Metropolis is a 1927 silent science fiction film directed by Fritz Lang and written by Lang and Thea von Harbou. Lang and von Harbou, who were married, wrote the screenplay in 1924, and published a novelization in 1926, before the film was released. Produced in Germany during a stable period of the Weimar Republic, Metropolis is set in a futuristic urban dystopia and examines a common science fiction theme of the day: the social crisis between workers and owners in capitalism. The film stars Alfred Abel as the leader of the city, Gustav Fröhlich as his son, who tries to mediate between the elite caste and the workers, Brigitte Helm as both the pure-at-heart worker Maria and the debased robot version of her, and Rudolf Klein-Rogge as the mad scientist who creates the robot.

Metropolis was produced in the Babelsberg Studios by Universum Film A.G. (UFA) and released in 1927 . The most expensive film of its time, it cost approximately 7 million Reichsmark to make. The film was cut substantially after its German premiere, and there have been several efforts to restore it, as well as rediscoveries of previously lost footage. The American copyright lapsed in Template:Fy, which eventually led to a proliferation of versions being released on video.

Plot Edit

There are multiple versions of Metropolis, all of which comprise various portions of the original, 153-minute 1927 cut (see "Release" section below). The plot description given here corresponds to the 2002 version released by the F. W. Murnau Foundation, the most complete cut that is currently available to the public.

Metropolis is set in the future, in the extraordinary Art Deco skyscrapers of a corporate city-state, the metropolis of the title. Society has been divided into two rigid groups: one of planners or thinkers, who live high above the earth in luxury, and another of workers who live underground laboring to sustain the lives of the privileged. The city is run by Johann 'Joh' Fredersen (Alfred Abel), whose son Freder (Gustav Fröhlich) becomes infatuated with a beautiful worker woman who ventures to the surface one day. Descending to the machine rooms in pursuit of her, he is shocked to see the workers' constant toil and exhaustion. An explosion at the enormous "M-Machine" shows him the callous treatment of the workers by the above-ground elite; before the dead and wounded can be taken away, fresh men must be brought in to replace them. He visualizes the M-Machine as Moloch, who consumes a never-ending sacrifice of bodies and lives.

Freder takes pity on a worker and trades places with him, then finds a map to an underground meeting room in the man's clothes. Here he finds Maria (Brigitte Helm), the woman he saw earlier aboveground. Maria urges the gathered workers not to revolt, but to wait for the arrival of a "Mediator" who can bridge the gap between the thinkers and workers. Freder is persuaded to join the cause, and Maria begins to believe that he may be the Mediator.

At the same time, Fredersen speaks with inventor C. A. Rotwang (Rudolf Klein-Rogge), an old colleague and romantic rival. Rotwang has built a Maschinenmensch, or Machine-Man - a robot on which he plans to bestow the appearance of Hel, a lover who left him for Fredersen and died giving birth to Freder. Fredersen shows Rotwang some more maps taken from the workers killed in the explosion; Rotwang leads him underground and the two eavesdrop on the workers' meeting. Seeing Maria, Fredersen persuades Rotwang to give the robot her face instead so that it can be used to sow discord among the men. Rotwang captures her and does as Fredersen asks, but with an ulterior motive: he will use the robot to deprive Fredersen of his son.

Seeing the robot-Maria with Fredersen, Freder collapses in a sudden delirium and must be taken home. As he lies in bed and the real Maria remains imprisoned in Rotwang's house, the robot performs as an exotic dancer in the decadent Yoshiwara nightclub, sparking widespread fights among the young men in attendance. Freder snaps out of his fever and realizes that the entire city is in danger, while the robot goads the workers into a full-scale rebellion and Maria breaks loose. Still intent on allowing the workers to destroy themselves, Fredersen calls Grot, the foreman of the "Heart Machine" (the main power station of Metropolis). After Grot opens its gates on Fredersen's orders, the workers and their wives destroy the Heart Machine, causing the reservoirs to burst and flood the workers' city farther below. After Freder and Grot are unable to stop them, Freder and Maria race down to the city and rescue all the children who have been left behind here.

