The Ohio Theatre

Tonight I had the pleasure of watching the 1930s silent film Metropolis in Columbus’ old Ohio Theatre, built in 1928. The theatre is incredible – probably seats around 2000 or so, and is decorated to the nth degree inside.

ohio theatre

Perhaps 1000 were in attendance, all us having having paid the non-princely sum of $3.50 for the privilege. (Thieves, all of us.)

The Ohio Theatre is very rococo … detailed, rich, and elegant. This shows the upper balcony, where I was sitting, and part of the main floor seating. Apologies for the blurriness … it was fairly dark in there, and I had no tripod.

ohio theatre

This shot is from higher up in the balcony, and captures some of the wall relief a little better:

ohio theatre

One of the immense pleasures of going to see a ‘silent’ film is the organ accompaniment. The organ at Ohio Theatre is built into the walls and surrounds of the stage, and Clark Wilson played it tremendously during the three parts of the movie: the long prelude, the short intermezzo, and the fast and, well, furious, furioso.

ohio theatre

The film itself was intriguing as it blazed a trail for seminal pictures like Blade Runner in its dystopic vision of an industrial world. It was shot in Germany in 1928, and movies are still borrowing from its images. The 5th Element lifts a scene right out of this film, and many other past and recent science fiction movies owe something to this movie.

NOT, however, its sophomoric ending: the heart must be the mediator between the head and the hands. Exclamation mark, exclamation mark, in all caps, printed on the last frame of the movie. Ok, maybe I’ll take a Greek chorus instead, thanks very much.

And not the anti-Semitism that you can see lurking below the surface. Rotwang, the mad scientist who creates a robot that aides and abets a workers rebellion (that ends badly) gets blamed for everything. He is the only character who dies, and guess what: he happens to be a Jew (or an staunch Aryan with dark hair who really, really likes hanging Star of David motifs all over his creepy house).

It’s really kind of eery to see this movie today, knowing what happened in the 1940s, and realizing that this kind of imagery help pave the way for that kind of mass evil.

However, overall a wonderful evening – a step back in time. It’s interesting that a ‘silent’ movie seems to be a much more social experience than today’s movies, particularly in a theatre like this one. The live musical accompaniment, in this case organ, and the occasional applause, make it seem much more personal. It’s a shared experience in a way that few, if any, of today’s movies can provide.

I highly recomend it!