METROPOLIS original poster
METROPOLIS original poster


It seems at first that there would little connection between Shanghai and a 1927 German movie. However, METROPOLIS is not just any German movie and it is strongly linked with both Old and New Shanghai.

The link with New Shanghai is probably the clearest. First shown in 1927, METROPOLIS displays a city of the future, with giant skyscrapers dominating the sky and cars driving on bridges suspended in the air. Watching the first part of the movie, it impossible not to connect it with Lujiazui and its forest of world class skyscrapers.

The Babel Tower of METROPOLIS
Babel Tower

The bridges are also very similar with the knots of the elevated motorways that criss-cross Shanghai. Fritz Lang, METROPOLIS’ director imagined his city after seeing New York, but the result is really similar to some parts of today’s Shanghai. Fritz Lang and his team developed a number of revolutionary techniques and special effects for this movie, best shown in the scenes displaying the city itself and the one of the transformation of the robot. They also developed visions of futuristic architectures as well as transportation and communication devices such as video communication that only became reality a few years ago. The movie has inspired generations of artists with numerous records, cartoons and movies quoting it as a source, including a Japanese animated movie and science-fiction icon Blade Runner.

Art Deco door frame in METROPOLIS
Art Deco door frame

Metropolis was very successful and its Art Deco design and costumes definitely helped spreading the style. It then nearly disappeared with several restoration before being released again in 2010. One of the best example is surely this door frame, very similar to the (now disappeared) one in Shanghai children hospital on Beijing Lu. Another scene has the hero sleeping in a bed with a half pentagonal bed frame (I could not find any picture of it online).

Maria's costume
Maria’s costume

Similarly, Maria’s costume in one of the scenes (see next picture) is quite typical of the 1920’s and of similar to some of the sculptures found in the ballroom of the Cercle Sportif Français.

Movie theater were very popular in Old Shanghai, with many of them built in the city (some still being used). It is highly likely that METROPOLIS was shown in Shanghai after its success in the USA, influencing viewers of this master piece just like everywhere in the world.

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