December 11, 2013
Metropolis in all its unfaded, restored glory
Fritz Lang’s masterpiece to be shown today at the Colón with live music
“Frankensteinzation” is the word that first comes to mind when mulling over the fate of German director Fritz Lang’s futuristic masterpiece Metropolis (1927), a triumph in both ideological and philosophical content and expressionistic artistry.
Lang’s two-hour plus film artistically represented the clash between workers and their capitalist exploiters — a brutally cruel but faithful representation of the prevailing social organization and struggle, a beautifully orchestrated statement about an unpalatable state of affairs. For all its artistic achievements, Metropolis, at the time of its release, did not fit easily in any definable category — melodrama, social denunciation, wondrous architectural piece bombarding the senses. Be that as it may, the fact is Metropolis, in the director’s cut, was last shown in Berlin in May, 1927, where it flopped.
Potentially less appealing — even impenetrable — to US audiences, Hollywood bosses and distributors, Metropolis made the journey across the Atlantic for its grand première in a version shortened by Paramount. After all, Lang’s Metropolis was, for them, a simple piece of entertainment with unnecessary reflections on socioeconomic and political concerns.
The result was an aberrant oversimplification of the plot, and the mutilation of key scenes. From its original run-tine of 153 minutes to 114 minutes in its Hollywood cut, Metropolis was largely divested of its social critique and turned into simple melodrama set in 2026, a utopian world in which the clean-cut class divide still reigned unchallenged. Audiences in Germany hated it, and so did critics.
With different run-times depending on each country’s distributor, Metropolis was shown all over Europe and in limited released in the US, Canada, Australia and Japan, among other markets. As Metropolis’ value was not properly assessed at the time, and as Ufa, the German studio that had produced it, almost went bust under the weight of unrecoverable costs, the complete negative and most prints deteriorated or simply disappeared. That is, until...
In mid 2008, the film world celebrated the rediscovery of key missing scenes from Metropolis, which turned up in the archives of BA’s Museo del Cine Pablo C. Duckrós Hicken. The pieces were thought to be lost for 80 years.
After painstaking restoration work, the film was newly edited, adding 25 minutes footage that threw light on questions that had tantalized generations of cinephiles. One example: Schmale, a spy with minor relevance in the cut version, has a significant role in the original. The character could finally be understood. Another mystery was solved: the reason why Maria, the workers’ insurrectionist leader, is mistaken for a female robot with a minor role in the sanitized cut.
The restored version was shown on September 30, 2008 at the refurbished Teatro 25 de Mayo in the BA neighbourhood of Villa Urquiza, and commercially released in 2010 as The Complete Metrópolis. The longest running cut so far, The Complete Metropolis will be screened today at 8.30pm at the Teatro Colón, set to live music by Martín Matalón, performed by Barcelona’s BCN216.
For further information and tickets: Teatro Colón, Cerrito 628. Tel: 4378-7100. firstname.lastname@example.org.