Metropolis (1927)

Metropolis (1927), directed by Fritz Lang.

This is the Kino "Complete Metropolis" with additional long-lost footage recently discovered in Argentina. The soundtrack is a new performance of the original orchestral accompaniment.

I remember the frame of the story most clearly: a future where the human race is on the verge of bifurcating into Morlocks and Eloi. The sensitive and excitable son of the Master of the city falls in love with a young woman of the workers and becomes a Mediator between the classes. A robot woman is deployed to ruin these plans.

That's the labor relations story, but there is more: love and jealously, technological hubris, a haunted house and mad scientist, secret believers in the catacombs beneath the city, the old biblical images returned.

The acting is exaggerated even by silent film standards. It's more like a pantomimed stage performance. German expressionism had its own methods.

I can't fit this vision into a political ideology. We have workers vs capitalists, but also a dread of the Machine, the return of religious faith, warnings against sexual license and technological arrogance, and against storming Heaven.

Influential and often visually quoted (see Blade Runner (1982)). Some colossal sets and a cast of thousands. The new footage tends to dilute the science fiction emphasis. There is much more about father and son, the Master's henchman, and night life in Metropolis. Whoever "lost" that footage didn't like the henchman at all.

The opening and closing segments are strong, but the long middle portion meanders and loses focus, even more so now. Originally I thought the film was about developing the Mediator to bring people together, but now I'm not sure what it's about.

Available on Blu-ray. Some of the scenes have striking detail for such an old source, but most of it shows it's age. I see some banding in a few of the backgrounds. The newly discovered segments are in very poor shape.

The Giorgio Moroder Presents Metropolis (1984) version is due on Blu-ray before the end of the year. I'm eager to see that again. The idea of putting a pop/rock score to Metropolis is a good one, although the choice of selections will always be an issue. Pop music is most often of transient interest and it's hard to know how it will sound after the passage of decades. We'll see.