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March 28, 2006

Woman in the Moon


Frau im Mond
Fritz Lang - 1929
Kino Video Region 1 DVD

Woman on the Moon seems to be ground zero for many of the cliches and story elements found in future science fiction films. The characters include a nutty old professor with unruly hair, a stowaway kid, and two guys in love with the same woman. The trip to the moon includes scenes of the space travellers adrift inside the space ship with no gravity, and confronting the fact that there is not enough oxygen for the voyage home to earth. Fritz Lang and Thea von Harbou not only anticipated some of the realities of space travel, but also plot points that would appear in such films as Destination Moon, Outland, Space Cowboys, and Stowaway to the Moon.

Lang and von Harbou also refer to the popular culture of the time. The boy, Gustav, who sneaks onto the rocket ship, has his dreams of space travel fueled by pulp literature. What is featured on the magazine cover is that the stories are by the author of Nick Carter adventures. The film's authors may be poking fun at themselves as Woman on the Moon is primarily a pulp adventure story. The first half of the film concerns a mysterious character, Walt Turner, who steals documents concerning moon travel and works on behalf of a cabal seeking monopoly of the moon's gold. The first half of the film, involving espionage and sabotage, thematically anticipates future Lang films, particularly Cloak and Dagger, as well as looking back at the previous year's Spies. In another future cliche,it is the professor who theorizes that there is gold on the moon, and Turner, who claims the gold for the cabal, who are destroyed by their greed.

If the story is trivial in the face of Metropolis, the film is visually consistent with other Lang films. Many of the shots incorporated geometric patterns, particularly rectangles. Doors and windows are used for framing devices. A scene shot in a cave literalizes the idea of the professor and Turner's own darkness. Gerda Maurus personifies the Teutonic ideal with her blonde hair and idealistic spirit, as the title character. At almost three hours, Woman on the Moon spends too much time on a story with little substance. When it comes to Fritz Lang's films, his best films concern down and dirty dealings on Earth.

Posted by peter at March 28, 2006 05:14 PM