The Cathedral of Cinema: Fritz Lang's ‘Metropolis'
Professor Mark Haxthausen, Robert Sterling Clark Professor of Art History at Williams College, USA
Co-presented with The Power Institute
Noted historian of German modernism, Mark Haxthausen will present his lecture titled The Cathedral of Cinema: Fritz Lang's ‘Metropolis’, exploring the cathedral as a figure of the gothic imagination in Fritz Lang’s epoch-making film.
From Wilhelm Worringer's Form in Gothic (1911) to Walter Gropius's "Bauhaus Proclamation" (1919), the Gothic was a central trope of the "expressionist" movement in painting, sculpture, and architecture. For many German artists and intellectuals of this era the Gothic cathedral signified not only a lost social and cultural harmony that they longed to restore, but also an integration of the fine and applied arts with architecture in the service of collective belief.
These ideas also had currency among certain members of the German film industry during the 1920s. The Gothic cathedral in Fritz Lang's futuristic film Metropolis (1927) is arguably the richest example of the adoption of this expressionist myth in Weimar cinema. Lang scholar Tom Gunning (2000) has even proposed that, "the collision between the Gothic and the modern" constitutes "the true conflict in Metropolis." Yet no one has adequately examined the implications of Lang's use of this trope within the larger contemporary discourse on the Gothic. In this paper Haxthausen argues that in Metropolis, Lang emblematically used the cathedral not only as the site for the film's naive message of familial and social reconciliation, but also to suggest that film, rather than traditional visual media, had evolved to be the most effective medium for realizing the expressionist agenda of artistic, cultural, and social reintegration.
Professor Mark Haxthausen is the Robert Sterling Clark Professor of Art History at Williams College, in Massachusetts. Haxthausen’s teaching and research focus on modern and contemporary European art, with an emphasis on Germany. Specifically, the painters Paul Klee, Max Beckmann, Sigmar Polke, the critics Carl Einstein and Walter Benjamin and the German Dada movement. He is the author of many books and studies on Paul Klee, German expressionism, and recently, Carl Einstein.