain, a great and remorseless brain - had taken up all the space and had succeeded in building this unimaginable city, in controlling an entire race, only by eliminating his own heart. Metropolis was conceived in such a way that two distinct groups of people lived there and ignored each other completely.

Above ground, in the marvellous dwellings built one on top of the next and where the smallest was fifty stories high, lived the masters. They knew nothing of the pains of existence. Within their marvellous dwellings lie the Eternal Gardens, where the masters worshipped their minds and bodies, surrounded by beautiful women who were as rare as orchids. They knew nothing of ugliness or disease; these things had been cured by great doctors. Below the ground lived the slaves, those that life had not smiled upon and whose hands were meant to serve. In the underground city of the workers, which could be considered the tenth wonder of the world, they toiled like beasts, simple machines in the hand of Fredersen. They worked far from sunlight, surrounded by the sound of the infernal giant machines that those living above depended on. It seemed that this would go on forever when the adventure took place.

One fine morning, as Freder, son of Fredersen and one of the most beautiful young men of Metropolis, was in the Eternal Gardens with happy boys and lovely girls, an unexpected vision stopped him dead in his tracks. At the turn of a corridor a young woman was advancing. She was not dressed as friends of Freder were, with rich clothing. She was laced in an old frock under which one could imagine a form so pure, so noble, and topped by such a marvellous face that only she, in the great Gardens, seemed at that instant to exist. As she advanced, innumerable children followed like a loyal herd. These poor and pale children walking all around and behind her were looking with awe at the sun and flowers. As she leaned over, Freder overheard her say to them in a determined voice: "Do not be afraid, these are your brothers…" She then turned to Freder and his friends and said: "I wanted you to see them, these are your brothers."

Guards came running and took the young woman away. The Gardens were once again elegant and gay.

That night, Freder learned that the young woman and the children had escaped from the worker's city. Freder was troubled. He could still hear the young woman's voice in his head. He did not know where the entrance to the underground city lay. A servant told him. He went.

In front of him, all dressed in white, the sorry inhabitants of this dark city avoided his path in fear. Did he not represent ultimate power? He wandered a long time before he found the machines where he was horrified to see the inhuman effort that was being asked of those just like him. A single second of daydreaming, a single moment of reverie and the unstoppable machines would devour man. The central heating system, the burning centre of the underground Metropolis, was hell. Already, Freder had seen two workers killed by the steel brutes and taken away on stretchers. He noticed a man, an adolescent like himself, holding the hands of the giant clock which controled the most sensitive mechanisms of the city above. The man was teetering from exhaustion. Freder, still full of energy, prevented the tragedy and ran to help the poor man.

It is then that Freder understood what he must do. He must come to know these people who are slaves to his father's terrible will. He must live among them if he is to save them. And isn't it there that he would find the young woman? Without hesitation, he offered to replace the worker at his machine. They exchanged clothing and the worker, using Freder's money, would rise to the light in the city above and would know joy. Freder, for the first time in his life, went to work…


That same night, at the same hour, Fredersen also was far from his palace. He had gone to the house of Rotwang, his worst enemy and his best servant. He was his worst enemy since Fredersen had kidnapped and married the young woman whom Rotwang loved, the delicate Hel, who had died giving birth to Freder. He was his best servant because of his mechanical genius and his ability to forget his hatred when it came time to construct for Fredersen one of the machines which made Metropolis a paradise where there was no cold nor heat, no sickness and no shame, nothing that would make man unhappy.

Rotwang served Fredersen but he could not forget. His latest invention was an artificial being, identical to a human being, able to move like one, capable of thought, of speech, of smiling and crying. He had given this wondrous automaton the face and body of his deceased fiancé and he lived with her as if she were an ordinary woman. Fredersen believed himself to possess neither a heart nor stomach, but both felt weak at the sight of this automaton. He felt a chill as he thought of the power science had given to the half-crazed Rotwang.

Nevertheless, Fredersen had come to see Rotwang for a reason: he showed him plans that had been found twice on the body of dead workers and asked for counsel. Rotwang shook his head. He knew that these plans were a map of the catacombs which lay under the lower city itself. Secret meetings must be taking place there. He offered to guide Fredersen through these tunnels and they left.

