Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Mon Aug 19 08:48:46 MDT 2002

Unified Theory
By Jonathan Rosenbaum

Directed by Fritz Lang
Written by Lang and Thea von Harbou
With Gustav Frohlich, Brigitte Helm, Alfred Abel, Rudolf Klein-Rogge, Fritz
Rasp, Theodor Loos, and Heinrich George.

* * * *

The internationalism 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! -- Fritz Lang, in an article published in 1926

Lang's utopian rallying cry, written in Germany during the editing of
Metropolis, is well worth recalling today. It's relevant as an
acknowledgment of the lack of mutual understanding between nations that
currently threatens our planet -- and by extension, of the lack of mutual
understanding between classes that threatens our country and planet. And
it's relevant as a double-edged expression of hope ("We will realize it!")
and despair ("such difficulty understanding each other in all too many
languages") -- responses that form the warp and woof of Metropolis itself.
Yet Lang's dream of mutual understanding between nations seems to have
distracted him from finding a satisfactory resolution of class issues in
Metropolis, much as the xenophobic warmongering of the Bush administration
is distracting Americans from a legitimate class resentment of recent
capitalist swindles.

Metropolis -- a 75th-anniversary reconstruction of which is showing at the
Music Box this week -- was scripted by Lang and his wife at the time, Thea
von Harbou. She became a Nazi, stayed behind when Lang left Germany in the
early 30s, and wrote the novel Metropolis, said to be one of the best
guides to what the original film was like. The dreams and nightmares that
made Hitler and Goebbels fans taint the film in some ways, though it
continues to function as an alluring yet impenetrable object -- a kind of
camp tragedy that has a ridiculous happy ending but, apart from 2001: A
Space Odyssey, remains the most ambitious science fiction film ever made.


Louis Proyect

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