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

Quotes, Comments & Reminiscences

1924 - 1976

"Why are you so interested in a picture which no longer exists?" (Fritz Lang to novelist Robert Bloch, upon being queried about Metropolis)

Introduction

The following page contains extracts from various published and manuscript sources which comment on aspects of the creation and production of Metropolis between 1924-7, along with pertinent views by those involved in the final outcome. For example, Fritz Lang's own views of Metropolis varied over the years, from downright dislike immediately following completion, to obvious pride in his achievement as he reassessed it during the latter years of his life. The following material is arranged roughly chronologically, according to the date it was produced, though in some instances this may vary. For example, Channing Pollock's reminiscences on his involvement in re-editing and reconstructing Metropolis were published during 1943, though they are presented below under 1927 as the events discussed primarily took place early in that year. Items reproduced below include:


1925

Fritz Lang - The Film of Tomorrow

{Fritz Lang, 'Der Film von Morgen' [The Film of Tomorrow], Film-Kurier (Special Insert), 7 February 1925}

Whoever reflects on the problem of the "film of tomorrow" has already come to terms with the ever increasing necessity to make a distinction between a film geared for entertainment only, or one which also has artistic aspirations, so called, because even an artistic film must not deny itself entertaining qualities. The basic difference between these genres is that the one delivering pure,entertainment only, has hardly changed - principally dealing with adventure, comedy and more or less erotic input. The nature of the artistic film tries for constant development, conquering new fields of endeavor, encompassing universal values. This is the criterion by which the film of to-morrow must be judged - to be innovative. Any repetition is a fallback to yesterday only. This will make this film of to-morrow a subject of struggle to-day, as will all art which looks ahead; this sort of film will also need to involve all the related arts, especially those truly and daringly forging ahead.

Although the "Bauhaus" collapsed (not through its own fault), the strength of its convictions has survived and reforms itself again - this pertains to film too, rebuilding upon its premise. To be able to visualize the spirit of matter via photographic wizardry can be extended without limits, constructively involving painting, sculpture and architecture. Thus to-morrow's film must not be stagnant or end in a cul de sac (as has happened with the very talented man of the Russian Theatre, Tairoff).

Who can tell what themes this new film will explore - it is besides the point which poetic language will be chosen - it is the essential outcome by which it will stand or fall- but only one thing will be quintessential - its creator will have to be able to labour under the most serious and compelling convictions, the raw material of all great art, no matter in what discipline. A director who is not obsessed by his work into a state of ecstasy, into a state of trance, will never succeed with the film of to-morrow.

-----------------------

1926

Fritz Lang - The Future of Big Films in Germany

{Fritz Lang, 'Wege des grossen Spielfilms in Deutschland', Die Literarische Welt, Berlin, 2, 1 October 1926}

There have perhaps never before been a time so determined as ours in its search for new forms of expression. Fundamental revolutions in painting, sculpture, architecture, and music speak eloquently of the fact that people of today are seeking and finding their own means of lending artistic form to their sentiments. Film has an advantage over all other expressive forms: its freedom from space, time and place. What makes it richer than the others is its natural expressiveness inherent in its formal means. I maintain that film has barely risen above the first rung on the ladder of its development, and that it will become the more personal, the stronger, and more artistic the sooner it renounces all transmitted or borrowed expressive forms and throws itself into the unlimited possibilities of the purely filmic.

The speed with which film has developed in the last five years makes all predictions about it appear dangerous, for it will probably exceed each one by leaps and bounds. Film knows no rest. What was invented yesterday is already obsolete today. This uninterrupted drive for new modes of expression, the intellectual experimentation, along with the Germans characteristically take in overexertion, appear to me to fortify my contention that film as art will first find its form in Germany. For it is not to be found in the absence of a drive toward incessant formal invention (however trustworthy and fruitful the old remains), nor most especially in the absence of uninterrupted overexertion in the name of results, which can only be achieved with that particular German kind of stamina and imagination, of those who become obsessed with the work from the first idea on.

