Tuesday, March 27, 2007

Seek the source, confirm the context

I viewed and thoroughly enjoyed Fritz Lang's 1928 silent film "Spies" this weekend. But this post isn't about my viewing habits –- it's about what happened next.

Long-time readers know that I greatly admire Lang's "Metropolis," although it's something of a narrative mess.

I'd read reviews about how "Metropolis" fit into Lang's ouvre, but I wanted to see his work for myself, rather than rely on the judgement of others. And seeking the source came with rewards. I found "Woman in the Moon" and "Spies" compelling viewing, and well worth the time investment.

And after watching "Spies," I could begin to appreciate Lang's story-telling ability. All three movies mentioned above shared many similarities. Although all had an original running time of over two hours, the narratives seldom flagged and the subplots had time to fully develop and help support the main story.

I now have a context in which to place "Metropolis," and can see how the ruthlessly edited version that survives only hints at the power of the original.

And that's the point. Regardless of what the subject is, going back to the source materials can bring additional insights. And only by placing something in context can it be fully appreciated.

Yesterday the DVD was mailed back to Netflix, but I'm still processing what I saw and reevaluating what I know about Lang's work.