Metropolis (Restored and Reconstructed)

Fritz Lang’s iconic 1927 Science Fiction movie Metropolis was severely edited a short time after its initial release, resulting in the loss of significant portions of the film, with the remaining edited film being disjointed and complete.

In 1998, a print of the original movie was discovered in a museum in Buenos Aires - it’s in poor condition, but it contains nearly all of the missing footage and of equal or greater importance, it means the original narrative and editing can be known.

So the footage was cleaned up a bit and the film reconstructed to be the way it was originally intended - almost completely.

I went to see it last night and it’s bloody fantastic. I’ve tried to watch it before in the edited version from DVD and found it too disjointed to follow, so I booked a ticket to see this restored/reconstructed release on the basis of its significance to the cinema scene, expecting to find it really hard work, but in its original version, it’s a great movie - fast-paced, gripping, edge-of-the-seat silent drama - thoroughly enjoyable and engaging.

Anyone else seen it yet?

Yeah, saw it back in July, a week before seeing Inception. Thought it was too long (sorry) and the music was bloody dreadful (not Lang’s fault) – but overall quite an experience.

2008, I think. I read somewhere that the first problem in the restoration was raising funds to fly the discovered copy to Germany. That old nitrate film stock is so flamable it needs very special handling to be shipped by air.

I saw it a few months ago. It’s an amazing movie just to look at; parts of it are very dated, and some parts still have not been surpassed (and many people have tried).

One difficulty I have with it is the behavior of the workers. We’re supposed to have sympathy for them, as the downtrodden masses of the society, but they become so unruly and stupid at the end that it kinda undercuts the sympathy. “Trash the machines!” “The city is flooded and our children are dead?” “Burn the witch!”

I wasn’t supposed to [spoiler] that, was I?

you’re right - 2008 :smack:

I didn’t find that part of the story out of keeping really - at that point in the story, everyone has supposedly been so deluded and deceived by the machine-man that only the main characters are still in control of their senses. I think the restored edit makes it a lot easier to simply accept the flow of the story as presented - previous versions kept yanking the viewer out of the story to read the intertitles describing the missing scenes.

One thing I thought was particularly good was that none of the technology was explained in detail. Indeed, the function and purpose of most of the machinery looks to have been purposely inscrutable - and for this reason, it’s almost timeless.

Let’s just note that the film has been restored several times over its history, each time adding back scenes that were cut out:

It appears that this time some scenes were added from a New Zealand print as well as from the Argentina print. It’s not clear if this is really a complete restoration of the film as originally shown or if there could be additional scenes not yet found.

I haven’t seen it, and want to. I have a copy of the last restoration, which is infinitely better than previous ones (although I’m apparently one of the few who loved Giorgio Moroder’s version). I used to try to avoid showing Metropolis when friends asked about it, back when I only had the old US copy, which is awful.
I felt the same way about the 1925 silent version of The Lost World when I got the reconstructed version. I’d always felt confused by the disjointed cut that was available before (even the relatively complete Eastman House version), but the version that came out about 10 years ago is about 95% complete, and the difference it makes is phenomenal.

I just saw it a week or so ago, when the MFA Houston was showing it. I’d never seen Metropolis before, but had heard how groundbreaking it was. The effects and look of the film blew me away, especially considering when it was made. It looks like the look of the 1936 Berlin Olympics were copied deliberately from “The Sports Palace” scene.

I loved the scene you mentioned, and I have to admit that I burst out laughing in the theater during it. Mainly because it’s such a cynical observation of mob behavior. I don’t think it’s too far-fetched though; a group of people swept up in a mob, and realizing their passions have smashed everything they’ve held dear, are not going to blame themselves. They’re going to look for any scapegoat they can find who can absolve them from their own stupidity.

And since Metropolis was evidently a favorite of the Nazi Party, it gives that scene even more delicious context. Watching a group of identically clad, abused workers marched into a machine for their sacrifice and death was also very moving for me, and really disturbing. The film was uncomfortably prescient.

If you like movies, and you haven’t seen it, you really should.

It was shown here in San Francisco in July with a full orchestra (not sure if the current viewings are with soundtrack or live music).

It was a riveting night with everyone on the edge of their seat. Stunning film and a great night.

I’m the other person in the world who likes the Moroder version … except for the odd colorization/color wash of complete scenes for ‘mood’

I ordered a copy of the restoration, just waiting for it to get here. I did get a copy of Testament of Dr Mabuse that I am watching in the interim.

Hey, it’s playing in Milwaukee later this month! I gotta get to see it!

Was that with the Clubfoot Klezmer Orchestra? They did regular showing of silent movies back a decade ago in the Bay Area - I saw Metropolis and Buster Keaton’s The General, I think…

…and yeah, Metropolis is a great movie - I would love to see this restored version…

The accompanying notes suggest there are still fragments missing. There is only one non-native descriptive intertitle card now - apart from that, the thing really flows well.
I’m sure the recently-discovered 16mm footage that has been used here could have been cleaned up and restored a lot more - because the scratches and marks on it are quite regular/periodic - but I think they took the creative decision not to overly rework the footage.

It’s not at all uncomfortable to watch the scratchy rediscovered bits - many of them don’t seem terribly significant shots, but there are whole scenes that are peppered with them, amongst better-quality original footage - but what the Argentina print has enabled is the proper sequence of action and story - and that’s where this restoration leaps so far ahead of the previous ones - the action and story just seems to flow properly here.

Seeing it on the big screen made a big difference to the experience too - I’ve only seen it on DVD before - and the version I’ve got is quite flat and washed out - not so with the latest restoration - it was really crisp with great tone and contrast.

No, the Alloy Orchestra.

It is playing in Hartford CT on Oct 30 … 3 days after my birthday, I know what I want for my birthday =)

I still have the CD soundtrack of Clubfoot’s Metropolis, which I prefer to Alloy’s version–though I, like FDH, was in the audience at the Silent Film Festival for the Lang screening, too. The Alloy’s score for Man with a Movie Camera is beyond phenomenal, though, and available on the DVD of the Vertov film.

And though the music isn’t live, this Metropolis is returning to SF at the Castro Theatre from 9/25-29.

Wow - I hope it makes it to Denmark soon! I’m almost as excited about this as I was about seeing the 4h version of Greed. That was a great experience and I’m sure Metropolis will be as well. Cool.

Should be going to see it tonight!

I saw the previous ‘restored’ version at the same cinema a few years ago, too…

Saw it with the Alloy orchestra at the Plaza Film Classic in August and was blown away, too.

It caused me to check out the biography on Lang. In real life he seems to be a real jerk. Oh, and he may have murdered his first wife. But he left a masterpiece that needs to be seen on the big screen (the robot woman–to me–is scary on the theater screen. Not so much on a small screen).

Saw it last night and was really impressed - but the period effects, mannerisms, and so on meant that some of the audience treated it like a comedy and laughed or sniggered at anything they thought looked funny. Kind of spoiled it for the rest of the audience.