Germany has never had, and never will have, the gigantic human and financial reserves of the American film industry at its disposal. To its good fortune. For that is exactly what forces us to compensate a purely material imbalance through an intellectual superiority.

From among the thousands of examples that support my theory, I wish to single out only one.

American cinematic photography is regarded, thanks to its as yet unparalleled recording equipment, its film stock and the brilliant work of its technicians, as the best photography in the world. But the Americans have still not understood how to use their magnificent equipment to elevate the miracle of photography into the realm of the spirit; that means, for example, that the concepts of light and shade are not to be made mere transporters of mood but factors that contribute to plot.

I recently had the opportunity of showing an American technician a few scenes from Metropolis, in which the beam of an electric flashlight illuminated the pursuit of a young girl through the catacombs of Metropolis. This beam of light pierced the human creature like the sharp claws of an animal, refused to release her from its grasp, drove her unremittingly forward to the point of utter panic.

It brought the amiable American to a naive confession. "We can't do that!"

Of course they could. But the idea never occurs to them. For them, the thing remains without essence, unanimated, soulless. I, on the contrary, believe that the great German dramatic film of the future will have the thing play just as important a role as the human character. Actors will no longer occupy a space that they appear to have entered by accident; rather, the space will be constructed in such a way that the characters' experiences appear possible only in it, appear logical only on account of it. An expressionism of the most subtle variety will make surroundings, properties, and plot conform to one another, just as I believe in general that German film technique will develop along lines that not only raises it to the level of an optical expression of the characters' actions but also elevate the particular performer's environment ot the status of a carrier of the action in its own right and, most important, of the character's soul!

We are already trying to photograph thoughts, that is, render them visually; we are no longer trying to convey the plot complex of an event but to make visual the ideational content of the experience seen from the perspective of the one who experiences it.

The first important gift for which we have film to thank was in a certain sense the rediscovery of the human face. Film has revealed to us the human face with unexampled clarity in its tragic as well as grotesque, threatening as well as blessed expression.

The second gift is that of visual empathy: in the purest sense the expressionistic representation of thought processes. No longer will we take part purely externally in the workings of the soul of the characters in film. We will no longer limit ourselves to seeing the effects of feelings, but will experience them in our own souls, from the instant of their inception on, from the first flashes of a thought through to the logical last conclusion of the idea.

If earlier performers satisfied themselves with the pretty, pleasant, or dangerous, funny or repulsive, film will propel new German actors and actresses from carriers of the plot to carriers of an idea. To become preachers of every creed that has people since they left their abode in the trees.

The internationalisation of filmic language will become the strongest instrument available for the mutual understanding of peoples, who otherwise have such difficulty understanding each other in all too many languages. To bestow upon film the double gift of ideas and soul is the task that lies before us.

We will realize it!

-----------------------

1927

Thea von Harbou - Filming the 'Burning of Maria' Scene

{Thea von Harbou, 'Bis eine Szene so weit ist....' Ufa Magazine, 3, 14-20 January 1927. The following is a journalistic account of the actual shooting of one of the final scenes in the production, namely, the burning of the evil Maria on the pyre before the cathedral of Metropolis. The following translation is taken form McGilligan (1997) and took place in the Neu Babelsberg studios, possibly during May 1926.}

Two hours til midnight. But at the same time spooky brightness. Above the fantastic, wide Cathedral Square of Metropolis, about twenty yards up, are the six-tube mercury lamps, at least several dozen of them. You can see neither the strings nor wires that support them. They seem to be attached to the blackness of the moonless sky, motionless green glowworms. Trestles everywhere. Megaphones scream like the horns of Jericho: 'Everything!!!'

'Everything!' means: 'Everybody in his position! Everything!'

Suddenly the square is crowded with people.

