The best restoration to the 1927 premier until now. (2002 Restoration)
I had tried to watch this film a couple of times before this 2002 version, starting back in 1998, with a Eureka! Video edition, but with a dreadful synthetic score, poor print and just a general sense of datedness, I could never get into it, or past the first 20 minutes.
Then, in 2003, I thought to try it one more time, this time with the most complete restoration to date. The picture was nothing short of stunning. Every possible detail was attended to, from the frame by frame restoration, to the English versions of the authentic and original inter-titles, which were presented in its native German, down to the font and size.
And for the, at the time, missing and irretrievable scenes, a well composed series of descriptions were added to tell as complete a story as possible. And then, there was the score. Composed by Gottfried Huppertz, this soaring composition roared from all five and a bit channels, proving that silents films are anything but. This was a beautiful and powerful score, almost telling the story by itself, but complimenting the images perfectly.
The visual style, let alone the amazing and at times, awe inspiring special effects elevate this from a mere expressionist movie to a masterwork of creative genius. The towering cityscapes, art deco flourishes and the understanding that a modern Metropolis would also have been built around the old, rather than replacing it was inspired, though this point was hammered home with little subtlety by the residence of the mad scientist, a small cottage amidst the modern city.
The biggest issue with watching a film of this era is getting to grips with acting. This is expressionist silent acting to the extreme, with every emotion accentuated to tell the story with action rather dialogue. But once you get used to reading thie purely visual language, it not at all difficult to understand and become engrossed in the action of narrative. The only real issue is that the narrative is far from the most innovative, simply adapting the “Tower Of Bable” into a modern setting.
This is done repeatedly with the genre and again, is Metropolis one of the inspirations for this?
Overall, this experience was inspiring. It inspired me to watch more silents films, though few were as well regarded as this. It inspired me to proceed to learn and experience the entire history of film, and brought home the full realisation that the magic of inspired film making didn’t begin with the likes of “2001: A Space Odyssey”, Star Wars”, “Jaws”, or “The Matrix”, to name but a few, but from the earliest frames of film.
From the early dissolves of Georges Méliès, the moment that, that train pulls in to the station, even the more subtle effects of matte painting in films which has been done for decades. This movie has been as important to film as “2001: A Space Odyssey, “Jurassic Park” and “Avatar”. But I find myself thinking more of “Inception” when I look at “Metropolis”. Both share two substantial similarities: They both have an existential view of the world and both pushed the technical boundaries to satisfy that vision.