Metropolis [1927], Part 2

I was thinking about the concept that the paradigm shift from the silent film rendered them inaccessible. For a contemporaneous audience, any individual silent film fitted into a frame of reference & stylistic convention. A modern audience lacks almost all of the social and stylistic references which would give the film meaning. Indeed, Metropolis will largely be regarded as an original template for other, later, media.

When I start to think about Metropolis in these terms, I start to think about my old friend Baudrillard’s definition of the hyper-real. Surely his analogy of a map whose physical counterpart has disappeared corresponds closely with the history of Metropolis. It is an original which has now only a kind of circular reference with works derived from itself. The fact that this situation has arisen from historical destruction of the references rather than the constructed hyper-reality of the modern era does not alter this.

As anarchangel23 is bound to ask: “So What?” Why is this interesting? What can we use this analysis stance to accomplish in either our understanding of the world or the work? He is my academic conscience.

Well, in the broadest possible sense, I think that it illustrates exactly the way in which literature detaches itself from the circumstances and world of its origin to assume a kind of life of its own. Can we not observe in this microcosm the same processes that gave us Homer’s curiously timeless works, or the amorphous and adapted mythologies of Arthur and the Wild West? Narrowing this analysis scope, we can see in Metropolis the originating myth of our own mechanized culture.

This concept also gives us, if not exactly a metric, then at least a concept, of what we might mean when we talk about the intrinsic value of an art of work: that it can stand free of its references amidst and encouraging a slew of referents. If Metropolis seems to speak today to the same issues of dehumanizing mechanisation and the class conflict of the proletariat vs. the aristocracy, it is not because it was prescient, but because it was universal.

As a hyper-real object, Metropolis breaks free of the paradigmatic shifts which I outlined as problems in my previous discussion. It becomes itself an originating aesthetic or concept, virtually forcing you to accept and interrogate it on its own terms.

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2 Responses to Metropolis [1927], Part 2

  1. drbunnyhops says:

    I’ve been thinking about this from another perspective… As I said the other night, I don’t remember the movie very well, but do remember some of the images and my emotional response to it, which was very much related to my political beliefs at the time.

    I’ve been wonder whether, as technology and cinemetography etc become more sophisticated, the whole experience becomes more homogenous… If the scene, the lighting, the music, the dialogue is designed to make you respond in a certain way, do you start to lose some of the ambiguity that makes it interesting to talk about afterwards?

    • Those techniques may be designed to make you respond in a certain way, but they can’t account for the myriad perspectives, histories and experiences of the viewers so they will never produce a truly homogenous response. You may think it’s unambiguous and I may think it’s unambiguous, but there will probably be some disagreement between those two perpectives, and that also makes it interesting to talk about. Art can make you examine your own perspective, but it can also confront you with the perspectives of others, which is just as useful.

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