Sunday 31 October 2010

Metropolis Movie review

Metropolis - 1927
Director - Fritz Lang

Plot summary/review:
Set in the not too distant future, the people of the city of Metropolis are divided into two. The thinkers or upper class live in the cities towering sky scrapers and blossoming streets, and the workers or lower class, have a slavish lifestyle, dwelling in the cities under belly keeping the machines running.

The sets, miniatures and cell paintings are outstanding, the art-deco inspired skyscrapers are remarkably detailed right down to the busy hustle of the adjoining motorways and planes zooming between buildings. In stark contrast, the lower levels are dark and gloomy, with huge mechanical set pieces and monotonous workers. The scale of this movie would be impressive even by todays standards, let alone in 1927.

Nick Hilditch
BBC review - 17th April 2002

"With its immense sets and stark lighting, the workers' city is a credible image of hell, while the overground landscapes were a seminal influence on all subsequent science fiction."

The protagonist of the movie comes in the form of Freder, the son of the mastermind of Metropolis, Joh Frederson. Freder is ignorant to the inner workings of the city, living in paradise like gardens, surrounded by women and wealth. One day, Marie, a prophet of some sorts enters the gardens with poverty stricken children, claiming they are the brothers of the wealthy. Freder is captivated by her following as she is forcibly removed. He then discovers first hand the horrible conditions the workers suffer.

Freder pleas to his father who snobbishly dismisses him and subsequently has Freder followed by "The Thin Man" to keep an eye on him. Meanwhile, Joh seeks the help of another mastermind of metropolis, Rotwang the inventor, who we discover was in love with Joh's wife and Freder's mother. He show's off his new invention, a robot who has built in the image of his deceased love.

Freder goes in search of Marie after switching costumes with a common worker. Marie preaches to the workers that they will be saved by a "mediator" who comes from the thinkers. The message throughout the film "between the brain and the hands is the heart" is personified by Freder. Joh Freder convinces Rotwang to use his robot in the form of Marie to try and cull the uprising of the workers. Rotwang instead uses the robot to lead a resistance against the rich and the powerful.

The city falls into chaos with the machines exploding and the streets flooding with water. Freder and Marie save the trapped children from drowning and the workers burn the robot in the guise of Marie. Rotwang also meets his demise by the hands of Freder, falling from one of the sky scrapers.

A.O Scott
New York Times review - 12th July 2002

"On Jan. 10, 1927, Fritz Lang's ''Metropolis,'' a wildly ambitious, hugely expensive science fiction allegory of filial revolt, romantic love, alienated labor and dehumanizing technology opened at the Ufa Palast theater in Berlin. Lang's film, of course, went on to become one of the touchstones of 20th-century cinema, exhaustively studied and endlessly imitated, but apart from its brief theatrical run in Berlin and Nuremberg 75 years ago, the movie as Lang made it has never really been seen."

I extremely enjoyed this movie even though it is another silent film, the visuals more than make up for the lack of dialogue. It is a technical triumph and no doubt the inspiration for many science fiction, fantasy films since. It tackles strong subjects from class segregation to feminist issues and is a landmark in German expressionism.

Philip French
Observer review - 30th May 2007

"Stanley Kubrick, Ridley Scott, George Lucas and other socially concerned artists imagining the future are indebted to Lang"

Wednesday 27 October 2010

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari movie review

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari - 1920
Director Robert Wiene

Plot summary/review:
Widely considered as the first ever horror film, it follows a man called Francis telling an old man about his story of a travelling Dr. who exhibits Cesare, a somnabulist (sleepwalker) who can predict the future. When Francis and his friend Alan and his wife, Jane, visit the fair, the somnabulist predicts Alan will be murdered before the morning sunrise.

The crime subsequently comes true and the town is gripped with fear as other grizzly murders take place. Francis suspects the somnabulist who is relentlessy guarded by Dr. Caligari. After the authorities realise they have arrested the wrong man, they pursue Dr. Caligari and discover he is guarding a dummy while the Somnabulist is trying to abduct Jane. Cesare is chased and ultimately dies.

Francis follows Dr. Caligari to a mental hospital, however, none of the staff recognize the name as a listed patient. Francis is taken to see the director of the hospital who indeed turns out to be Dr. Caligari himself. Francis returns with the Police, when they investigate the Directors office they find notes on an old tale of a Caligari who used to hypnotize somnabulists to murder at his command.

