Why You Have to See This Release of Metropolis (in a Movie Theater)

Posted by Michael Pinto on May 9, 2010 in Cinema |

Queen: Record sleeve for Radio Ga Ga the music video of which incorporated a great deal of footage from Metropolis

Above: The record sleeve for the Queen single Radio Ga Ga the music video of which incorporated a great deal of footage from Metropolis.

The last time fandom was this excited about Metropolis was the 80s: It was no secret that Ridley Scott borrowed some of his inspiration from the film when making Blade Runner – and the highpoint was the Giorgio Moroder 1984 release of the film. I have a great deal of love for the Moroder release as it made the film cool to a new generation with it MTV soundtrack (that and Moroder is a musical genius). So I had mixed feelings about seeing the current release of Metropolis as I wondered if I could this film with a fresh eye yet again, and I’m glad to say that I did.

The opening title from Metropolis

The reason you have to see this film is because unlike other director’s cuts that have been so fashionable to package into collector’s editions this version of Metropolis is as close as you can get to seeing what was shown in Europe. More so than that I’d dare that any previous cut version of the film makes no sense in terms of understanding the plot – in other words if you haven’t seen this cut of the film, you haven’t seen the film.

I’d also go a step further: Not only do you need to see this cut of the film, but you really really want to watch it on a movie screen with an audience. It’s only then does the level of detail in the cinematography and well designed composition of each frame shines through. If you watch this film for the first time on your television set or something smaller like an iPod the scale of the film will be lost on you.

Metropolis: You want to see this film on the big screen!

And the scale of the film almost becomes a character onto its own. Most German expressionist films that I’ve seen always have a cramped claustrophobic feeling to them, yet in Metropolis the feeling of things being bigger than life is everywhere. On the surface you notice this with the amazing shots of the city and the Tower of Babel, but if you look deeper into scenes that show an office you’ll notice that the size of a room is palatial. You tend to see this sort of epic scale in Hollywood these days, but the soundstages used to film Metropolis must have been enormous to house the countless extra you see everywhere.

Metropolis: A frame from a lost scene which was restored

Another reason to watch this film is that you’re not just watching a seminal science fiction film, but you’re traveling back in time to a world that no longer exists which is roaring 20s of the Weimar Republic. After this film was made two big things changed: The Nazi party came to power in Germany changing both the country and perhaps the world for the rest of the 20th Century and you’re also seeing the very end of the silent film era.

In the 30s director Fitz Lang fled Germany, yet his now ex-wife who wrote the screenplay for Metropolis joined the Nazi party. Lang would go on to do some great work in Hollywood, yet you’ll notice that silent film as an art form can be much more powerful than a talkie – and in many ways Metropolis shows you that art form at its highest point.

Metropolis: This film is really a glimpse at the roaring 20s

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