Mediapolis a Modern Metropolis


I started to work on this blog by looking at the recent discovery of a lost Hitchcock film entitled “The White Shadow”, which was recently recovered from New Zealand. However, after reading the chapter in “MediaWork”, I instead decided to focus on the recent recovery and restoration of twenty-five lost minutes to Fritz Lang’s “Metropolis”.

Both recoveries are unprecedented and invaluable to the history of cinema but I settled on the later because two things occurred to me about the globalization of Media via the chapter. One, due to connectivity of the World Wide Web film historians have been able to catalog and preserve films on a global scale that has never before been available to them and this has made such discoveries possible. Two, the themes of the film “Metropolis” seem to be as ever pertinent as the day the film premiered in 1927. Specifically, the danger that is inherent in a breakdown in communication between classes and the danger of the loss of workers’ rights to the privileged few as the economic divide increases. These are old themes but it occurred to me that we should not forget these warnings of yesteryear lest we fall into the trap of repeating history.

“Life has come to mean: work.” (Deuze, 2007). There is a danger in the “widening gap between the rich and the poor.” (Deuze, 2007). This is exemplified in the free labor that is provided to the State by a labor force that comprises itself of workfare dependents. These laborers’ rights and the stability of their way of life would become solely dependent on the State. This separation of classes was depicted in the extreme by the fictional future of Lang’s “Metropolis”. “It forces us into a Darwinian “struggle for existence” on a social level.” (Deuze, 2007). There is also a danger in the “blurring of the boundaries between work and private life.” What are we willing to sacrifice before we will speak out and say that enough is enough? Moreover, who will represent the workfare dependents? Who will be their voice if they have a grievance? Again, I look to “Metropolis” and cite the, “movie’s unmistakable message is that “The mediator between head and hands must be the heart””. (, 2003) We must remember that the workers that make this global Mediapolis in industry possible are flesh and blood; they are people first and not a number like 11811.

I have followed the story of the recovery of the lost twenty-five minutes of footage over the past three years. The footage was unearthed in Argentina in 2008 and since that time the film has been painstakingly restored to the director’s vision. The film was then screened in Germany in 2010 and I finally was able to see the complete “Metropolis” in Philadelphia, on Feb 16th, 2011. I feel that the restored footage made the subplots of film much clearer and it is a pity that Paramount trimmed the film after its premiere to try to market it to an American audience. It truly is a marvel that eighty years after the film’s premiere we are now able to once again see the visionary story as it was intended to be seen by Fritz Lang.

Russell McGee

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