Metropolis: The Movie

Remember way back when Madonna was still cool and she made the video “Express Yourself“? The grim images of workers slaving away in dark rooms in an expansive city were an homage to Metropolis, a silent film made in the 20s in Germany. A cinematic masterpiece, the special effects of Metropolis remain stunning 85 years later. What Madonna didn’t know was that years later, in 2008, lost footage of the film would be found in Argentina, allowing a more complete restoration. It was this version, accompanied by a live three-piece orchestra, The Alloy, that I had the pleasure of viewing at the Rose Theatre in Port Townsend.

Metropolis paints a dystopian picture that is relevant to today’s politics. A class system has workers devalued and living underground while the upper class lived and played without a care. Sound familiar? One blog, moviediva, examines the movie in the context of Germany of the 20s, with a severe depression that ultimately led to the rise of the Nazi party. It’s an interesting read. Unfortunately, unlike the benign and helpful “mediator” who was sought in the story (a savior archetype), the Germans ended up with Hitler.

From a personal standpoint, Metropolis can also represent the inner journey. The son of the aristocrat has a Buddha-like awakening while frolicking in his garden, when he is unexpectedly exposed to a group of impoverished children. Awakened to suffering, his personal journey takes him to the depths of the workers’ city, even becoming a worker himself — and in his personal growth, has the potential to change the world. I write a lot here about overcoming inner struggles, and this includes traveling to the greatest depths of our being in order to triumph.

One of the memorable characters in Metropolis is Marie, who is encouraging faith among the workers. The same actress plays another role in the movie, that of a robot made in her image to trick the workers. She follows instructions to incite them to violence; unfortunately for the workers, they do not realize that in their rebellion, they risk destroying themselves. The robot invites references to the Whore of Babylon, and perhaps can be relevant today in terms of the myth of woman as destructive temptress.

The tagline of the movie is “The mediator between the head and the hands must be the heart.” Though dismissed later by Lang himself as being silly, I think it’s true for all of us — as individuals and, collectively, as a society.

I’m unclear as to how Metropolis plays into the narrative in Madonna’s video, but oh, well. It was fun to watch it again with a greater understanding of the Metropolis references…and to tap my toes a bit.

Inuk: The Warming of Ice and Hearts

I am in the midst of reading a pile of books to figure out what to review next. In the meantime, I thought I’d write about a great movie I just saw!


In Greenland, ice matters. Unfortunately, there’s a lot less of it these days, and the Inuit hunters and fishermen struggle to eke out an existence, often having to change their routes to avoid thinning ice with its potentially fatal cracks.

Meanwhile, Inuk, a teen-aged boy, lives in the city. He had once lived a traditional life, but as a child he saw his father fall through the ice and die. He and his mother moved to the city, where she turned to alcohol to cope. Emotionally abandoned and uncared for, Inuk is taken from his mother and sent to the north to a children’s home, where he is re-introduced to the traditional ways. A hunting trip across the ice brings Inuk in contact with the great hunter Ikuma. Both deeply scarred, Inuk and Ikuma must work together in the harsh environment. As the film’s synopsis says, “the most difficult part of the journey is the one they must make within themselves.”

Inuk is not your average Hollywood fare. The actors are all natives of Greenland’s north country, including children from an actual children’s home and hunters who make their living from seals and fish. None had previous acting experience. Director Mike Magidson never directed a film before, either. And yet, the rich story is well-acted and conveys a country struggling with changes in both traditions and climate.

Having made the rounds of a number of film festivals, where it has gathered a number of awards, Inuk is preparing for its debut in 25 U.S. cities later this year. If you get a chance to catch this heart-warming story, please do.