Metropolis is ruled by the powerful industrialist Joh Fredersen. He looks out from his office in the Tower of Babel at a modern, highly technicized world. Together with the children of the workers, a young woman named Maria reaches the Eternal Gardens where the sons of the city’s elite amuse themselves and where she meets Freder, Joh Fredersen’s son. When the young man later goes on a search for the girl, he witnesses an explosion in a machine hall, where numerous workers lose their lives. He then realizes that the luxury of the upper class is based on the exploitation of the proletariat. In the Catacombs under the Workers’ City Freder finally finds Maria, who gives the workers hope with her prophecies for a better future. His father also knows about Maria’s influence on the proletariat and fears for his power. In the house of the inventor Rotwang, Joh Fredersen learns about his experiments to create a cyborg based on the likeness of Hel, their mutual love and Freder’s mother. Fredersen orders Rotwang to give Maria’s face to the robot in order to send it to the underground city to deceive and stir up its inhabitants.
After the robot Maria has succeeded, a catastrophe ensues. The riotous workers destroy the Heart Machine and as a result the Workers’ City, where only the children have remained, is tremendously flooded. The real Maria brings the children to safety along with Freder. When they learn about the disaster, the rebelling masses stop. Their rage is now aimed at the robot Maria, who is captured and burned at the stake. At the same time Rotwang, driven by madness, pursues the genuine Maria across the Cathedral’s rooftop, where he ultimately falls to his death. Freder and Maria find each other again. The son devotes himself to his father, mediating between him and the workers. As a consequence, Maria’s prophecy of reconciliation between the ruler and those who are mastered (head and hands) triumphs – through the help of the mediating heart.
One of the biggest film events of the century, a “Holy Grail” among film finds, Fritz Lang’s 1927 sci-fi epic can finally be seen – for the first time in 83 years – as the director originally intended and as seen by German cinema-goers in 1927.
Shortly after that 1927 release, an entire quarter of Lang’s original version was cut by Paramount for the US release, and by Ufa in Germany, an act of butchery very much against the director’s wishes. The excised footage was believed lost, irretrievably so – that is, until one of the most remarkable finds in all of cinema history, as several dusty reels were discovered in a small museum in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 2008.
Since then, an expert team of highly respected film archivists has been working at the Friedrich-Wilhelm-Murnau-Stiftung in Germany to painstakingly reconstruct and restore Lang’s film. The results, as premiered at the prestigious Berlin International Film Festival in February 2010, are spectacular.
Late in his life, Lang responded to a question on Metropolis by asking his own question, “Why are you so interested in a picture which no longer exists?” Finally, reconstructed and restored, the director’s film “exists” once more.
Lang was born in Vienna, Austria in 1890 and died in Los Angeles, USA in 1976. His life spanned service in World War I, spectacular fame in Germany in the 1920s, escape from the Nazis, and a period of emigre reinvention in Hollywood. He produced a series of classic films (from Metropolis, M, and Das Testament des Dr. Mabuse [The Testament of Dr. Mabuse] to Fury, The Big Heat, and Beyond a Reasonable Doubt). Lang is widely recognized as one of the most important of all cinema directors.
Steve Hills / Eureka Entertainment
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