On Sunday, the 12th of October, 1924, the Deutschland German transatlantic moored in a wharf of the West Side of Manhattan, between his passengers they were the Erich Mendelsohn architect and the filmmakers Erich Pommer and Fritz Lang, , apparently, it annotated the latter in his diary that it had seen
«a street, illuminated, as if it was by day, for neons, all of them aggressive, changing constant, igniting and going out, giant spirals, immense advertising labels».
Some years later, Lang was thinking about this vision:
«all this, then, was completely new and almost magic for the European visitor. The impression that made me gave to me the first intuition of the future city»
And in addition he wrote:
«the skyscrapers almost seemed not to have gravity, as a great luxurious cap that hangs of the sky to dazzle ourselves, to get embarrassed, to hypnotize ourselves. By night the city had an impression of unreal life; it was living since the illusions live».
The photographies that it took show an illuminated city, an effect that in addition it multiplied on having realized double exhibitions, and he confessed:
«the sight of New York by night is a sufficiently vigorous beacon of beauty to be the principal attraction of a movie… There are sparkles of red and blue and shining white, green shrillly… streets full of mobile, changeable lights, spirals, and in the high thing on the cars and high trains, the skyscrapers appear in blue and gold, white and purple, and even higher there are announcements eclipsing to the stars with his light»
And a lot of time later Lang declared:
«there I conceived Metropolis».
In the leaflet of a DVD of Metropolis, edited by the arquia foundation, I wrote on Lang’s impressions that
«a contemporary city, though stranger for him, amazes him so much that imagines the great city of the future. The European falls down fascinated before New York, since it could to an African aborigen have happened before to the Berlin where in those days Lang was living»
and since then it had clear that really,
«If Fritz Lang conceived something in New York was the aspect that should have the city of his next movie, since in June, 1924 he and his wife, Thea Von Harbou, already had finished the script of Metropolis».
Thanks to Patrick MacGiligan and his book Fritz Lang: The Nature of the Beast, knows that Lang was, for saying it without hurting susceptibilities, the prone to fantasizing one and that, for example, the famous adventure of his hurried flight of the Germany Nazi, after meeting Goebbels, is completely false. Having this in goatish account to wonder if also there would be false his affirmation of which he conceived Metropolis when he contemplated New York.
In the American magazines of the epoch dedicated to the cinema, enough news was published on the trip of Lang and Erich Pommer. The only indication that one has found for the present, is a column that was published in the first page of the Film Daily on October 14, in that is said that
En las revistas estadounidenses de la época dedicadas al cine, se publicaron bastantes noticias sobre el viaje de Lang y Erich Pommer. El único indicio que se ha encontrado por ahora, es una columna que se publicó en la primera página del Film Daily el 14 de octubre, en la que se dice que
«This Lang still tremendously impressed with New York. His ship moored in the night, allowing him a sight of the city from the port. The recollection still persists. His new movie will be “The metropolis” [sic] and because of it it is eager to take New York as a bottom».
This note cannot justify said by Lang, especially, because his affirmation is very subjective, but yes it makes think that since then the director was creating another legend that has come out.
A last note. In quite this ” architectural conception ” of Metropolis one forgets his royal creator – or at least one of them with Otto Hunte and Karl Vollbrecht-, to the marvellous cinematographic set designer Erich Kettelhut, whose drawings have survived and they could turn in the Filmmuseum Berlin, though also it was necessary to ask him if it did them before the filming of the movie or later, which is completely essential to value his importance for the visual aspect of Metrópolis.
Jorge Gorostiza, PhD architect. Author of the blog Arquitectura+Cine+Ciudad
Santa Cruz de Tenerife, september 2017