At improvised tables, the last makeup is put on, hair is brushed once more real quick. Among many men, one single female actor, she appears very young, almost like a child. The actress of the Janus-character - Maria in Metropolis.

Fritz Lang climbs up the platform where the equipment is; next to him, Karl Freund, who always appears like the sun. He's wearing a winter coat and it is summer in Europe. Underneath the coat you can see a white smock - without it the shoot would be incomplete.

The director says: 'Listen, everybody! The scene we're going to practice is simple: You caught the girl that is responsible for the decline of your city, and you are going to build a stake around the lamp pole there in order to burn her. Understood?'

An unequivocal 'Yes!' is the answer. Indeed: Very simple. The people pretend to understand. No big deal...

Then it actually starts - where? how? - from four corners at the same time...

'Build the stake-! How do you do that? Easy! Somewhere during the outbreak of the rebellion, when the chaotic darkness broke in, the cars stopped running. The ideal material for a stake! Let's get it!'

The crowd throws itself against the wheels, lifts, pushes, pants. The small cars, animal-like, whose still burning headlights stare, start to move, roll - bang! - into each other, and are added to the rubbish which is brought by howling women. Even a piano is among the rubbish. As well as desks - books, tons of books - window frames, doors! The stake grows...

'Stop,' Lang cries.

Everybody freezes.

'Once again - !'

For a fifth and sixth time the stake is taken apart again. Everybody takes his piece of the stake back.

With the leather belt of the director, they tie her arms together on her back. They push her around - the crowd is going wild - laughing like crazy: 'There - there - you will burn, damned witch!'

They push her up to the top of one of the cars where four, six, eight brutal fists are waiting for her...

Once - ? Twenty times! And still it is not wild enough, not fantastic enough.

Poor little Brigitte Helm! The next day her whole body will be covered with bruises.

This simple run-through lasts about three hours and thirty minutes. Then all the participants are in a state of trance. And ready to film.

Last banality, last empty play-acting, last habitual gestures are banned, destroyed. Mercy on that actor who moves both his hands in front of him the old-fashioned way! A very short break before the great moment.

'If everything goes right, we'll take a break after the shooting!' - Hurrah! The anger of the crowd will be real.

All the men responsible for lighting put more coal in. There is a very intensive smell of gasoline, spirit, and kerosene.

Bales of wood shavings soaked with everything that burns and smokes are being pushed between parts of the rubbish on the stake. Five men have hoses ready - you can never be too careful...

You can sense that everybody's nerves are vibrating ... A thought comes to my head. Weird that there hasn't been a painter yet who has been attracted by the great expressionism of such a night shooting...

The clash of the different light sources, the strange colours of the faces of the actors, the strange atmosphere...

A while later. Two-fifty a.m. In the east you can already sense some red light. A bird sings, sweet and fearless. In the curve of the stone lions' tails by the cathedral, two thrushes nest. They don't care about thousands of people, the ocean of light, the screams, the permanent distrubance. They are used to it.

Fritz Lang has pulled out his inner face - which he doesn't even know himself. The face of a boy who is going on an adventure into the wide blue world. And believe me: Every film shooting, let it be short or long, is an adventure. A fight with the dragon called chance, an expedition into the unknown, a venture onto new ground. Lang has a torch in his hand to light up the stake. One last look around.

'Ready! Action! - Go!'

The torch is tossed into the rubbish. The flames reach high. The crowd howls like crazy. The cameras buzz and I count the turns of the cranks spontaneously. As if they were the beatings of my heart.

Tomorrow we will see the long hours of work as a quintessential ten seconds.

