A silent film from 1927, directed in Germany by the masterful Fritz Lang.
It is a science-fiction epic of outstanding prescience, with special effects way ahead of its time.
I first saw this as a teenager, at the National Film Theatre in London. Unconcerned about the fact it was silent, and the dialogue appears on old-fashioned cards between scenes, I was swept away by the visuals, and had to keep reminding myself that it was made before 1930.
A futuristic society where workers toil like automatons, living below ground, while the rich elite enjoy a champagne lifestyle of parties and indolence in the pleasure gardens and luxury skyscrapers above. Highways almost in the clouds, flying vehicles, robots, and androids, it has it all. Almost every science-fiction film made since has drawn on the influences of Lang’s vision of the future, including ‘The Fifth Element’, ‘Blade Runner’, and ‘Dark City’.
The story is almost secondary to the experience of watching this film, but it revolves around the attraction of the son of a rich industrialist to a poor working girl he encounters by chance. In his desire to find her, he ventures below ground, into the worker’s city. Here he encounters the terrible conditions first-hand, and is completely shocked by how they live, and their dangerous working environment.
Determined to change the cruel society, he changes places with one of the workers so he can help organise the resitance against the billionaire industrialists like his own father.
With no plot spoilers, I cannot reveal the outcome. However, I urge you to try to find this and watch it, avoiding at all costs the ‘colourized’ and edited version. I have not listed the cast members, as they will be unknown to most of us anyway. But I have found a full version of the film on You Tube, and I hope that will play for you wherever you happen to live.
Hard to believe now, but this film was a flop at the box office and lost a fortune for the backers.
Here’s a trailer.