Me­trop­o­lis: The past, the fu­ture and the present

Mizzima Business Weekly - - CONTENTS - Jaiden Coo­nan

Yan­gon’s ag­ing so­cial­ist throw­back na­tional theatre, draped in age and mold, drew a crowd re­cently for a spe­cial event - the screen­ing of Ger­man di­rec­tor Fritz Lang’s “Me­trop­o­lis.”

Fritz Lang died in ob­scu­rity in Hol­ly­wood as his mas­ter­piece nearly did in Ar­gentina, but thank­fully the crafts­man­ship of oth­ers al­lowed “Me­trop­o­lis” to be re­stored close to its orig­i­nal length and the score bought to the au­di­ence of Yan­gon by two amaz­ing live pi­anist per­form­ers who tick­led the ivory for two and half hours.

The film de­picts a post-rev­o­lu­tion­ary world where in­dus­tri­al­ist Joh Fred­er­sen is the ar­chi­tect of a glo­ri­ous and re­al­is­tic fu­ture “Me­trop­o­lis”, which many from the Yan­gon’s ex­pat com­mu­nity might com­pare to Bangkok af­ter their 70-day to 6-month jaunt in Myan­mar. Un­der­neath the sur­face of the city the labour work­ers co-ex­ist in the daily grind of ten hours a day main­tain­ing the bal­ance of the Me­trop­o­lis and help­ing pave the way of the fu­ture.

Joh’s son, Freder, is torn from his ide­al­is­tic Eden by a young work­ing class girl called Maria who brings forth other work­ers’ chil­dren to show this rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the higher class the con­di­tions of their ‘broth­ers.’ This awak­en­ing leads Freder into the hid­den work­ing ar­eas to dis­cover the hor­rors of those not born into wealth. Af­ter wit­ness­ing death, he rushes to find

his fa­ther to re­port on what he has dis­cov­ered.

This is the set­ting of the 1926 clas­sic that pits the work­ing class against the higher so­ci­ety as there is ‘no heart’ to draw the head and the hands to­gether. This movie clas­sic is con­sid­ered the be­gin­ning of science fic­tion films, with spe­cial ef­fects brand new for its time and go­ing on to in­spire Al­fred Hitch­cock, as well as many later science fic­tion films such as Star Wars’ C3PO, which has a sim­i­lar build to Rot­wang’s ‘Hel’ and the me­trop­o­lis de­picted in Blade Run­ner.

This piece of art was spon­sored by the Goethe In­sti­tute’s 2015 Mem­ory film fes­ti­val that saw a col- lec­tion of Burmese and in­ter­na­tional clas­sics grac­ing Yan­gon’s cine­mas. The event marked the end of the sec­ond to last day of the fes­ti­val that bought ac­tress Michelle Yeoh who is known for her role as Aung San Suu Kyi in the movie, “The Lady.”

It is com­fort­ing to see such clas­sics which dis­play class strug­gle, abuse of power and ig­no­rance of work­ing so­ci­ety in a venue in Yan­gon. Myan­mar would ap­pear to have changed dra­mat­i­cally given that Ge­orge Or­well’s clas­sic “1984” – sim­i­lar in na­ture to “Me­trop­o­lis” - is banned in Thai­land.

Me­trop­o­lis pro­vides a gold mine for those keen on film trivia. For starters, the film is de­picts the year 2026, 100 years af­ter film­ing. The cast of chil­dren seen scram­bling from the flood wa­ters to­wards the end of the film were all re­cruited from a Ber­lin slum. If you would like to dig deeper there are even re­li­gious con­no­ta­tions linked to the tower of Ba­bel that was crafted from a 15th cen­tury paint­ing de­pict­ing the tower of Ba­bel from the Book of Ge­n­e­sis.

Re­gard­less of how you would choose to in­ter­pret the film or its ar­guably fem­i­nist sub­text, it was lapped up by the au­di­ence, prompt­ing a stand­ing ova­tion for the liv­ing artists who pro­vided the mu­si­cal score.

It is com­fort­ing to see such clas­sics which dis­play

class strug­gle, abuse of power and ig­no­rance of work­ing so­ci­ety in a venue in Yan­gon.

Fritz Lang on the Me­trop­o­lis film set.

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