Metropolis

on May 06, 1927 by Michael Tunison
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Released five years before Aldous Huxley's novel "Brave New World" led a wave of dystopian science fiction challenging the most basic assumptions about human society, Fritz Lang's 1927 masterpiece "Metropolis" has influenced both the genre and cinema itself to a degree that's difficult to overstate. The obvious debt that later stylistic ground-breakers such as "Blade Runner," "Brazil," "Batman" and "The Matrix" owe the film demonstrates just how indelibly Lang's vision has been stamped on the world's collective view of the future. This painstakingly restored 75th anniversary re-release of one of the most important works of the silent era is the best opportunity recent viewers have had to experience "Metropolis" as Lang meant it to be seen, though a quarter of the original release version remains tragically lost.

While novelist/co-screenwriter Thea von Harbou's sometimes heavy-handed morality play about a young scion of the aristocratic Thinker class (Gustav Frölich) becoming radicalized by his feelings for a leader of the slaving Worker class (Brigitte Helm) requires a modern moviegoer to cut the film some slack (Lang pounds his theme home by flashing a mission-statement epigram--"The mediator between the head and the hand must be the heart!"--no less than three times), no such leap of faith is required to embrace Lang's stunning Expressionist depiction of the hivelike titular mega-city or the female-shaped "Machine Man" robot design that has become the film's trademark icon. The same goes for Helm's delightful double performance as both the pacifistic Worker leader and a gleeful, chaos-spreading doppelganger of the character after Rudolf Klein's mad scientist refashions the Machine Man in her image to infiltrate the Workers' nascent resistance movement.

Digitally restored by the Munich Film Lab, this new version of "Metropolis" incorporates all available recovered footage along with Gottfried Huppertz's original score and new intertitles summarizing the sequences still missing from the film. It's the ideal opportunity for any movie and/or sci-fi buff to tackle this still-vital wellspring of creative inspiration. Starring Gustav Frölich, Brigitte Helm, Alfred Abel, Rudolf Klein, Theodor Loos and Heinrich George. Directed by Fritz Lang. Written by Fritz Lang and Thea von Harbou. Produced by Erich Pommer. A Kino release. Science-Fiction. Unrated. Running time: 122 min

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