Thursday, November 11, 2010
Metropolis - Too Disturbingly On Target
I had never seen Metropolis - the Fritz Lang original. I knew what it was, sort of. I knew it was considered a classic and it's influenced many films that have come after it. I've seen some of those movies. What I didn't know that in 1927, it predicted much of what we have become.
I stumbled upon the restored version on television the other night midway through the film. I had no idea what it was until they went to a shot in the lab and I saw the "Man-Machine." I was then thoroughly hooked, as I've always been curious.
Do you know the plot?
The world is divided into Thinkers and Workers. Thinkers have ideas but no idea how to make them practical. Workers know how to run everything but have no idea what it's for.
There's a saintly young woman (who puts in hell of a performance in her first film) whose appearance is stolen so an evil machine can use the Workers' trust in the girl to make them destroy themselves.
Then there's the Messianic young man whose job is to "unite head and hands...with heart."
He has to act fast - the good girl's trying to keep the Workers' children safe from drowning but she can't do it alone.
The Matrix owes Metropolis a big fat thank you. So does Blade Runner.
It's a visual stunner, with art shots I haven't seen since Eisenstein's Ivan the Terrible. But it's much more than that. It's eerily close to modern reality.
It struck me last night as I made Jello. Seriously.
Jello was such an incredible convenience when I was a kid. A dessert that only required that you mix in water and let it chill. Now it seems like a big deal - we can buy it in little individual containers when we're making a treat for someone who's not feeling well.
Soup, too. It's so simple to make, yet we can get it in a can. Why bother?
Dinner? Order out. Go out. Or buy some pre-made pile of mystery ingredients that only requires heating or the addition of meat.
The final straw? There's a new ad for corn flakes. "Give your kids a warm breakfast!" How do you do that? Microwave some milk and pour it on their cereal.
Our lives have become so busy, so mechanized, so exhausting, that the thought of preparing a meal is something just too strenuous for many of us. It's got to be simple and fast. Yes, there are people who love to cook but it's more like a specialized hobby now than something we all do.
I'd love to slow down. I'd like to have the time and energy but when I get home at six and have another job that demands my attention within an hour or so, cooking just doesn't fit in the schedule. I have made a couple of meals in the past few days and it's really pleasant - but it's something that requires a conscious effort or I'll just fall into the "I'll heat up whatever's in the fridge" mode.
We're out of whack. We've lost that balance between work and our own time and even when we've on our few free precious hours, we've got our infernal email and blackberry for work to track us down and demand attention. And right now none of us can afford to demand that our free time be respected- we're lucky to be employed.
It's a puzzle and one I'm trying to untangle. But I refuse to concede that this new society is one I have to fall into step with. I'll march for now, but I'm looking for a path that leads elsewhere. The main road leads to Metropolis.