We return to the start of the film with Francis still takling to the old man. As they walk into another room, they discover Dr. Caligari with Jane and the Somnabulist. In a U-turn I wasn't expecting, it turns out that Francis is a patient at the hospital and he has manifested the fictional character of Dr. Caligari.

This film is clearly heavily influenced by the expressionist movement. As environments and concept worlds are the subject of our next project, I was keen to see what this film had to offer. I was flummoxed by the first scene where we find Francis talking to the old man in a surprisingly normal setting, the only strange element is the wandering, emotionless women. But when we move into the flashback scenes, the movie set pieces dramatically change. Perhaps this should have been my first clue that what we were seeing, was an insight into Francis' fractured mind?

Nick Hilditch
BBC review - 1st March 2001

"While Hollywood was honing its storytelling technique with the evolution of its own brand of realism, Germany was originating an entirely expressionistic cinema that would influence film noir, science fiction, horror, and the likes of Tim Burton and Terry Gilliam."

The surroundings have a strange distorted, almost painting look to them. Dr. Caligari's caravan home seems barely big enough to fit a person from the outside, but when we cut to scenes inside it, there is ample room. The heavy contrast of dark and light is evident throughout, even in the make-up of the characters, screaming expressionism.

Jeffrey M. Anderson
Combustible Celluloid review - 1st November 2004

"A landmark of Expressionist cinema and contains many dazzling set pieces."

I was pleasantly surprised with this film, especially with the dramatic twist at the end. If ever there was evidence that movie making is a form of art, this film is undoubtably a candidate. When the credits were rolling I couldn't help but think of it as a 1920's version of Scorsese's Shutter Island.

Catherine Bray
FilmFour review - 26th August 2010

"With a zombie-like killer and twist-in-the-tale this anticipates everything from psychological thrillers to stalk 'n' slash."

'Space' Essay Brainstorm

I have a new essay brief, which is as follows:

"1,500 word written assignment analysing critically the production design of one film/computer game."

I knew straight away which film I was going to choose and since we are watching the original I thought I would go with...........

...... it is, of course, Peter Jackson's King Kong! I chose this film for obvious reasons involving the creation of "Skull Island" and the overlooked "other" World they created, 1930's New York.

I can't wait to "analyse" the production of these two worlds! Already gathering my source material from the library.

Wednesday 6 October 2010

Maya Workshop

Dice Project- Week 1

Been great to finally get my hands on Maya and start my first project. Although I have used it before, it's really nice to refresh myself on the basics. Our first project was to model, texture, render some dice. Here's my results.

I made an extra transparancy map from the colour map texture and mapped it to the transparency channel for some interesting affects. I also animated the dice on some frames moving/rotating and fiddled with the 2D motion blur to make it appear as if the dice have been thrown.

Pen, Magnifying glass and Fan - Week 2

Here's some render passes of my pen. I changed the model slightly by modelling a different nib with a ball point. I tried to use a ramp texture mixed with blue and gold to get the effect of ink around the ball. Not very clear, need to light it better?

I modelled the handle of the magnifying glass slightly different to the tutorial. I tried to emphasise the grip for the thumb.

Had alot of fun with the fan. New tip learnt: drawing a curve with CV curve tool: create a polygon cylinder: select cap faces: shift select curve: extrude and adjust offset. Used to create the protective bars. I animated the blades and the head also.

Here's a playblast of a simple animation. I moved the pivot of the head group to the centre of the stand aswell as animating the blades around their axis. I'm going to batch render this when I get Premire Pro or After effects up and running and cycle the animation.

Lighting - Week 3
1 Point lighting

Alan has given us some scene files to practice different lighting techniques:

Front lighting

Before, default lighting.

After, with planar lighting and a blurred picture of London mapped to the colour channel.

Rear Lighting

Note to self: shift select the rear light and the geometry not to be affected by a light source! Took me 20 minutes to figure that one out!

2 Point Lighting

3 Point Lighting


Default Lighting.

Early Morning.


Night time.



Fire cast.

Robot Animation

The first time I have used the script editor to animate! It walks!!

Rocket Animation

LOOK! Up in the sky!!

Common Shaders

Deafult shading:








Glow with no material

Poker Chips

Whisky Bottle

Detectives Desk