The complete version of the science fiction classic has been sitting on my shelf for over a year now, just asking to be watched. Needing the time, the attention to watch Fritz Lang’s much-loved Metropolis (1927). The story of the first cut which was nearly 3 hours long and only shown a few times was soon cut down to the length which has been known for nearly 80 years. A legendary story of modern times, hoping to find somewhere an original print or cut. Thought to be lost to the past. And it was finally found in Argentina in poor condition too. More importantly a print was found in tact that was the full duration, matching the original soundtrack. I never thought the day would come when I could see the full first cut.
Now having seen this version I am more satisfied, seeing what the director intended all those years ago. His masterpiece is still a masterpiece of the silent era of cinema, which really pushed the boundaries of story telling and special effects. Setting a new standard for the genre.
I was however disappointed in the final quality of the footage. Knowing that it was found in poor condition, it seems it has been just transferred to a new print along with an older cut which is in far better condition. I felt there was little attempt to bring the old print up to the same standard. I felt it was cleaned up a little to be visible and left. Did the restoration team run out of funds on a project that has such cultural value to the world?
Putting those thoughts to one side, the plot is now more complete than ever before. Filling in massive gaps which now seem very obvious, having seen the previous cut twice before. I am tempted myself to make a cut in places to speed up the action. But the very act of intervening with someone else’s work, especially a film is something I don’t take lightly. I would only remove fragments to speed up the action, where there seems to be repetition. This maybe what afforded the first cut, to speed up the action, however this went to far, leaving us with a film that is obviously cut down.
After airing my thoughts on the condition of the film I’m pleased to have finally viewed the original the mediator between the head and the hand is still very much the heart which runs through it. The journeys fleshed out to be even bigger. Even with the poor quality print in places, it doesn’t really take away from the narrative, its more an aesthetic criticism.
A tale of a future workforce in a world that is brutally divided between wealth and the workers down below. Something that’s been discussed many times in the genre of Sci-fi. It’s even more exciting in the style of the 1920’s which today has come full circle in some aspects of design today. If anything the extra I take away from this viewing is a fascination for how action is sped up, which I have noticed in early westerns that see the riders gallop at twice the speed across the land. It adds to the language of the art-form at the time. Speeding up the action, increases it which grabs the audience, who today want more realism, seeing the sped up action as silly and fake. I may explore this idea at a later date.