Derek Winnert

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This article was written on 16 Jul 2013, and is filled under Reviews.

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Metropolis ***** (1926, Brigitte Helm, Rudolf Klein-Rogge, Alfred Abel, Gustav Fröhlich, Fritz Rasp) – Classic Movie Review 56

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‘The mediator between head and hands must be the heart!’.

Director Fritz Lang’s brilliant, pioneering 1926 German sci-fi movie is one of the greatest and most enduring achievements of the silent era and effortlessly retains and rejoices in its all-time great classic status.

For this, much thanks not only to movie mastermind Lang but also to his inspired team who provided the film’s imaginative and ambitious screenplay (by Thea von Harbou), eye-assaulting cinematography (Karl Freund, Günther Rittau), breathtaking set designs (Otto Hunte, Erich Kettelhut and Karl Volbrecht ) and charming, pioneering special effects (by Eugen Schüfftan).

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Rudolf Klein-Rogge stars as the Inventor C.A. Rotwang, a crazed scientist who creates an evil robot, a replica of the people’s heroine Maria (Brigitte Helm), in an underground city of the then distant future of the millennium, where downtrodden workers are slaves to industry. Then Freder Fredersen (Gustav Fröhlich), the son of the wealthy capitalist Joh Fredersen (Alfred Abel), the founder and master of Metropolis, falls in love with the people’s heroine and rebels against his comfortable life – and revolution is in the air.

The story, characters and amazing visuals propel it along helter skelter, and, though maybe slightly marred by a feeble ending, it’s still an astonishing film whose best parts are thrilling. At the same time, it retains its power as a political allegory.

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Potent and exciting in its own right, Metropolis is immensely influential as the cinema’s first great futuristic fantasy, providing the blueprint for generations of sci-fi films to follow.

Popular, though controversial in the 1980s, the extremely enjoyable 1984 Giorgio Moroder version hurries it along nicely by cutting it by half an hour to only 87 minutes, colourising it (supposedly as you could have seen it in 1926) and adding a rock soundtrack. The result isn’t quite Fritz Lang, nor is its cinema archive history, but it’s certainly more respectful and successful than you’d think possible.

The year 2002 brought another, superbly newly restored version, surely the last word on the film, you’d think. But there was another restoration in 2010, running 149 minutes. Reworked as a Japanese cartoon in 2002.

© Derek Winnert 2013 Classic Movie Review 56

Check out more reviews on http://derekwinnert.com/

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