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Original title: Metropolis
Year 2026. Metropolis is a city divided into two sectors, that of the powerful and that of the workers, the latter male slaves at the service of the welfare of others. María is a beautiful girl who tries to keep the morale of the proletarians high with fiery speeches full of hope. The son of the governor of the city falls in love with her and, thanks to this, he will discover a dark and sad world, very different from the opulence in which he has lived until then. To break this idyll, his father ordered the construction of a robot with the image of Mary and, thus, provoke the uprising of the workers, with which he would have a reason to act against them …
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[José García Pelegrín. Colaborador de CinemaNet]
After having been written off for decades, in the summer of 2008 they came to light, in the “Cinema Museum“From Buenos Aires, the almost unpublished scenes of the emblematic film”Metropolis” from Fritz Lang (1927), a find that was described as a sensation. This is because said film, on the one hand, had a decisive influence on the history of cinema and especially on the aesthetics of the science fiction genre, from George Lucas on “Star Wars» a «AI Artificial intelligence” from Steven Spielberg, passing by “Blade Runner” from Ridley Scott O “Batman” from Tim Burton; on the other hand, this visionary film by Fritz Lang was the first to be declared World Cultural Heritage by UNESCO.
The original version of “Metropolis” was mutilated immediately after its premiere, on January 10, 1927 at the UFA-Zoo Palast from Berlin: of the original length of 4,189 meters (150 minutes, approx.), a 3,241 meter version was assembled for the German market and for export; This version was oriented by the American of 3,100 meters, which had already been produced in 1926 by Paramount. Around a quarter of the total scenes were thus eliminated; in addition, the order of the conserved material was partially modified. In the restoration of “Metropolis”Has been in the works for nearly half a century, ever since rebuilding the original began in the 1960s, when interest in Lang’s film grew. In the eighties, the then director of the Film museum from Munich, Enno Patalas, carried out a critical reconstruction: the deleted passages were replaced by panels of explanatory text. In 1998, the “Friedrich Wilhelm Murnau” Foundation, current owner of the rights, commissioned the “Metropolis Project” to Martin Koerber. With the help of digital processing methods, Koerber was able to recompose the original order of the sequences; in addition, the result had an exceptional photographic quality. This version was released in the Berlin International Film Festival in 2001. But the original 948 meters were lost until they appeared in the summer of 2008 in the Argentine capital. The updated version, with the original score by Gottfried Huppertz, arrived in German cinemas in May this year: for the first time, viewers can experience a milestone in film history on the big screen.
Metropolis is set in a modern city in the days of industrialization: the proletariat lives and works in the underground of the machines, while on the upper levels of a skyscraper resides the businessman Johann “Joh” Fredersen (Alfred Abel), from where it dominates the entire city. But his power is threatened by the speeches of the young Maria (Brigitte Helm) To their workers. To eliminate Maria, Fredersen turns to inventor Rotwang (Rudolf Klein-Rogge), even though both are rivals; Their rivalry is because Rotwang’s lover was Hel, Fredersen’s wife, who died giving birth to their son Freder (Gustav Merry). Fredersen commissioned Rotwang to make a robot that would double as Maria (also Brigitte Helm).
Fritz Lang’s film is not only about the technical and political revolution, but also about the struggle between the individual and the collectivity. The film makes use of the Christian symbolism in its main characters: Freder, the son, descends to the underground (hell) where he changes clothes with a young worker and assumes his place of work, in the gigantic machinery of a clock. Freder’s body twists above the hands, evoking a crucifix. On the other hand, the false Mary, the female robot, presents the features of the “Whore of Babylon”: in the “Sons Club”, she appears through a kind of Chinese censer and barely dressed, to attract young people with his intoxicating dance. The scene is presented in a montage of contrast, between a delusional dream due to Freder’s fever, contrasted with the preaching of a monk from the pulpit.
The false Maria incites the masses to insurgency, on the orders of Joh Fredersen, since a violent act by the workers would be a perfect alibi to take action against them. However, with the Rotwang robot machine he has a double game on his hands: the false Maria encourages the workers to the revolution to destroy Metropolis. The rivalry between Fredersen and Rotwang is evident in the current version, when a key scene is inserted until now disappeared. The rediscovered material is also part of the subplot around the worker Georgy and the secretary fired by Fredersen, Josaphat, with whom Freder is allied. This subplot, of which barely a trace remained in previous versions, highlights the theme of friendship to which Fritz Lang attached great importance.
In the version of Metropolis now restored, the masterful use made by Fritz Lang of cinematographic techniques, such as camera movements, transitions and the equally important staging of crowds.
[Traducción al español por Inés Parra para CinemaNet]
Metropolis is, perhaps, the last great jewel of German Expressionism. A futuristic film, which presents a disturbing society, where a privileged class exploits the rest of humanity. His brilliant imagery has fascinated viewers of all kinds.
The story is simple, and it is told in a messianic key. Joh Fredersen, son of the leader of the ruling class in the city of Metropolis, comes into contact with the working class by chance. The beautiful Maria, in the company of a group of children, has accessed a garden reserved for the privileged. Piqued by curiosity, Joh descends to the subways of the city, where the workers work in subhuman conditions, fine-tuning the machinery that allows Metropolis to function every day. After listening to a vibrant speech from Maria, in which she reminds the workers that all men are brothers, Joh assumes the role of being the link between two very different worlds. But putting a robot with Maria’s features into operation is going to complicate your task a lot.
With a script of who was then his wife, Thea of Harbou, Fritz Lang made a dazzling and modern film, which today still retains all its power of fascination. Its brilliant design of futuristic buildings and highways continues to inspire cinema today, as can be seen, without going any further, in Minority Report. The special effects, such as the start-up of the robot and the videophone, are imaginative and remain valid today. The version offered Uniform It is the one restored by the Murnau Foundation, which provides superb image quality; and offers the closest montage to the version that Lang originally released in 1927, which helps to understand much better the motivation of the characters. It has the orchestrated music of the moment of the premiere, of Gottfried Huppert. And thanks to the extras of the film, all the details surrounding its creation can be known.
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