Review: ‘Metropolis’ (1927)

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Film International, Vol 9, No.6 (Jan 2012)

Metropolis is both an extravagant cinematic sci-fi classic and a cautionary tale about the whims of commercial taste: it cost 5 million Reichsmarks (approximately $200 million today) and it has directly influenced other classic films such as Blade Runner (1982) and Star Wars (1977); yet following Metropoliss initial box office failure in 1927, the film was rigorously re-edited by American distributors to become more palatable and profitable.

Famously, because of this pruning, 25 minutes of footage became lost to the world as the American edit quickly became the standard release worldwide. All restoration attempts since then, culminating in the impressively meticulous 2002 release by the F.W. Murnau Foundatio, have primarily focused on amalgamating and cleaning up the surviving footage and restoring the original continuity with blank screens and white text describing the many missing moments in the narrative.

However, in 2008 a discovery was made in the Museo del Cine, Buenos Aires. Amongst the hundreds of cans of distressed 16mm film that had been gifted them by a film enthusiast, an unaltered copy of the original 1927 German release was found – a ‘Holy Grail’ to many cineastes. The version of Metropolis presented in the DVD reviewed here combines the 2002 edit with the 25 minutes of previously lost footage from Argentina to show for the first time a version of Metropolis that most accurately represents what Lang managed to only briefly screen for audiences in 1927.

Metropolis depicts a divided dystopian society where hundreds of thousands of workers with shaved heads and low spirits drudgingly serve the subterranean M-Machine whilst above ground the elite ruling society cavort and delight in the bliss of their halcyon lives…

 

The full 1,00 word version of this journal review is published in Film International, Vol 9, No.6 (Jan 2012). 

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