-------------------------

1927

Karl Freund (Cameraman) - 'My Work on Metropolis'

{Karl Freund, 'Meine Arbeit an Metropolis', B.Z. am Mittang, Berlin, 7 January 1927. Freund was one of the chief cameramen on the filming of Metropolis, along with Günther Rittau. The following quote refers to work at the Neu Babelsberg studios}

We spent fourteen to sixteen hours a day working in there. Every day members of the lighting crew showed symptoms of poisoning, even though they wore gas masks over their faces; every day people called in sick. But we kept on working with only half the crew. We were told to bite the bullet, to just mop our foreheads with a damp sponge and to keep going, so we could get the damned scene done with..... The floodlights and the fanlights were on almost all the time but they hardly helped at all. The warmth just disappeared in the hugh, high-ceilinged room... Steam condensed and dripped down all over everything continuously like a light drizzle.

-------------------------

1943

Reminiscences by Channing Pollock

{Channing Pollock, Harvest of My Years: An Autobiography, Bobbs-Merrill, New York, 1943, pages 232-3. In the following extract from Pollock's autobiography, the author discusses his work in re-writing and reconstructing Fritz Lang's original version of Metropolis. It clearly reveals that Pollock's version of the film was a major alteration to the director's original edition. He was paid $20,000 for htis task, and given a screen credit. With reference to Pollock's woek, see also the articles by Randolph Bartlett (New York Times, 13 March 1927), and Welford Beaton's (The Film Spectator, Hollywood, 3 September 1927), both reproduced at Contemporary Reviews.}

....In that period before "the talkies," strange and wonderful things could be done with a completed movie, and doing them fascinated me. It was like playing with jigsaw puzzles. Under the quota system Famous Players had invested an enormous sum in a picture [Metropolis] produced by the great German UFA, and then found it simply didn't make sense.

The story was of an inventor who, widowed and not liking it, built for himself a second wife constructed of steel. She must have been, I should think, an uncomfortable bedfellow on winter nights. At any rate, Famous Players was in despair, and contracted to pay me $1,000 a day to salvage the picture.

This proved to be, by and large, the most interesting job I have ever done. There was an incredible footage of film; more than twice what could be shown in the ordinary space of time.

I began by sitting in a projection room beside a push button and a stenographer, and viewing all the film half a dozen times. Touching the button halted the performance for thought.

That night I wrote a quite different story that, I believed, could be told with the available "shots." It wasn't a very original story, being based on the theme of Frankenstein, but it had drama and an idea. A greedy employer hoped to grow rich by hiring the inventor to create hundreds of steel workmen. These proved to be perfect, except that they could not be endowed with souls, and the result was catastrophe.

As stated, this required putting together a jigsaw puzzle - taking from here a few feet of picture to be used there, and changing my story whenever some bit of it failed to lend itself to this surgery. One scene between a father and son was pieced together from five different scenes in the original, and then we discovered that papa began the short talk in a dinner jacket and ended it in business clothes. Sometimes a jointure of two scenes would result in a table or chair leaping across a room, and such miracles required omitting the offending "shots," and substituting titles.

Altogether - if I do say it - this was a remarkable piece of work, and one of which I shall always be proud. The original photography, showing a city of the mechanistic future, was amazingly ingenious and artistic, which, of course, was the only real hope of success.

When my job was done, none of my employers felt sanguine. Walter Wanger said: "You did your best, but the damned picture is nothing but machinery." Vainly, I argued that it was an interesting idea to make the machine the villain of a play, but Walter was unconvinced. The film was released under the title of Metropolis, and afforded one of the thrilling moments of my life when, accidentally, Walter and I found ourselves landing together at Southampton, and decided to spend the evening at a theater in London. At a ticket office in the lobby of the Savoy Hotel we learned our movie was on view at one of the principal cinema palaces. Walter asked for two seats, and the agent answered that Metropolis was the biggest hit in town and sold out for weeks in advance.

Within a fortnight of its success Famous Players issued a press statement that the adaptation represented "a new high in ingenuity on the part of the editorial staff of this company." I protested that the editorial staff hadn't even seen the picture until it was finished, and an executive wrote me, "You can hardly expect us to give credit for this work to a man who may never do anything else for us, rather than to a staff identified with our organization.