They wandered through decrepit tunnels and arrived at a crypt. There, a woman stood on a altar in front of a giant cross lit by smoky torches and spoke to a crowd of workers. It was Marie, the blonde creature who Freder had met in the Gardens. He was now part of the crowd of workers, listening to her every word. Well hidden, Fredersen and Rotwang could hear, if not see, everything. Marie said simple things. She tried to make the poor workers understand that they could find happiness within themselves and that they should not envy the rich. With faith she said that they would not always suffer. She had had a vision: a mediator between the brain that conceives and the hands that build would bring peace. Fatefully, as she said these things her eyes rested on Freder, dressed in the dark fatigues of a worker and standing in the front row.

Fredersen stood dumfounded. Who was this strange girl who lived with the slaves but still found enough strength to think? The men looked at her with such admiration that the power of influence she held over them was obvious. What a marvellous instrument this woman would make under his control, he who always feared that the workers would stage a revolt!

It is then that an idea came to him: what if Rotwang would agree to give his marvellous automaton Marie's face? All that needs doing is to kidnap this young girl and replace her with the artificial one.

To Fredersen's astonishment, Rotwang agreed. Once the meeting was over, the two men followed the young girl. Within an hour, Marie found herself in the city above, Rotwang's prisoner. He had tied her and was now modelling the automaton's face to copy her own. From then on, the drama unfolded. In the following days, the false Marie created by Rotwang began to live in the worker's city. She destroyed with dangerous words the love and friendship that her double had sown. Worse, she preached revolt and debauchery by declaring that she had been wrong, that their master was a monster, that there is no hope and that an uprising is needed. These words had been given to her by Fredersen whose plan it was to bring the workers to the brink of the abyss and show them once and for all his overwhelming strength and the futility of any escape attempt or hope of liberation.

In the tired minds of the workers this terrible propaganda germinated easily. One single man disagreed with her, unable to believe that their saint had become such a demon. It was Freder and he knew something was wrong.

Nevertheless, the catastrophe came. Even before Fredersen was ready, Rotwang, who had only revenge on his mind, precipitated the stampede. Workers from all quarters left their jobs and with the diabolical Marie leading them, ran to the central machine. Grot, a man devoted to Fredersen, was there. He tried to reason with the crowd, told them that to touch the machine meant death, a death that none of them could possibly imagine.

No one listened to him. Then, Grot ran to an immense lever placed in the centre of the machine and pulled it down. A sound like that of thunder was heard and secret locks opened as furious water invaded the underground city from every direction. All those who were there would die. The crazed workers left the machine and ran to save their women and children, but how could they? The doors were sealed and they were all inside like rats in a cage.

Just then, a miracle took place: Marie appeared. Fredersen and Rotwang had fought each other and Marie was able to escape and rejoin her people. When Freder saw her and her double he understood what had happened. He knew that the saint could not have changed. Crazy with joy, he ran to her. Together, they would save these poor souls that had been mislead by the magic creature. Maria and Freder knew of secret passageways. Led by the two of them, the children left first. With great pain, they were able to take the children from the water to the surface of the city above. The others followed and Fredersen, who, perched in his tower which dominated Metropolis, waited for the workers to die, saw them emerge from the underground into the sunlight. His surprise doubled as he saw Freder standing next to the virgin who had saved them.

Fredersen felt lost: the workers had won. Like Rotwang, who had wanted to save the automaton and had thrown himself from atop the cathedral, Fredersen also meant to kill himself. Freder had guessed this and arrived in time to hold his father in his arms and make him understand that nothing was lost, if only he would allow a bit of pity and generosity to enter his heart. Freder would arrange everything, he would be the mediator.

As he said this, he turned to Marie who held her arms out to him. Fredersen, defeated, bowed his head. The doors had closed. Life in Metropolis would begin again with Marie and Freder as the happy couple in its centre.

That same night, the crowd celebrated the marriage of their saviours by burning the automaton.

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Site last updated: 28 January 2011.


Metropolis Bibliography - Introduction Metropolis Bibliography - Books, Articles and Manuscripts Metropolis Bibliography - Internet Web Sites Metropolis Bibliography - Artwork, Posters and Photographs Metropolis Bibliography - Music Metropolis Bibliography - Film Metropolis Bibliography - Videos, Quicktime, DVD Metropolis Bibliography - Reviews 1927 Metropolis Bibliography - Australia 1928 Metropolis Bibliography - Posters