Woman in the Moon (Germany, 1929):
(Frau im Mond)

After the fevered prophecies of Metropolis, 21st-century dystopia for Fritz Lang became ingrained into the here-and-now of the Weimar Republic, for, like Godard with Alphaville, the director saw the future as already happening. The outstretched arm of ambition (not the "never," just the "not yet") aims for outer space, though the picture’s journey to the moon remains at least partly an escape from the pains of the world towards a still-unpolluted orb -- typically, the space trip is orchestrated by Mabuse-lite forces, headed by a cabal of industrialists and represented by Fritz Rasp’s effete disguise-master, equipped with slicked-down Hitler mop. Rasp’s on-hand for intrigue aboard the rocket ship, not that the crew needs any more, though, with the triangle of head navigator Willy Fritsch and engaged scientists Gerda Maurus and Gustav von Wangenheim already supplying plenty paranoia to simmer well before the lunar arrival. As opposed to the furious ellipsis of Spies, the launchpad countdown does not arrive until after the midway point, Lang’s intro leisurely laying in human detail to contrast with the sense of dwarfing technology to follow -- the three-legged chair in professor Klaus Pohl’s flat or the preparation of a sandwich warrant as much attention as the dazzling revolving craters and jagged, bubbling caves of the moon. Their landing locates not just gold but oxygen and water, to say nothing of the characters’ darkening fears, greed, jealousy and assorted weaknesses; yet the journey might just as well be filtered through the eyes of young stowaway Gustl Gstettenbaur, whose love of comic-book sci-fi finds a visual nod in Lang’s childlike FX, a Méliès line tracing the rocket’s trajectory or an Eureka!-cry bouncing off walls via cartoon-titles. The interaction between humans and machines points more to 2001: A Space Odyssey or Mission to Mars than to Destination Moon or ‘50s sci-fi, culminating in one of Lang’s most hopeful endings -- a lyrical literalization of the title, the renewal of life cycle amid the barrenness. Story by Thea von Harbou. In black and white.

--- Fernando F. Croce

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