-------------------------

1962

Reminiscences by Erich Pommer

{In reminiscences recorded during 1962, Erich Pommer, the producer of Metropolis, recalled the origins of the film as he knew it. These refer to events which occurred during the visit to America by Pommer and Lang at the end of 1924. They fail to take into account the preliminary discussions which the director had already held with his wife Thea von Harbou on the basic outline of the film.}

The idea for Metropolis arose in the following manner. Lang and I made our first trip to New York. It was a hot summer. We remarked that under different labels, most humans are really slaves. I said that Hollywood would never make a film about this, because they live inside of it. So we said, let us make a film about it. Lang said, let us call it Metropolis. The uprising of the workers was patterned after the communist attempt to take over Bavaria. Then Thea von Harbou began to write the script. This film says that capitalists and workers, the rich and the poor, must join together and cooperate. That is the meaning of the last scene.

-------------------------

1965

Fritz Lang Interview

{Fritz Lang interview with Peter Bogdanovich, at his Beverly Hills home on 30 August & 1, 4, 8 September 1965. Reproduced in Peter Bogdanovich, Who the Devil Made It, Interviews..., Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1997, 178-9.}

Peter Bogdanovich: How did Metropolis come about?

Fritz Lang: I first came to America briefly in 1924 and it made a great impression on me. The first evening, when we arrived, we were still enemy aliens, so we couldn't leave the ship. It was docked somewhere on the West Side of New York. I looked into the streets - the glaring lights and the tall buildings - and there I conceived Metropolis.

I dabbled in so many things in my life, and I also dabbled in magic. Mrs. Von Harbou and I put in the script of Metropolis a battle between modern science and occultism, the science of the medieval ages. The magician was the evil behind all the things that happened: in one scene all the bridges were falling down, there were flames, and out of a Gothic church came all these ghosts and ghouls and beasties. I said, "No, I cannot do this."

Today I would do it, but in those days I didn't have the courage. Slowly we cut out all the magic and maybe for that reason I had the feeling that Metropolis was patched together. But actually I didn't like it very much because it was a picture in which human beings were nothing but part of a machine. The main thesis was Mrs. Von Harbou's, but I am at least 50 per cent responsible because I did it.

I was not so politically minded in those days as I am now. You cannot make a social-conscious picture in which you say that the intermediary between the hand and the brain is the heart. I mean, that's a fairy tale - definitely. But I was very interested in machines. Anyway, I didn't like the picture - thought it was silly and stupid - then, when I saw the astronauts: what else are they but part of a machine?

It's very hard to talk about pictures - should I say now that I like Metropolis because something I have seen in my imagination come true, when I detested it after it was finished?

In our original version of Metropolis, I wanted the son of the Master to leave at the end and fly to the stars. This didn't work out in the script, but it was the first idea for Woman in the Moon....

-----------------------

1967

Fritz Lang Interview

{Fritz Lang, 'Introductory Speech to a screening of Spione (The Spy)' [Extract], University of California, 28 June 1967. Reproduced in Eisner (1976, 95-6). This speech contains general comments about the environment in Weimar Germany at the time films such as Metropolis were produced}

.....After the defeat in World War I, and after the obligatory but senseless - because emotional - social upheaval, followed by the equally obligatory but much more successful counter-revolution by the reactionary forces (because the counter-revolution was cold-bloodedly conceived and executed) Germany entered a period of unrest and confusion, a period of hysteria, despair and unbridled vice, full of the excesses of an inflation-ridden country.

I remember those times very clearly. I was shooting in those days of inflation in Neubabelsberg, where the Ufa studios were located, half an hour by car from the capital of Berlin.

Money lost its value very rapidly. The workers received their money not weekly but daily, and even so when they arrived home after working hours, shops were closed and the following morning their wives could hardly buy a couple of rolls or half a pound of potatoes for a day's work.