Seeing the damage they have done and believing their children to be dead, the mob turns against Maria and chases her through the surface city streets. In the confusion, the real Maria slips away to the cathedral, while the mob captures the robot and burns her at the stake. Freder is aghast upon seeing this, but he and the workers soon learn that the burned woman was actually the duplicate. Rotwang chases Maria to the roof of the cathedral, with Freder in pursuit and a horrified Fredersen watching from the ground as the two men struggle. Eventually Rotwang falls to his death and Freder and Maria return to the street. Freder then fulfills his role as Mediator ("heart"), bringing Fredersen (the city's "head") and Grot (its "hands") together at last.

Cast Edit

Architecture and visual effects Edit

Metropolis features special effects and set designs that still impress modern audiences with their visual impact – the film contains cinematic and thematic links to German Expressionism, though the architecture as portrayed in the film appears based on contemporary Modernism and Art Deco. The latter, a brand-new style in Europe at the time, had not reached mass production yet and was considered an emblem of the bourgeois class, and similarly associated with the ruling class in the film.

Rotwang's Art Deco laboratory with its lights and industrial machinery is a forerunner of the Streamline Moderne style, highly influential on the look of Frankenstein-style laboratories of "mad scientists" in pop culture. When applied to science fiction, this style is sometimes called Raygun Gothic.

The effects expert, Eugen Schüfftan, created innovative visual displays widely acclaimed in following years. Among the effects used are miniatures of the city, a camera on a swing, and most notably, the so-called Schüfftan process,[1] in which mirrors are used to "place" actors inside miniature sets. This new technique was seen again just two years later in Alfred Hitchcock's film Blackmail (Template:Fy).

The Maschinenmensch, the robot character played by Brigitte Helm, was created by Walter Schultze-Mittendorf. A chance discovery of a sample of "plastic wood" (a pliable substance designed as wood-filler) allowed him to sculpt the costume like a suit of armour over a plaster cast of the actress. Spraypainted a mix of silver and bronze, it helped create some of the most memorable moments on film. Helm suffered greatly during the filming of these scenes wearing this rigid and uncomfortable costume, which cut and bruised her, but Fritz Lang insisted on her playing the part, even if nobody would know it was her.Template:Fact Walter Schulze-Mittendorf (Mittendorff), the sculptor, is still the owner of the copyrights for the Maschinenmensch – Robotdesign.Template:Fact

Release Edit

On January 10, 1927, a 153 minute version of the film premiered in Berlin with moderate success. The film was cut and re-edited to change many key elements before screening. After sound films came in in late 1927, theatre managers saw to it that the film was shown using a sound film projector at the standard sound film speed of up to 26 frames per second (as at its Berlin premiere). This affected the rhythm and pace of the original film, which had been made to be shown at the standard silent film speed of 16 frames per second. The butchered, sped-up version which was presented to European and American audiences in 1928 was disjointed and illogical in parts.[2]

American and foreign theatre managers were generally unwilling to allow more than ninety minutes to a feature in their program, during a period when film attendance figures were high. Metropolis suffered as the original version was thought to be too long. Few people outside of Berlin saw Metropolis as Fritz Lang originally intended. In the United States, the movie was shown in a version edited by the American playwright Channing Pollock, who almost completely obscured the original plot, considered too controversial by the American distributors, and is considerably shortened. In Germany, a version similar to Pollock's was shown on August 5.[2]

As a result of the edited versions, the original premiere cut eventually disappeared and a quarter of the original film was long believed to be lost forever.[3] In 2001, a new 75th anniversary restoration, commissioned by the Friedrich-Wilhelm-Murnau-Stiftung, was screened at the Berlin International Film Festival. This version, with a running time of 124 minutes, restored the original story line using stills and intertitles to bridge missing footage. It also added a soundtrack using the orchestral score originally composed by Gottfried Huppertz to go with the film. This restoration received the National Society of Film Critics Heritage Award for Restoration 2002.(ref: Koerber, Martin. Liner notes Kino Restored Authorized Edition, 2002) In June 2008, twenty to twenty-five minutes of lost footage were discovered in an archive of the Museum of Cinema in Buenos Aires, Argentina. It was believed this was a copy made of a print owned by a private collector, who brought the original cut to the country in 1928.[4]

Despite the film's later reputation, some contemporary critics panned it. The New York Times critic Mourdant Hall called it a "technical marvel with feet of clay". The Times went on the next month to publish a lengthy review by H. G. Wells who accused it of "foolishness, cliché, platitude, and muddlement about mechanical progress and progress in general." He faulted Metropolis for its premise that automation created drudgery rather than relieving it, wondered who was buying the machines' output if not the workers, and found parts of the story derivative of Shelley's Frankenstein, Karel Čapek's robot stories, and his own The Sleeper Awakes.

