The Complete Metropolis
The Definitive Reconstruction of a 1927 Masterpiece
Seldom has the rediscovery of a cache of lost footage ignited widespread curiosity as did the announcement, in July 2008, that an essentially complete copy of Fritz Lang’s METROPOLIS had been found.
When it was first screened in Berlin in 1927, the sci-fi epic ran an estimated 153 minutes. After its premiere, the film’s distributors drastically shortened METROPOLIS. A 2001 restoration combined footage from four archives and ran a triumphant 124 minutes. It was widely believed that this would be the most complete version of Lang’s film that contemporary audiences could ever hope to see.
But in 2008, the curator of the Buenos Aires Museo del Cine discovered a 16mm negative that was considerably longer than any existing print. It included 25 minutes of “lost” footage that had not been seen since its debut. The discovery of such a significant amount of material called for yet another restoration.
The condition of the negative posed a major challenge to the restoration team. In fact, viewing METROPOLIS today, the Argentine footage is still clearly identifiable because much of the damage remains. The unintended benefit is that it provides convenient earmarks to the recently reintegrated scenes.
Because the Buenos Aires negative provided a definite blueprint to the cutting of METROPOLIS, the order of some of the existing shots has been altered, bringing the film several steps closer to its original form.
It is important to note that the “new” shots are not merely extensions of previously existing scenes. Thanks to the Argentine find, the film’s structure changes thoroughly, restoring the balance between characters and subplots, especially the character called “der Schmale” (the Thin One) who had been diminished to a mere extra in earlier versions due to the elimination of two large scenes.
“Parallel editing becomes now a major player in METROPOLIS,” states film restorer Anke Wilkening. “The new version represents a Fritz Lang film where we can observe the tension between his preferred subject, the melodrama between the three male characters, and the bombastic dimensions of the production.”
- Production Year
- Running Time
- 154 mins