on 11 September 2010
I recently saw this newly restored version of Metropolis at Chichester Film Festival (in a Blue Ray presentation) and cannot recommend it highly enough - whether you know this film or not it should be seen. The inclusion of the previously missing 25 minutes (easily noticed due to the poor state of the source material) makes an enormous difference to the film, significantly changing the story line and the overall feel of the film. The poor quality of the inserted film does not diminish its importance and effect (ranging from a few seconds here and there, to whole scenes) but combines to effectively make a new film - or more accurately the resurrection of a lost one (the original 1927 premiered cut). Of course this version does not affect the obvious faults of the film but certainly makes for a more satisfying experience - it completes (apart from about 4 minutes apparently) and confirms the place this film has in the history of cinema. Whether you are interested in silent movies (then I'd highly recommend PiccadillyPiccadilly  [DVD]), the development of cinema (then you should also see Fritz Lang's MM [Masters of Cinema] [Blu-ray] ), special effects (and what incredible effects!) or the history of science fiction on film, this version must be seen.
on 18 April 2000
An interesting and fascinating look at German silent cinema, and in particular, how sci-fi got started. This 1926 film is set in the year 2000, and takes the form of the fictional city of "Metropolis". Though often considered a pro-fascist film (a claim which Fritz Lang always vehemently denied), there is little to suggest that there is any intended Fascist agenda. The film once again draws on female contrast. For example, the contrast between the "pure woman" (Maria), and the "impure woman" (the robot Maria), further exemplifying the dichotomy between good and evil. Metropolis paints a negative image of mechanisation, with the machines running the city, yet mankind is worse off. The social critique is also there, with a 3 tier social structure, reflected in the habitats of the classes. The geometric mise-en-scène is seen as a representation of the rigidly ordered and structured society also. Scripted by Thea Von Harbou (Lang's wife), this film can truly be regarded as a landmark, and the first sci-film. Quoted as inspiration by many modern directors, and similarities can be seen in many areas (ie C3P0 was modelled on the Metropolis robot). My advice is to see this movie - its simply fantastic.
Metropolis as originally conceived by Fritz Lang only survived a short premiere run at one Berlin cinema after which it was withdrawn and the negative sent for re-editing to Paramount the Holly wood associates of the German UFA company.
Paramount considered Metropolis incomprehensible and created a new simplified plot line discarding twenty five percent of the film, and for over fifty years this was the only version available. The vast majority of the missing material is now considered lost forever.
However as a result of research in the 1990s it was possible to definitively reconstruct the plot and the current restoration incorporating all the available material was undertaken. The missing sections of the film are narrated by means of the original captions for the missing sections and additional notes. In addition there is an excellent commentary filling in the gaps.
So at last we can see Lang's original 1927 vision of a horrific future with a favoured elite living on the surface of the earth enjoying a life of luxury, and a vast army of nameless workers living in a grim underground city toiling ten hour shifts.
Freder (Gustav Frolich) son of the ruler of Metropolis and one of the favoured elite investigates the plight of the workers and is so horrified decides to do something about it, and falls in love with Maria (Brigitte Helm) who gives a stunning performance in her first film role. Maria is a leader of the workers seeking justice for them by mediation and sees Freder as the mediator. A major sub plot is the enmity between the ruler (Alfred Abel) and Rotwang (Rudolph Klein-Rogge) who is attempting to create a mechanical version of the dead woman they both loved.
The 1927 sets and special effects are spectacular, reflecting in many ways the art of the period.The acting is good throughout except for Frolich who in my opinion is over the top, the original score (making wide use of leitmotivs) in a modern recording is a major contribution to the success of the restoration, and the digital restoration provides us with a near pristine copy.
This is not a film for a relaxed evenings viewing, but more than repays the effort needed to fully appreciate it.
on 4 November 2010
How do you get a balanced review of a new release when Amazon bundle old reviews of the DVD version (as old as 2001 !!!) with the new ones. CHUMPS. Get your act together Amazon this is a frequent fault.
Don't take the title literally, of course cinematic Sci-Fi existed before Fritz Lang filmed METROPOLIS... However, for most people the Sci-Fi we enjoy today have this film as their Primer so basically yes, this is where it all began. Having been a fan of the film for years I was lucky enough to receive my limited-edition Steelbook early from Eureka! themselves, so I can report exactly how this film looks in 1080p, and the extras it contains.