Joseph Goebbels was impressed however and clearly took the film's message to heart. In a speech of 1928 he noted: "The political bourgeoisie is about to leave the stage of history. In its place advance the oppressed producers of the head and hand, the forces of Labour, to begin their historical mission".[5]

Fritz Lang himself expressed dissatisfaction with the film. In an interview with Peter Bogdanovich (available in Who The Devil Made It...), he expressed his reservations.

The main thesis was Mrs. Von Harbou's, but I am at least 50 percent responsible because I did it. I was not so politically minded in those days as I am now. You cannot make a social-conscious picture in which you say that the intermediary between the hand and the brain is the heart. I mean, that's a fairy tale -- definitely. But I was very interested in machines. Anyway, I didn't like the picture -- thought it was silly and stupid -- then, when I saw the astronauts: what else are they but part of a machine? It's very hard to talk about pictures--should I say now that I like Metropolis because something I have seen in my imagination comes true, when I detested it after it was finished?
In his profile for Lang featured in the same book, which prefaces the interview, Bogdanovich suggested that Lang's distaste for his own film also stemmed from the Nazi party's fascination with the film. Von Harbou became a passionate member of the Nazi Party in 1933, and she and Lang divorced in 1934.

Restorations and re-releases Edit

Several restored versions (all of them missing varying amounts of footage) were released in the 1980s and 1990s, running for 90 minutes.

In 1984, a new restoration and edit of the film was compiled by Giorgio Moroder, a music producer who specialized in pop-rock soundtracks for motion pictures. Moroder’s version of the film introduced a new modern rock-and-roll soundtrack for the film. Although it restored a number of previously missing scenes and plot details from the original release, his version of the film runs to only 80 minutes in length, although this is mainly due to the original intertitles being replaced with subtitles, and being run at 24 frame/s. The “Moroder version” of Metropolis sparked heated debate among film buffs and fans, with outspoken critics and supporters of the film falling into equal camps. There have even been petitions to get the Moroder cut alongside the uncut version for future releases on DVD and Bluray.

Enno Patalas made an exhaustive attempt to restore the movie in 1986. This restoration was the most accurate for its time, thanks to the script and the musical score that had been discovered. The basis of Patalas' work was a copy in the Museum of Modern Art's collection.

The film fell into the United States public domain, but its copyright was restored in 1998.[6] The lawsuit Golan v. Gonzales unsuccessfully attempted to block Metropolis' copyright restoration.

The F.W. Murnau Foundation (which now owns the film's copyright) and Kino International (now the film's American distributor) released a 124-minute, digitally restored version in 2002, supervised by Martin Koerber. It included the original music score and title cards describing the action in the missing sequences. Lost clips were gleaned from museums and archives around the world, and computers were used to digitally clean each frame and repair minor defects. The original score was re-recorded with an orchestral ensemble. Many scenes had still not been recovered at that point and were considered lost. Among the missing scenes are the adventures of 11811, a worker who trades places with Freder; the Thin Man spying on Josephat; Maria's incarceration; Rotwang's gloating and her subsequent escape; and scenes which establish the longstanding rivalry between Joh Fredersen and Rotwang.

Most silent films were shot at speeds of between 16 and 20 frames per second, but the digitally restored version with soundtrack plays at the speed of 25 frames per second, which is the standard speed of PAL video (the US DVD is a conversion from PAL to NTSC). This speed often makes the action look unnaturally fast. A documentary on the Kino DVD edition states that Metropolis may have been filmed at 25 frames per second, but this is disputed. There have been reports stating that the world premiere of Metropolis was shown at 24 frame/s, but these, too, are unconfirmed. In the 1970s, the BBC prepared a version with electronic sound that ran at 18 frames per second and consequently had much more realistic-looking movement. Since there is no concrete evidence of Fritz Lang's wishes on this subject, it continues to be hotly debated within the silent film community.

