Metropolis' First Son

The Happy Prince

Since I have always been a bookworm with a wide range of interest, I would not like determine a specific genre of literature on which my work is based.

 

So after my last models were based on contemporary literature of thriller, fantasy and horror novels, my latest work is now the adaption of a piece of classic literature: »Metropolis First Son«, which is a modern version of Oscar Wilde’s «The Happy Prince». The tragedy of Wildes beautiful fairy tale disturbed me when I was a child, its language enchanted me when I was a teenager and its intermediate tones give me more and more cause for reconsideration since I have become an adult.

 

Like many great stories, also this one begins quite small: …


 with a small migrant bird, that stops for a break on the statue of the «Happy Prince». The Prince – long gone from being happy since he has started watching the ubiquitous misery in the streets of his city persuades the young swallow to postpone his departure, to bring the gold and gemstones the statue is adorned with to the city's poorest. But although the swallow tirelessly distributes the treasures among the forgotten and abandoned of the city, this task seems to have no end. There is always another poor soul for whom he has to postpone his flight to his winter quarter, still another destiny to which one cannot turn a blind eye. And finally, the little swallow, who does not want to leave the beloved prince anyway, has missed her connection to the south and freezes to death at the feet of the statue.

The once so admired prince has now turned blind, grey and so unsightly that the high society is ashamed of him. So they bring him down from his pedestal and melt him down. Only his heart of lead won’t melt in the blast furnace and so it is finally thrown onto the same rubbish dump as the dead swallow.

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Like only a few other stories, Wilde’s fairy tale about the stone prince has gained in relevance for my life throughout the years. Its relevance has increased further, the more my own circumstances in life have changed and my attention began to focus more and more on story's side scenes. In polished poetic irony Wilde contrasts the struggle of two unequal friends with the backdrop of a superficial and incredibly cynical society, in which neither the efforts nor the tragic end of the two heroes are even noticed.

Much rather in evening dress the fine society philosophizes about the power of love, while only two streets away the impoverished seamstress is in despair of not even being able to give her seriously ill son the essential needs.
This social rupture is the real tragedy of this story.

Even though the outward form of my planned implementation had long been unclear, there was never any doubt that this contrast would be the central starting point of my interpretation.

Moving to Vienna, the concrete visual concept finally came to mind as if by itself. As a social worker in one of the most representative and imposing cities of Europe meant commuting between pomp and poverty, high-end boutiques and welfare stores. These contrasts became an omnipresent part of my everyday life and I realized that my version of the "Happy Prince" could only be realized in the shape of this ambivalent and dignified metropolis.

 

In planning so, I wanted to dare an experiment in sharpening my underlying concept by also referring to another timeless classic, which seemed to be most suitable for the implementation of the metropolitan look I had in mind: The cult film »Metropolis« by Fritz Lang. A visual mixture of both seemed to offer itself in terms of content, as both pieces are based on the same basic themes:

The two-class society, the segregation between the wealthy elite and the poor working class and finally the sheltered son of a rich house, who step by step becomes aware of these societal ills.

While Fritz Lang’s fictional city is based on New York City in the 1930s, my adaption of Metropolis shows the traits of my adopted hometown Vienna. Skyscrapers, Viennese secessionism and Wild’s central motives mix with details of the Danube Canal, Otto Wagner and 9th district.

By finishing the project of creating a personal, individual shape for this beloved fairytale a long term desire of mine could finally be realized (As always a look at the genesis and development of the project is available in the Work-in-Progress documentary). 

The result is my personal «Metropolis», where – just as in the original city the line between light and darkness is drawn right through the cityscape. As golden as the city appears to be in the autumn light, as desolately poverty and decay are reflected in its shadows.

 

On the line between light and dark, where misery and splendor meet, the «Happy Prince» is sitting on his pedestal in deep mourning.