Academic journal article German Quarterly

Fritz Lang's Metropolis: Cinematic Visions of Technology and Fear

Academic journal article German Quarterly

Fritz Lang's Metropolis: Cinematic Visions of Technology and Fear

Article excerpt

Minden, Michael, and Holger Bachmann, eds. Fritz Lang's Metropolis: Cinematic Visions of Technology and Fear. Rochester: Camden House, 2000. $65.00 hardcover.

Weimar cinema continues to be associated with films that give rise both to symptomatic readings of Weimar culture and society and to more theoretical inquiries into the gendered relationship among narrative, spectacle, and visual pleasure. First Robert Wiene's Caligari (1920) was examined in The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari: Texts, Contexts, Histories (1990), a collection of essays edited by Michael Budd. Now Fritz Lang's Metropolis (1927) has inspired a similar anthology put together by Michael Minden and Holger Bachmann. Their selection of materials is representative of New Film History and its simultaneous commitment to the archeological endeavors that challenge or modify established readings and the critical debates that shed light on a film's historical and contemporary relevance. Few films could be more suited to such a double reading than Lang's most famous work, a big-budget UFA production and commercial failure at the time, but also one of the most fascinating contributions by a filmmaker to utopian thought, the technological imagination, and what Tom Gunning has called "allegories of vision and modernity."

Minden and Bachmann's Metropolis anthology is divided into four parts. The editors lay the foundation by giving a historical overview of the film's conditions of production and reception and a brief summary of the scholarly articles that respond, in one way or another, to Siegfried Kracauer's From Caligari to Hitler. The first part brings together production reports, excepts from the novel and screenplay, and critical reviews attesting to the film's less than enthusiastic reception, including in foreign markets. In the second part, Enno Patalas, Thomas Elsaesser, and Giorgio Bertellini use the various versions both to shed light on the film's ongoing metamorphoses and to reflect on the theoretical and historiographical implications of film restoration. The third part reprints four influential readings of Metropolis, from Alan William's Greimasian analysis of structures of narrativity and their relevance to meaning production and Andreas Huyssen's by now classic essay on "The Vamp and the Machine" to R. …

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