Metropolis is without doubt the most famous of all German films and marks the birth of sci-fi cinema with its iconic imagery.
Much discussed, analysed and a major influence on nearly every sci-fi film since it first dazzled audiences 83 years ago, it also paved the way for director Fritz Lang to have a successful Hollywood career.
Set in a dystopian future in which society is divided into two classes: workers who live in vast catacombs and managers who live in huge skyscrapers, the film centres on Freder, the son of the ruler of Metropolis (Joh) who swaps lives with a worker called Georgy 11811 after witnessing a terrible accident in the workers’ city.
While toiling away underground, he falls for the beautiful Maria (Brigitte Helm) who seems to have a powerful influence over the workers.
When plans of rebellion are revealed, Freder’s father Joh enlists the services of an inventor (Rotwang) to build a Maria-replica robot in a bid to incite the workers into a self-destructive riot.
But disaster strikes, and as the underground city threatens to become flooded, it’s a race against time for Freder to save the abducted Maria and rescue the children trapped in the drowning city.
Last seen at cinemas in a colourised version, with a rock score by Giorgio Moroder back in 1984, Metropolis is getting a new theatrical release following its brilliant restoration. Some extra 25 minutes of footage, previously thought lost, have been found and added back to the film.
Now, audiences can see the film just as Lang intended back in 1927. A new symphony recording of the original score has also been arranged, breathing new life into this all-time classic.
And when you see it on the big screen, you cannot help but gasp at the futuristic city – it still impresses, as do the action sequences – which are surprisingly modern for the time (thanks to the visionary Lang) – especially the scenes where Maria is chased through the catacombs; the children are trying to escape their watery grave, and the robotic Maria being burned at the stake.
The acting may not be naturalistic, but it’s still emotive and as for Brigitte Helm’s eyes, they never blink – just pierce your soul. The once missing bits are very damaged, but show exactly how much of Lang’s original vision was cut on its original release, including Freder’s surreal nightmare on seeing Maria with his father, and a much enlarged story involving the characters Georgy 11811 and Joh’s henchman, the Thin Man.
Surrealist film-maker Luis Buñuel certainly hit the nail on the head when he called Metropolis ‘a captivating symphony of movement’ as it remains a true masterclass in editing, especially so in this age of state-of-the-art digital effects, which consistently chooses style over substance – I’m talking about you, Mr Bay.
Courtesy of Eureka Entertainment, a series of special event screenings have been planned in the lead up to the film’s theatrical release in 60 cinemas nationwide on 10 September. So get your diaries at the ready…
• BFI Southbank’s Future Human season closing film (26 August)
• 30th Cambridge Film Festival, Movies on the Meadows (29 August)
• Curzon Mayfair, London Midnight Movies special (3 September)
• Chichester International Film Festival (3 & 4 September)
• Irish Film Institute’s Fritz Lang season, National Concert Hall, Dublin (4 September)
• Silent Film & Music Series, Barbican, London (5 September)
• End of the Road Festival, Cinedrome, North Dorset (10 September)
• Open-air screening, The Cineroleum, Clerkenwell, London (11 September)
• London Contemporary Orchestra, The Roundhouse, London (10 October)