Wednesday, September 15, 2010

My Favorite Silent Film

Obsessed with Film has this review of the newly restored version of Fritz Lang's iconic silent Sci-Fi film, Metropolis. A nearly full-length version was discovered in a Argentinian museum in 2008, and the current version was taken from that print.

Uncle P has been a fan of this movie for almost as long as he can remember. It's the movie that taught me that images can be so more more powerful than words and was my choice for viewing in the first film class I ever took. Released in 1927, Metropolis garnered rave reviews, but was cut down from its original 205 minute running time (extraordinary for a film made in 1926) for subsequent releases. In 1984, musician/filmmaker Giorgio Moroder released a 90 minute version with a pop-music score (the first CD I ever bought) and additional title cards to make up for the assumed-missing scenes. 25 minutes have now been added to the film, including new title cards for the scenes too damaged to include. While not exactly Lang's cut, the current re-release is probably the closest modern audiences can come to the original version of this 84 year-old classic.

Best known for this film and the Peter Lorre classic M, Lang's movie was exceptionally ahead of its time in both terms of special effects and story-telling. Indeed, Karel Capek had only introduced the word "robot" into the language just 6 years earlier in his play R.U.R. (a dreadfully boring play in which Uncle P made his college theatre debut).

With a screenplay by the original novelist Thea von Harbou, Metropolis is rather simplistic by today's standards, telling the story of a supposedly Utopian society where the privileged live in luxury above ground, while proletariat workers toil like slaves in a vast underground complex. Enter the beautiful Maria, who preaches peace and equality to the proles, and with whom the protagonist Freder, falls hopelessly in love. Of course, Freder's father runs the whole place and wants to incite a riot among the workers so he can justify replacing them with machines. To that end, he hires mad scientist Rotwang to replace Maria with a robot who will rile the workers into a frenzy. Creating effects that would be used well into the 1960's, Lang managed to make a movie that would influence filmmakers from Stanley Kubrick to Stephen Spielberg and  inspire writers such as Ray Bradbury and Philip K. Dick. A rather extraordinary accomplishment for a burgeoning media, don't you think?

Here's the trailer for the film's latest incarnation:

More, anon.

PS - In semi-related movie news, Uncle P received an email today from a director interested in Army of the Dead. Keep your fingers crossed (again).

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