Thursday, June 23, 2011

Majestic 'Metropolis' Concept Art Shows the Future of Distopia

Thursday, June 23, 2011 - by Maurice Mitchell 0

I'm sharing some rare conceptual paintings done for the classic German science-fiction film Metropolis (1912) by Erich Kettelhut (Dr. Mabuse: The Gambler, U47 - Kapitänleutnant Prien). The visuals for Fritz Lang's film have inspired pretty much every film after it including Batman.

Directed by Fritz Lang. Starring Alfred Abel, Gustav Fröhlich, Rudolf Klein-Rogge.

Synopsis: "In a futuristic city sharply divided between the working class and the city planners, the son of the city's mastermind falls in love with a working class prophet who predicts the coming of a savior to mediate their differences."


A description of the scans is given by Michael Organ "The following page contains reproductions of a series of preliminary drawings prepared by Erich Kettelhut for the production of Metropolis. Kettelhut was one of the production team formed during 1924 to work with Fritz Lang and Thea von Harbou on developing the film and preparing it for shooting."

What's most interesting is to look back at the medium and see that most of these were paintings. Actual paintings. In an age were more and more concept art is generated on computers, its nice to look back and see the roots of the craft as an actual form of art.



1. Opening title of "Metropolis", sketch by Erich Kettelhut. (c) Filmmuseum Berlin - Deutsche Kinemathek. Sepia wash and colour drawing on paper. This image forms the basis for the original opening title graphic.



2. Dawn, oil and gouache on cardboard, 39 x 54.5 cm. Part of opening sequence. (c) Filmmuseum Berlin - Deutsche Kinemathek.


3. Cityscape for Metropolis, Version 1, ink on paper, 30.7 x 40.2 cm. (c) Filmmuseum Berlin - Deutsche Kinemathek.


4. Cityscape for Metropolis, Version 2, gouache on grey paper, 30 x 39 cm. (c) Filmmuseum Berlin - Deutsche Kinemathek.


5. City of the Sons, coloured pencil and grey wash on paper, 30.7 x 40.2 cm. (c) Filmmuseum Berlin - Deutsche Kinemathek.


6. Tower of Babel, oil on cardboard, 43.6 x 55.2 cm. (c) Filmmuseum Berlin - Deutsche Kinemathek.


7. 'Metropolis - Stadt von oben mit Turm Babel. Bild I.' City from Above with Tower of Babel, Image No.1, gouache on cardboard, 39.2 x 52.6 cm. (c) Filmmuseum Berlin - Deutsche Kinemathek.


8. 'Metropolis - Hall of the Machines: View from Above, gouache and coloured pencil on cardboard, 27.5 x 35.5 cm. (c) Filmmuseum Berlin - Deutsche Kinemathek.


9. In the Elevator, oil and gouache on cardboard, 31 x 41 cm. (c) Filmmuseum Berlin - Deutsche Kinemathek.



10. Underground city. (c) Filmmuseum Berlin - Deutsche Kinemathek.


11. Stadium, in City of the Sons complex. (c) Filmmuseum Berlin - Deutsche Kinemathek.

If you're going to live in a soulless German distopia devoid of feeling I can't think of a better place to do it.

You can watch the movie online for free at or the new DVD Metropolis (Restored Authorized Edition).

[Image source: barbaragambini.com]

About the Author

Maurice Mitchell
Lover of science fiction and art.

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