Irish Film Institute -Metropolis


Few films from the glory days of silent cinema continue to exert as much fascination as Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, a science-fiction epic about a future society in which an elite group of bankers and industrialists rules over a working class banished to underground factories and power plants. A super-production of German cinema of the late 1920s, the film’s ideas, scale, imaginative production design and special effects have exerted an enormous influence on popular culture. Unlike other great works of silent cinema, Metropolis has remained a living part of pop culture and its iconic imagery has inspired everything from Blade Runner and Batman to Madonna’s video Express Yourself.
Even in 1927, Lang’s visionary epic was recognised as the most ambitious spectacle in the decade since D.W. Griffith’s Intolerance. Yet Metropolis was a commercial disaster. Cut by more than 40 minutes soon after its initial release, it has existed until now in wholly inadequate versions, some running just over 80 minutes. This new version has been painstakingly restored by German archivists to what is undoubtedly the finest and most complete print we are ever likely to see. It has images of astonishing clarity and a new stereo recording of the original score.
With its narrative flow now largely intact and its spectacular designs looking more awesome than ever, this is Metropolis as we’ve never seen it before. Beyond the level of spectacle, the film represents a fascinating amalgam of ideas that were current in the late ’20s. Capitalism, communism, old legends and many other ideologies are conjured up in Thea von Harbou’s sprawling and sometimes daft script. It’s no surprise that the film has always been open to many different interpretations, but there’s also no denying the power and clarity of Lang’s visualisation of the industrialisation of social relations.
Germany, 1927. Restored version, 2001. English subtitles. Black and white. Dolby digital stereo. 120 mins.

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