DM Haight

89 years ago today, director Fritz Lang and his wife, writer Thea von Harbou, were dressed to go to the premier of the most influential science fiction film of all time. On January 10th, 1927, at the Ufa-Palast am Zoo, film goers, critics, and film makers sat and watched a now lost version of Metropolis. It was a film that many considered technologically astounding—a feat that no one had accomplished on such a large scale. They watched as workers droned on tirelessly in the bowels of a city; stared at the transfixing gaze of Brigitte Helm; marveled at the effects and set pieces, viewing a film that would inspire film makers around the world for generations. The staunch German Expressionistic feel of the Art Deco design, coupled with vaudevillian performances on sets larger than we can conceive of today without the use of a computer. Those same people in the audience went on to say that the story was muddled, that the characters were uninspiring, and that the political message was a fairytale at best.

Metropolis–a film that is now considered a masterpiece of cinema, an obligatory piece of work for any cinephile, any film student, and anyone interested in cinema whatsoever—was recut several times for various releases. In the US it was stripped of its political message of proletariat power over the plebeian masses, thought too strongly representative of the ideological underpinnings of communism; as well it was adjusted for its “inappropriate content” to suit the sensors of the US and other territories. Eventually it was recut for German audiences as well, only 8 months after its initial release. Joseph Goebbels himself, the minister of propaganda of the Nazi party, found the film inspirational, putting the film under a dark shadow for even Lang himself, knowing the film would be of use to the Nazi party.

But Nazi Germany wasn’t the only body influenced by Metropolis. The Art Deco movement was on high display throughout Metropolis, to the point where we can even categorize it as an Art Deco film. With its ever increasing popularity, the art style of the film began to take hold of the world, sparking the Art Deco movement. Other features of the film include some of the first usages of miniature models to create cities, using mirrors to place people in those cities, and the use of new materials to provide better working conditions in the Maschinenmensch, the robotic suit of Brigitte Helm, designed by Walter Schulze-Mittendorff. The Maschinenmensch suit itself has since become an iconic image in the world of science fiction. Metropolis never fades from the consciousness of the world.

Come the 1970s restorations of the film’s original cut are being sought after. The historical value of what was a landmark work for cinema had risen. New restorations were created to help preserve the film, while a nearly unchanged, but damaged copy of the film is discovered in a film museum in Argentina at the Museo del Cine in 2008. With the help of this copy, and a few others found around the world, a 95% complete version of the film is crafted to match the original, uncut version, with only a few scenes and minutes still misplaced. Thus the search continues.

Below we have included a link to a copy of Metropolis with a more contemporary score from The New Pollutants, free of charge to view. We hope you enjoy the story of a boy who finds that the world he lives above is far more complex and troubling than he could imagine. Stare deep into the eyes of the Maschinenmensch and find yourself transfixed. See how a desperate underworld can be overturned and set ablaze with the words of one girl and the story of power, greed, and men trying to be gods.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published.