Firstly, it's a print that is comprised of many different sources so don't expect a pristine experience from start to finish... the original METROPOLIS that premiered in Germany was 40 minutes longer than the version most commonly seen (I'm going to forget Giorgio Moroder's synth-pop mutation ever existed, thanks), which was butchered and truncated after bombing at the box-office. Thanks to a recent discovery of an almost-complete print in Buenos Aires F.W. Murnau-Stiftung in Munich was able to take the extra footage from this print, splice it in to the familiar version and presto... Cinema History back where it belongs. It must be remembered however, that the Buenos Aires print was in exceptionally poor condition and it shows when these frames are shown, and a scene detailing Maria's escape from Rotwang is still absent and is simply narrated via text... But so what? The film is 83 years old and it's a privilege to see it again, especially if we remember that we may have never gotten the chance to see it.
Extras-wise, I found the extras on the Blu-Ray slightly lacking from MOCs usual banquet, comprising of a commentary, trailer and German documentary on history of the film and it's restoration. This could be due to the size of the high-definition movie file however. You do get the usual sumptuous MOC booklet which I shall be reading from cover-to-cover as per usual, German Impressionist Cinema seems to be their favourite subject (See the booklet for Murnau's FAUST, for example). And the steelbook itself? Those who buy the standard DVD/Blu are missing out I can tell you, it's by far the most gorgeous case in my collection now. So, hands up for Masters of Cinema, our own Criterion Collection, they've triumphed again. Essential Purchase.
on 22 November 2005
Set in the far future of 2000, a future where the privileged few live on the backs of a hidden mass of workers knowing nothing but their dark barracks and the machines that ruled their lives, Metropolis tells the stories of Maria, a teacher who urges the workers to wait for the earthly paradise; Joh Fredersen, who ruled the city; his son; and the mad Scientist Rotwang who hated Fredersen for prospering on the back of Rotwang's inventions. So when Fredersen asked Rotwang to... replace Maria with a mechanical copy, Rotwang sees a perfect chance to gain his revenge!
Despite the age of the film, and the fact that the year 2000 wasn't anything like this, the film still has the power to shock. In particular, the conditions that are endured by the underground slaves are truly horrific.
Even though it nearly bankrupted the film company - there was a cast of of almost 38,000 and it cost over $2 million in 1920s money, it was to become Fritz Lang's directorial monument and it was a massive hit with the emerging Nazi party, leading to Hitler offering Lang the job of making prestige pictures for them. Lang left Germany immediately for Hollywood.
Looking at the film and seeing the conditions that the workers lived in, it was not just the way the film is ended that made an impression on the Nazi leadership.
This is the original black and white version with the musical score based on the original Gottfried Huppertz score. Unfortunately the restorers did not have a complete version of the film to work from. But the silent nature of the sound track enabled them to fill in the gaps with explanitory story boards.
I saw this film more than 30 years ago, and it did not make much sense to me. Beyond the spectacular visual effects, the motivations of the head man and the crazy inventor simply didn't add up in a fundamental way. With the new footage - a full 25% of the new version - it comes together to a much more coherent conclusion, so that the viewer can participate in a fantastic and complex historical document that also works as a story today.
In terms of the immediate film experience (i.e. not the historical interest), this film is a wonderful examination of the future of the industrial city. On one side, you find the managers and elite, who control the city with a tayloresque precision in statistics, processes, and space. The elite (or brain or head) reserves for itself the best spaces and activities. There is a wonderful, re-added sequence of a race between highly trained athletes, whose beautiful bodies are compared to huge statues in a stadium. Indulging himself in unprecedented riches, the son of the leader (or dictator or CEO) of the city plays sensual games all day in an artificial garden. On the other hand, you have the proletariat, who work the massive underground machines and live in the bowels of the city, exhausted and downtrodden but cared for in a certain way. They are the "hand".
The elite boy has a life-altering encounter with a young visionary from the underground, who is preaching an overtly christian message of brotherhood. He goes in search of her, discovering the underside of his father's empire and deems himself to be the mediator (or "heart") that the beautiful young visionary foresees as the salvation and who will change the balance of the Metropolis. To head off what he sees as a threat to his order, the father allies himself with a fabulous inventor, who is going mad. They develop a plan to discredit the young visionary. The recovered footage shows that the inventor and CEO were rivals for the love of the same woman, Hel, whose death split them apart and made the inventor a hidden enemy because of his insane jealousy. Hel was completely missing from the version released in the US and is the keystone to the entire plot. Needless to say, the son (Hel was his mother) joins with the girl to realize her vision of a new and more just harmony. While melodramatic as was the style of silent films, this story is wonderfully moving and thought-provoking with symbolism of both marxism and christianity but also industrial capitalism.
