Monday, July 16, 2012

Metropolis

i've been putting off posting this film because it's way too cerebral to fully explain, but recent developments in it's restoration prompt me to discuss it finally. When Metropolis first debuted in Germany it ran about three hours long. Despite it's length it had great reviews. Thankfully so because it turned out to be the most expensive movie ever made and nearly bankrupted the studio by going five times over the predicted budget. When it was sent to America trouble began to brew. Paramount in it's infinite impatience cut the film down to a mere 80 minutes and almost half the film became lost forever. This vicious editing also created many holes in the story and excised many crucial subplots. Around 1998 Paramount Studios decided to right it's wrong by restoring Metropolis to it's original glory (or as close to it as possible). It chose four of the best copies available and gave it a reconstruction that few deserving silent films will ever see. The restoration was magical, so clear you'd think it was filmed yesterday. There was still one problem, about 30 minutes of the film remained unaccounted for. Then in 2010 we got lucky. Deep in the archives of a private collection in Argentina a dupe negative of Metropolis was found. Mislabeled years ago to avoid it's destruction during the war. Though it was a remarkable find, it did come with it's share of problems. The 35 mm nitrate copy had been transferred to 16 mm because nitrate was very volatile and prone to self destruction. The negative also contained many scratches and was plagued by flickering lights. Another restoration was obviously necessary. Also recently found was the original musical score. Thankfully the composer made notes that tied the music to the action in the movie and the inter titles, which before was either simply guesswork or just replaced with different music. Finally, in 2012 we had it, the complete Metropolis. Completely restored in both quality and quantity with a rerecorded score from the original sheet work. A true work of art reborn. The basic story is rather simple and mostly symbolic. The city of Metropolis is city of paradise with huge skyscrapers, bustling traffic, rich gardens in which the wealthy live their lives in blissful unaware of the torturous lives of the workers below the city that toil day and night in order to keep the city running. The undergound workers are preached to by Maria, a sort of prophet that speaks of a mediator that will someday free them and bring the people from above and below together in harmony. This mediator comes in the form of Freder, the son of the creator of Metropolis. One day he stumbles upon the underground and discovers the endless hardship that the workers endure. While Freder is exploring underground, his father learns of Maria and her preaching to the masses about a mediator and a possible revolt against those who live above. He enlists the work of an inventor to create a robot with Maria's likeness to mislead the underground people into a revolt against themselves and the machines they operate. In doing so, they unintentionally shut everything down and flood the city endangering their children and destroying their homes. After this disaster the people from below are face to face with the people from above, who now realize the the significance of how the workers toil to ensure their paradise. Freder takes the hand of his father and brings it to the hand of the foreman. Freder being the mediator between the two, we share the knowledge that without the heart there can be no understanding between the hand (the workers) and the mind (the elite).

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