At the same time the nightclubs were in full swing, supported by the easily earned money of uncaring war - and inflation; the profiteers, who thought or knew they could buy anything and everything, including the starved and impoverished women of the former upper and middle classes. In cellars and private flats obscure little night spots popped up nightly only to disappear two or three days later - as soon as they became too well known to the general public and the police.

In those places the up-and-coming classes of the new rich could gamble and the sky was the limit. The rich and jaded wives visited them too, morbidly looking for unequivocal invitations, vulgar and sordid as they came - every sex deviation found fulfillment.

Crime prospered. From time to time some loner tried to stop this witches sabbath. One morning there appeared wall posters throughout Berlin showing a half-naked voluptuous women in the arms of a skeleton, with the caption: 'Berlin - your are dancing with Death.' But who cared? After four years of way death had lost its terrors.

Religion? God? He had been sent to peddle his heavenly wares elsewhere.

In such an atmosphere of 'And Devil take the hindmost' there thrives the constant, ever-present yearning for the fantastic, the mysterious, the macabre, for the strangling terror of the dark.

During the first half of the twenties, the German film mirrored the sombre, hopeless times and moods in equally sombre and foreboding pictures.....

-----------------------

1970

Reminiscences of Edgar G. Ulmer

{Edgar G. Ulmer (1904-1972) interview with Peter Bogdanovich, at his West Los Angeles home during February 1970. Reproduced in Peter Bogdanovich, Who the Devil Made It, Interviews..., Alfred A. Knopf, New York, 1997, 563. Ulmer was a set designer on Metropolis.}

Peter Bogdanovich: As set designer [uncredited], what did you work with Lang on?

Edgar G. Ulmer: Metropolis, Die Nibelungen, and then I worked with him later on a film called The Spies - Spione - a classic picture. By the way, something very funny: from 1925 till 1927 Lang and Murnau had two English-speaking people for the titles: one was Joe Mankiewicz; the second was Hitchcock. Hitchcock learned his trade under Fritz Lang.

-----------------------

1971

Fritz Lang Interview

{Fritz Lang, 'Selbstdarstellung: Fritz Lang', Frankfurter Rundschau, 15 May 1971. [Kaplan 581] Interview with the 80 year old Lang.}

Fritz Lang: "...Metropolis was the man of a future that had already begun. With Metropolis I began to think politically for the first time. Metropolis actually turned out to be something different from what I intended. That's why I don't like the film much."

-----------------------

1975

Fritz Lang Interview

{Fritz Lang interview with Gene D. Phillips, at Lang's Beverly Hills home during 1975. Printed in 'Fritz Lang Remembers', Focus on Film, London, 20, Spring 1975, 43-50.}

Fritz Lang: ....When I made my films I always followed my imagination. By making Die Nibelungen (1924) I wanted to show that Germany was searching for an ideal in her past, even during the horrible time after World War One in which the film was made. At that time in Berlin I remember seeing a poster on the street which pictured a woman dancing with a skeleton. The caption read: "Berlin, you are dancing with Death." To counteract this pessimistic spirit I wanted to film the epic legend of Siegfried so that Germany could draw inspiration from her past, and not, as Mr. Kracauer suggests, as a looking forward to the rise of a political figure like Hitler or some such stupid thing as that. I was dealing with Germany's legendary heritage, just as in Metropolis I was looking at Germany in the future......

Gene D. Phillips: But your trip to the U.S. gave you the inspiration for Metropolis, did it not?

Fritz Lang: Erich [Pommer] and I were considered enemy aliens and for some reason we couldn't land in New York on the day that the boat docked there but had to wait until the following day to disembark. That evening I looked from the ship down one of the main streets of New York and saw for the first time the flashing neon signs lighting up the street as if it were day time. This was all new to me. I said to myself, what will a big city like this, with its tall skyscrapers, be like in the future? That started me thinking about Metropolis.