In an historical sense, the film is an absolute must-see for any film buff or sci-fi enthusiast. The scenario is probably the most influential of any futuristic vision in the history of cinema. Not only is there a vision of cities to come that many urban planners acknowledge as an inspiration to them, but countless later films were inspired by its imagery. You can directly compare, for example, Blade Runner or the laboratory scenes from Frankenstein to it, though they are lacking when compared to a complete picture of a possible future. Many of the images were inspired directly from the modern art of the time, such as the robot, when compared to the sculptures of Raymond Duchamp-Villon. Perhaps most interesting since it was made well before the rise of Hitler, you get a foretaste of what would happen in fascism - from the over-done architecture to the lines of men as they descend to work like prisoners in concentration camps. It is a tribute to Lang's genius that so many of these images are indelibly etched on the artistic consciousness of the 20C. Even better, with the re-added scenes the vision is far better realized than the original US release, in particular in the complete sequence of the robots transformation. I was completely dazzled by it yet again.
I wish to note that there are many plot subtleties re-added that improve the drama of the film, beyond the fundamental addition of Hel's presence. For example, the dictator has an enforcer who dresses like a protestant preacher, a sinister brute in the background. There is also the transformed man, Jahosafat, who was fired by the dictator and comes to the aid of his son.
All in all, this is essential to any film library. Much of the added print is crude, having been transferred from 16mm replacement prints, so viewers should not expect too much. Finally, there is a wonderful documentary that covers not just the film itself in historical context, but tells the story of the re-discovery of the original version in Argentina.
Recommended with the greatest enthusiasm.
on 25 June 2011
Having noticed that this film was to be shown at my local cinema, my interest was considerably piqued and I trubdled off to watch is one Sunday afternoon not really knowing what to expect despite being familiar with many of the images. "Metropolis" transpired to be an amazing and awe-inspiring piece of cinena, quite incredible it is's vision and scope. Much had been made of the restoration and the inclusion of the 30 or so minutes that were originally missing (easily identified by the less-than pristine condition) certainly helped to explain just why British audiences would have been baffled when it was initially released. Through 21s Century eyes, it seems almost impossible to comprehend just how the audience were expected to have undersood the story given the liberties taken to Fritz Lang's film.
Several things about this "new" version of the film are worth pointing out. Granted that the hero is, perhaps, wimpy by today's standards, this does not compromise this film at all as some critics would have you believe. Secondly, the lack of dialogue actually improves this film and given the incorporation of Gofffried Huppertz originally score (newly recorded), this film is, as rightly described by another reviewer, a cinematic symphony. In fact, the score must rank as one of the most potent written for cinema with the "Jazz Age" nicelt captured in moments where the music reminds me very much of then contemporary compoaers like Darius Milhaud. The third element worthy of mention is just how sophisticated and mutli-layed the actual plot is. In this respect I feel it is extremely modern with hints of conspiracy theories and characters like the character Rotwang add a degree of menace with his own evil agenda to the hero's capitalist father. Some scenes with the Thin Man almost seem contemporary. However, the most amazing thing is the political asepct of the film which enjoys the same kind of ambiguity as the great writer George Orwell where "Metropolis" seems a vehicle by which Lang criticises both the political left and right.
In conclusion, I would recommend this film to any film fan who has hitherto been sceptical of silent cinema. As "Metropolis" clearly demonstrates, silent film was capable of being hugely sophisticated and extremely imaginative. Sound films took ages to match this degree of mastery - perhaps something I would argue was not quite matched until the excellent "Robin Hood" film with Errol Flynn. The combination of Lang's startling images and the stirring score produce a film that stands up to repeated viewing far more than most "sound" films. This film has a sophisticated story, genuine excitement and the visuals that in many ways define the hedonistic and forward looking 1920's. The cinematography deserves to be iconic and many of the images of the factory, the "robot " Maria and the futuristic cityscape have been scorched into our cultural consciousness.
All in all, this is an exceptional and iconic film that I would thoroughly recommend. This DVD also includes a 55-page booklet that contains several essays discussing various aspects of the film. "Metropolis" deserves to be in every DVD collection and I cannot recommend that fabulous edition strongly enough.
on 28 February 2015
I have been a fan of This iconic slice of silent cinema for many years and own multiple version of it, so when I heard about this latest edition I knew I had to own it.
This edition of Metropolis contains the (almost) fully restored version from 2010 and the often derided 1984 version presented by Giorgio Moroder. This was the first version I ever saw and as such holds a special place in my heart and I am very happy to see it released alongside the more authentic version of Metropolis
Also on this collection are a number of documentaries. "Die Reise nach Metropolis" (Journey to Metropolis) which, in it's own words, charts the lineage of the film, "Metropolis Refound", which is about the discovery of the uncut print in Argentina and "The Fading Image", a short documentary by Moroder about the need to preserve film history. all of these documentaries I found fascinating and informative, especially for those with an interest in film history.
the collection also includes an audio commentary on the 2010 version and a trailer for the same. My only negative comment has to be I would have liked the full Argentine print to be included as it has many scenes shot from a different angle, or re shot entirely.
