Lost Metropolis Negative Found in Argentina


Originally uploaded by Thomas Roche

From TheLocal.de, a English-language German news website:

Lost scenes from German-Austrian director Fritz Lang’s legendary silent film “Metropolis” have been discovered in Argentina, German weekly newspaper Die Zeit reported on Wednesday.

Paula Félix-Didier, head of film museum Museo del Cine in Buenos Aires, discovered an uncut version of the 1927 science fiction film when she looked into reports that a tape in the archive was unusually long. She travelled to Berlin with a copy of the film and met with experts who say they are certain it is the missing original-length version of Lang’s masterpiece that reveals key plot scenes and an expansion of minor roles, Die Zeit said ahead of the publication of its Thursday edition.

“The film’s original rhythm will be re-established,” Martin Koerber, the man responsible for the current restoration of the film, told the paper.

When it premiered in 1927, Metropolis was the most expensive film ever produced in Germany, but was disliked by audiences. For the U.S. release, large amounts of footage was cut, reportedly making the film pretty incomprehensible. If you’ve seen recent DVD re-releases of the film, you may have noticed the proclamation at the outset that the film quality differs on some scenes — because these scenes were re-created from subsequent prints, and as i recall they look like crap. I’m unclear on whether this version will add any new scenes, but it’s a negative of the original 210-minute release.

Metropolis is a strange and challenging film. If you have never seen it, honestly, you’re missing one of the three or four biggest influences, and hey, maybe the biggest single influence, on the visuals of science fiction and futurism through the 1950s and right up to the naughts.

More than that, it’s a bizarre and beautiful insight into history. View it in the context of Weimar Germany, with its mud-wrestling optimism, pessimism and post-Great War malaise. Think of it is an urbane meditation on Socialism next to which the morbid antifuturist sci-fi of The Time Machine looks like prudish country bumpkin naivete. Lang’s great talent was to have a dream and a nightmare at the same time, and in Metropolis, as with the greatest noir gothica, you can drool your outrage and rapturously moan your despair.

There is a great apocryphal story about Lang, how he met with Nazi propaganda minister Josef Goebbels for an amiable chat and thereafter immediately beelined it in the middle of the night. Sadly, the story almost certainly never happened, as Lang left Germany with most of his Deutschmarks intact, and even returned for his belongings. But the story appeals to my American lust for the artist as outlaw, my desire to demonize Nazis and deify the idealistic social transgressor.

But there’s no need to deify, really: Art is what it is, and the artist can never compete with his creation. With its deep psychosexual perversity and its profound influence on the genre of science fiction, Metropolis is a spike into the unconscious. Seeing it is like being introduced to Carl Jung at a fancy dress ball at the border crossing between Heaven and Hell. Watch Metropolis and you’re glimpsing the mind of God.

Image from emory.edu.


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