Rediscovery Edit

On July 1, 2008, Berlin film experts announced that a 16 mm reduction negative of the original cut of the film, which runs over 210 minutes in length, had been discovered in the archives of the film museum Museo del Cine in Buenos Aires, Argentina.[7][8][9] The find has been authenticated by film experts working for ZEITmagazin. The print is badly scratched and will require considerable restoration before it is viewable.[10] On July 3, 2008 the film with many lost scenes restored was shown to journalists in Argentina.[11][12] The rights holders of Metropolis, the F.W. Murnau Stiftung, later confirmed that the newly discovered footage largely completes the missing footage, except for a single scene which was badly damaged due to being at a reel end, although the new footage is said to be in a “deplorable” condition. They announced in February 2009 that they had begun restoration work on the rediscovered film.[2]

Passed from film distributor, to private collector, to an Art Foundation since 1928, The Museo del Cine received the copy of Metropolis in 1992, where it stayed 'undiscovered' in their archives. After hearing an anecdote by the cinema club manager, who years before had been surprised by how long a screening of this film had taken, the curator of the Museo del Cine and the director of the film department of the Museum of Latin American Art reviewed the film and discovered the missing scenes.[13]

Online sources have reported that this footage will appear on a new DVD and Blu-ray to be released in Template:Fy.[14] However, it is yet unclear whether or not the footage will be released as an extra feature or will be fully integrated into the film. Given the damaged state of the film discovered in Buenos Aires, extensive restoration will likely be needed before the film can finally be viewed as it was during its original release in 1927. (minus the single scene that was too damaged to repair)

A possible 9.5mm copy of the movie was found in 2005 in the film archive of Universidad de Chile. The copy has been sent to Germany for verification.[15]

Another possible copy, located in New Zealand shortly after the restoration, was discovered but there has not been an update regarding its status.[16]

Music Edit

The original score Edit

Like many big budget films of the time, the original release of Metropolis had an original musical score meant to be performed by large orchestras accompanying the film in major theatres. The music was composed by Gottfried Huppertz, who had composed the original scores for Lang's Die Nibelungen films in 1924. For Metropolis Huppertz composed a leitmotific orchestral score which included many elements from the music of Richard Wagner and Richard Strauss, plus some mild modernism for the city of the workers and the use of the popular Dies Irae for some apocalyptic imagery. His music played a prominent role during the shooting of the film, since during principal photography many scenes were accompanied by him playing the piano to get a certain effect from the actors.

The score was rerecorded for the most recent DVD release of the film with Berndt Heller conducting the Rundfunksinfonieorchester Saarbrücken. It was the first release of the reasonably reconstructed movie accompanied by the music that was originally intended for it. In 2007 the original film score was also played live by the VCS Radio Symphony which accompanied the restored version of the film at Brenden Theatres in Vacaville, CA on August 1 & 2.[17]

Notes Edit


  1. Template:Citation
  2. 2.0 2.1 </span> </li>
  3. <cite web |url= |title= |accessmonthday= |accessyear= |last= |first= |date= |work= |publisher= > </li>
  4. Template:Cite news </li>
  5. Schoenbaum, David, Hitler’s Social Revolution: Class and Status in Nazi Germany 1933 – 1939, WW Norton and Company, (London 1997), p. 25. </li>
  6. Golan v. Ashcroft </li>
  7. Metropolis Reborn,, 2 July 2008 </li>
  8. Lost scenes of 'Metropolis' discovered in Argentina, The Local, 2 July 2008 </li>
  9. "Key scenes rediscovered", Zeit online, 2 July 2008. </li>
  10. <cite web |url= |title= |accessmonthday= |accessyear= |last= |first= |date= |work= |publisher= > </li>
  11. British Broadcasting Corporation's (BBC) teletext </li>
  12. [1] AP story via New York Times </li>
  13. ZEITmagazin article </li>
  14. <cite web |url= |title= |accessmonthday= |accessyear= |last= |first= |date= |work= |publisher= > </li>
  15. <cite web |url= |title= |accessmonthday= |accessyear= |last= |first= |date= |work= |publisher= > </li>
  16. </li>
  17. The Reporter, VCS to play live film score at screening review. July 25, 2007. </li></ol>

External links Edit