Gene D. Phillips: Metropolis enhanced your reputaiton both in Germany and abroad.

Fritz Lang: But after I finished the film I personally didn't much care for it, though I loved it while I was making it. When I looked at it after it was completed I said to myself, you can't change the social climate of a country with a message like "The heart must be the go-between of the head (capital) and the hands (labour)." I was convinced that you cannot solve social problems by such a message. Many years later, in the Fifites, an industrialist wrote in The Washington Post that he had seen the film and that he very much agreed with that statement about the heart as the go-between. But that didn't change my mind about the picture.

Gene D. Phillips: Yet young people today take the film very seriously.

Fritz Lang: In the later years of my life I have made it a point to speak with a lot of young people in order to try to understand their point of view. They all hate the establishment and when I asked them what they dislike so intensely about our computerised society they said: "It has no heart." So now I wonder if Mrs. von Harbou was not right all the time when she wrote that line in Metropolis a half century ago. Personally I still think the idea is too idealistic. How can a man who has everything really understand a man who has very little?

Gene D. Phillips: I believe that Stanley Kubrick paid tribute to Metropolis in naming his 1968 film 2001 because your film takes place in the year 2000.

Fritz Lang: That never occurred to me, especially since I don't recall that any specific year is ever mentioned in Metropolis. In any event another thing that I didn't like about the film afterwards were scenes like the one in which a worker is pictured having constantly to move the hands of the giant dial. I thought that that was too stupid and simplistic an image for a man working in a dehumanising, mechanised society. And yet years later when I was watching the astronauts on television I saw them lying down in their cockpit constantly working dials just like the worker in my film. It makes you wonder.

-----------------------

1976

Reminiscences of Walter Schultze Mittendorf

{Walter Schultze Mittendorf, 'The Robot - Its Birth' in Lotte Eisner, Fritz Lang, Da Capo, 1976, 93-4. Shultze Mittendorf was responsible for the design and construction of the Metropolis robot, in collaboration with Fritz Lang and the design produciton team. The following comments are in the form of rough notes and brief answers to a question on the origin and construciton of the robot.}

Problems of form? No!

Expressionism lived.

Technological form had been discovered as motif for painting and sculpture.

Primary, in this case, was the question, 'Which material?'

Thought - at first chased copper plate to have real metal. That meant - searching for and finding a suitable chaser to execute the work. 'Complicated', I thought - when Fritz Lang tried to interest me in the work.

But which material really?

An accident helped us.

A workshop making architectural models gave us decisive assistance unintentionally.

I went there because of another job.

My attention was drawn to a little cardboard box labelled: 'Plastic Wood - 'trade sample' - a postal parcel.

This 'trade sample' - not interesting for the workshop - was given to me. One trial brought the proof straightaway - the material for our 'machine creature' had been found.

'Plastic wood' turned out to be a kneadable substance made of wood, hardening quickly when exposed to the air - allowing itself to be modeled like organic wood.

Now it needed a procedure that was not very pleasant for Brigette Helm - namely the making of a plaster cast of her whole body.

Parts resembling a knight's armour, cut out of Hessian, were covered with two millimeters of the substance, flattened by means of a kitchen pastry roller.

This was then stuck onto the plaster Brigette Helm, like a shoemaker puts leather over his block.

When the material had hardened, the parts were polished - the contours cut out.

This was the rough mechanism of the 'machine creature' which made it possible for the actress to stand - to sit and to walk.

The next procedure - furnishing it with detail - to create a technological aesthetic.

Finally - cellon varnish mixed with silver bronze - and applied with a spray gun - gave the whole it's genuinely metallic appearance which even seemed convincing when looked at from close range.

The work took many weeks however. In those days, films were carefully prepared - and thus the realisation of a piece of work unusual for a film like this one was ensured.

In striking contrast to the present-day German film industry!

Last updated: 25 September 2006.


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