Tuesday, September 10, 2013

Symbolism, Occult & Otherwise ~ Metropolis, Hide and Seek

It's a while since I inadvertently stepped into one of the internet's many rabbit holes, but did so at the weekend. On Friday evening TCM was showing a 2010 restoration of Fritz Lang's 1927 silent movie Metropolis. I couldn't recall ever having watched it before, at least not in full, nor could husband, so we decided to give it a try. I'm not a fan of silent movies but this one has some very nice art deco architectural bits and backdrops going on, which was enough to keep me interested for the almost all of the 2 and a half hour film. It's a curiosity, if nothing else, with dystopian elements later tackled and enlarged upon in finer detail by George Orwell and others of his genre. There were scenes, however, which reminded me more of Monty Python or Benny Hill sketches than dark dystopian scenarios, but that had to be excused due to the film's age.

For anyone who hasn't seen Metropolis, in a nutshell it's a tale of a city of the future - 2026 - further into the future for audiences in 1927 than it is for us. The city is divided into two, part for the workers and part for the thinkers. The workers live and toil in an underground section of the city, slave-like,down-trodden, sheep-like, ill-treated, providing the life blood of the city above, often quite literally. The thinkers, the equivalent of 21st century's real-life Elite, the 1%, capitalists, the Oligarchy etc. live in luxury in the city above.

Bear in mind that Fritz Lang was Austrian-born, the film was made during the Weimar period in Germany, history has proved him to be something of a prophet in many ways. A love story develops in the film - rather too rapidly - under what seems to 2013 eyes very contrived circumstances, but it is a necessary plot device. The king pin of Metropolis has a son who appears to be a little more liberal-minded than his fascist capitalist Dad. He falls in love with a gal, a teacher to kids of the workers. She promises the children, or prophesies to them, that there will be a better life in the future, a "mediator" will come along to help them.

We then meet an inventor with occult leanings and a pentacle on his door, and the fun begins.....

Now...I was going to write a straight ahead review of Metropolis when I stepped into the rabbit hole mentioned earlier. Looking around the net for reviews to ensure I hadn't missed anything crucial while out during the film doing the dishes, I found a website called The Vigilant Citizen with a long and interesting article about the film, pointing out stuff I'd half recognised but dismissed as artsy pretension. I'll leave a passing reader to take a look at VC's article.

On the VC website sidebar I caught sight of one of the writer's other pieces, reviewing a movie we'd seen just a few nights earlier on HBO, Hide and Seek, 2005 movie starring Robert de Niro and Dakota Fanning. The story tells of a traumatised child who sees the results of her mother's apparent suicide. Neither of us had enjoyed the film much, thought it ridiculously contrived, but stayed with it to discover the ending - which revealed quite a twist neither of us had foreseen. Vigilant Citizen saw lots and lots more in the movie than we did. More symbolism than would fill a book in fact! Symbols of MK (as in MK-ultra) mind control and how it can be used in popular culture among other things.

There's no denying, once made aware, that symbols were present, in both Hide and Seek and in Metropolis. Were they put there, in the case of Metropolis, as artsy devices by a writer who had a genuine interest and some knowledge of occult practices; and in the case of Hide and Seek in an attempt to be superficially darkly edgy and "hip" 21st century style?

Vigilant Citizen discusses several other movies as well as some pieces of pop music and music videos with occult symbolism, and some "MK" in mind. After skimming a couple of these I began to experience a familiar rabbit-hole queasy sickness and retreated.

For any of stronger constitution there's more at The Fortean Times too: The Illuminati X-Factor.

Occult, and other, symbolism exists, of course it does. Occult symbolism has existed for thousands of years. Does it have any serious relevance today though, beyond pretentiousness in art, seeking to portray a knowledge of secret, dangerous, dark stuff that few are aware of? I suspect that, where any kind of symbolism is found in popular culture nowadays it stems mainly from affectation. In the case of Metropolis I'm not so sure. Fritz Lang was possibly making use in his film-making art of the symbols of one of his other interests - the occult. He was said to have had a definite fascination with aspects of the "dark arts".

On my way out of the rabbit hole I noticed a book for sale on E-bay ($400!!). Follow My Stars by astrologer Louis de Wohl, it is inscribed by the author to none other than... Fritz Lang.


mike said...

I've watched "Metropolis" numerous times...I find it to be tedious and it makes me feel uncomfortable! But, I suspect that's part of the plot to bring-out those feelings in the audience.

The "Vigilant Citizen" article was interesting...I hadn't noticed various current musicians-singers mimicking the movie. Madonna seems to have been particularly influenced.

A 1998 movie, "Dark City" has many nuances of "Metropolis". I enjoyed "Dark City" and always felt it didn't receive the credit it deserved. "Dark City" fits right in with the "Illuminati X-Factor" you linked!!!

From Wiki:
"Fritz Lang's 1927 movie Metropolis was a major influence on the film, showing through the architecture, concepts of the baseness of humans within a metropolis, and general tone. In one of the documentary shorts featured on the director's cut, the influence of the early German films M and Nosferatu are mentioned."


Hey, let's buy old astrology books, autograph them with famous signatures, and sell them on e-bay! Have you seen Jay Leno's recurring segments of "Sold or Not Sold"?...weird things found on e-bay and the audience guesses whether the item sold (and for how much) or not. Surprising what can fetch a good price.

ex-Chomp said...

Interesting post indeed

mike (again) said...

I went to the Wiki "Metropolis" page to see if "Dark City" was listed as being influenced by "Metropolis"...no it isn't listed.

While there, I noticed that there are lots of restorations with various sound tracks. You said TCM showed the 2010 restoration. If you look at Wiki, there are several possibilities. Do you know which you viewed?

I'm curious, because I probably saw the original that has missing footage. That footage was restored in an Argentine restoration, 2010. However, there are Kino restorations released in 2002 and 2010. Kino's versions contain title cards that explain events not shown (missing footage).


mike (again) said...

Never mind! I went to TCM:

Sound: Dolby Digital (1995 restored version), Silent (original release)

Distributions Co: Kino International\Virgin Vision, not available, Kino International/Virgin Vision, Kino International/Virgin Vision, Kino International/Virgin Vision

Production Co: .....Production Company, Giorgio Moroder Productions .....Production Company (1984), Deutsche Kinemathek .....Production Company (2001), .....Production Company, .....Production Company, Kino International .....Domestic Theatrical Distributor, Virgin Vision .....Domestic Theatrical Distributor, British Film Institute .....Foreign Theatrical Distributor, Warner Bros. Pictures International .....Foreign Theatrical Distributor

Twilight said...

mike ~ I haven't seen "Dark City" - found a VHS tape on ebay for 99c so will be seeing it soon (if the tape works!)

LOL - re the signed book - I'm sure a lot of that goes on. I wouldn't pay $400 for a book even if it were signed by Omar Khayyam. ;-)

mike(again)~ Oh - Dark City Wiki mentions it as an influence, along with several other influences, maybe the Wiki writer of "Metropolis" page didn't want to own any blame - or share plaudits - for "Dark City".

mike (again#2)

The restoration we saw was listed and introduced by Robert Osborne
as the most recent, 2010 one - and was marked so in the end credits.
Kino was marked in the credits too.

It still had some missing pieces, and some hazy scratchy frames, but most of it is crystal clear, and subtitles are, happily, translated into English.

Twilight said...

ex-Chomp ~ I'm pleased it was of interest.