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The parents' guide to what's in this movie.
What parents need to know
Parents need to know that Metropolis is a classic of silent cinema, with some of the most striking and memorable science fiction images in movie history. It contains fighting and some frightening images, plus rioting, angry mobs, and destruction, but nothing comparable to today's movie violence. There are some sexual images, including a scene of a nearly topless woman dancing, and men leering and panting at her. Some women wear see-through clothing. There's one use of "damn" and minor characters are seen smoking.
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What's the story?
High over a sprawling city, evil Joh Fredersen (Alfred Abel) runs everything while workers toil underground on dehumanizing machines. One day, his privileged son Freder (Gustav Frohlich) spies Maria (Brigitte Helm), follows her, and discovers the horrors of the underground city. He switches places with a worker and attends a meeting, where Maria declares him the mediator ("the heart") between the "head" (his father) and the "body" (the workers). Unfortunately, an evil inventor, Rotwang (Rudolf Klein-Rogge), develops a robot, disguises it as Maria, and sends it off to destroy the workers' revolutionary morale. The newly enraged workers revolt and shut down the machine, causing flooding and calamity. It's up to Freder to save the day.
Is it any good?
It may not be Lang's best film, but its power is undeniable. Metropolis is actually an atypical movie in the career of Fritz Lang, who was normally known for his crime films and dark themes of cruel fate. This film is much larger in scale and more hopeful than was usual for him. Yet there's no question that the visuals in Metropolis are among the greatest in movie history, and they do not fail to impress, even today. Certain shots and clips have become familiar to many, and newer sci-fi epics are inevitably compared to it.
But the story was always a problem; H.G. Wells wrote in 1927 that it was "the silliest film." In short, the rudimentary story never quite lived up to the spectacular images. That is, until 2010, when a "complete" (lacking only about 5 minutes) version was finally released, and the story achieved new depths and complexities, making it worthy of its packaging. Subplots add new parallels to the story, and the rhythms and pacing have grown more poetic.
Talk to your kids about ...
Families can talk about the movie's violence. How do the one-on-one violent scenes differ from the group violence shots? How does the violence in this movie compare with modern movie violence?
What is the role of sex in this movie? What are the messages the movie is trying to communicate about the power of sex and sexuality? How does the movie handle romance and love?
How does the movie's message -- about a "mediator" between the "head" and "hands" -- apply to current events?
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