This has to be an essential purchase to any fan of science fiction, silent film or film history in general
[I've added some photos to the item page showing the steelbook packaging and the internal arrangement/contents]
There is a dedicated website about this new edition. I have added the URL for it as an Amazon 'Customer Discussion' post on the item page (as reviews cannot contain external Internet links).
This is a German film originating from 1927, so obviously is filmed in black-and-white and it relies on dialogue 'frames' interjected into the footage and a musical soundtrack to emphasise what occurs. Considering when it was made it is extremely innovative with the futuristic depiction and the grand/often complicated production aspects.
Being interested in it but not having watched the film before I pre-ordered this steelbook Blu-ray/DVD combination as the previews stated that, considering how many different iterations have been issued beforehand, it was likely to be about as good as we can get for completeness, restoration quality and originality (especially regarding the musical soundtrack). Whilst a bit pricey, this Limited Edition issue can be considered something of a treasured investment, not just for the updates but because of the 'package' as a whole. On Blu-ray the basic 'stock' of the film looks very good and the audio is quite superb if you can exploit properly the DTS HD Master Audio 5.1 soundtrack. In comparison to the DVD version there is an improvement for the picture, but the difference is especially significant for the audio presentation.
For the uninitiated, the (very) basics of the plot are that a father (who is the master of 'Metropolis') and son are at odds with each other, with the son unhappy with the way the workers of the city are treated; ultimately, he sets out on a path of rebellion on their behalf.....
I have learned that this version is heavily restored and includes a significant proportion of previously 'missing' footage from a recently discovered negative which was not in the best of condition; a leader to the film provides a short history for the new elements and explains the changes and how they will appear. To my eyes there are 4 different qualities of picture incorporated: the main (significant majority) stock is clear/sharp, some apparent 'secondary' main stock (as I saw it at least !) is slightly less sharp but otherwise the same, the first of the 'new' footage is bright but blurred (imagine viewing a vivid b/w film through a fogged-up lens !) and the most degraded 'new' footage is quite poor but still perfectly watchable, with blur and prominent damage represented in the form of a lot of vertical lines running across the frame (much like how we might normally see very old b/w films !).
I am not a 'Metropolis' aficionado but the added sections often seem to add a lot to the storyline. Sometimes they are before/after extensions to existing scenes, but often they are entirely new scenes with significant dialogue or 'action'. I cannot say how the story was covered without the missing footage but it was either entirely omitted or somehow explained with subtitle embellishment....The dialogue cards are white on black full-frame, in German and can be displayed with selectable English (white) subtitles which appear at the base of the frame. The viewing experience is very good and the film enjoyable, not just when one appreciates it's age but also because of what we see and, most significantly, hear courtesy of that marvellous soundtrack (of which more later).
On Blu-ray the footage is, at its best, bright and quite sharp. On DVD the only difference appears to be a slight reduction in sharpness.
Now to the soundtrack, where there is the most significant difference between the disc formats. This edition features a new 2010 symphony orchestra studio recording of the original 1927 Gottfried Huppertz score; the DVD has DD2.0/5.1 options and the Blu-ray DTS HD Master Audio 2.0/5.1 options. The DD5.1 and DTS HD Master Audio 2.0 versions appeared quite similar to me, being clear and with good definition - rather like listening to a CD of the music. However, those options are blown out of the water when the DTS HD Master Audio 5.1 is played (on a multi-channel audio system of course). In comparison the DD5.1/DTS HD Master Audio 2.0 appear quite 'flat' and focussed to the front channels whereas the DTS HD Master Audio 5.1 audio is much, much clearer and multi-dimensional; it doesn't create a 'surround experience' like action films as such, but utilises the extra speaker channels to make the orchestral presentation sound and acoustics as authentic as possible - the music is recreated in such a way that you really feel as though you are in a hall and there could be an orchestra playing in front of you. It is magnificent !
Each disc includes the same complement of extras: a commentary track, a 55min 'restoration' documentary and a re-release trailer.
The Blu-ray sized steelbook is nicely finished and includes a 56-page booklet (colour with lots of photos) dedicated to the film and the restoration. I have 2 (small !) gripes: there is a spine-length information card 'wrapper' on the opening end/back of the steelbook which, while attached with non-damaging adhesive, means it gets in the way, and the 'piggy-back' storage of the discs makes the bottom disc both elusive along with being rather tricky to remove as it is both firmly held in the case and sits underneath an overlapping lug portion for the upper disc. See my photos...
So, any fan of 'Metropolis' is likely to be pleased with this offering. As you can buy this edition in 3 different versions it is worth noting that the DVD is perfectly acceptable and omits no content (advertising implies that all editions include the booklet), but if you have a Blu-ray player you can take advantage of better visual presentation and (better still and assuming you have a surround sound system) a truly magnificent musical soundtrack. The steelbook DVD/Blu-ray combination seals the deal !