This is breath-taking news … so an extra post for her:
Paula Félix-Didier has found a negative copy of an un-cut version of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis with Spanish text at her working place, the Museo del Cine in Buenos Aires. The versions we know until know are missing one fourth or one fifth of the world premiere being screened the 10th of January, 1927 in Berlin. Only 15.000 people have seen this version.
To Remind you the Story
Situated in 2026 AD in a skyscraper city called ‘Metropolis’ the population is divided into two parts: the thinking and the working class. The complexity starts when Freder, the son of the thinking boss Johann ‘Joh’ Frederson, fells in love with Maria, the harmony of the working underworld. A revolution starts accompanied by detailed side stories.
In the end Freder (“heart”) connects the “head” (the upper-class citizens) and the “hands” (the working class). This can be seen as romanticism or social democracy.
The Architecture in Metropolis
Fritz Lang himself has studied for a short period architecture at Vienna’s Technical University, but than he switched to being a painter in Paris. His father was an architect. In all his films architecture, visual language and graphical techniques are proper.
In ‘Metropolis’ he has been collaborating with the following four architects Otto Hunte, Erich Kettelhut, Karl Vollbrecht und Walter Schultze-Mittendorf (sculptures and machines).
The graphical language is influenced by Bauhaus, a German Building School founded in 1919 by Walter Gropius , and his previous film Nibelungen, a German saga. It is something in-between of contemporary Modernism and Art Deco.
The Schüfftan process was used for the first time, which uses a mirror to have background and playing scene separated. The set design built miniatures of the city like real architect’s models. Alfred Hitchcock used this effect later, too.
The skyscrapers were designed mainly with the help of film-architect Erich Kettelhut and influenced by their ideas of New York. One-trail-trains are passing through street canyons. Key images we know from many modernist architects and architectural competition renderings who have proposed to separate pedestrian, public, and individual transport from the housing. To make the vehicles move, stop-motion was used for the first time. They were well aware of Le Corbusier ‘Radiant City’!
Besides the Modernists’ influence we can see Gothic quotations like the cathedral and Rotwang’s house, which reminds Otto Bartning’s design of the Direktorwohnhaus (1923-25) in Zeipau. His laboratory is a mad-scientist’s one and leads to Frankenstein’s and is seen as a forerunner of the Streamline Moderne Style.
In a very simple but not so obvious way there is a direct connection between architecture and communication:
“Another significant and lesser observed element to the film is the usage of doors. Every time someone closes a door in the film, it depicts a loss of communication. It also requires our hero to take further action. In the scene when Freder storms out of his father’s office, soon after his father had fired his assistant Josephat, he closes the door behind him representing a loss of communication between them. Freder follows Joesephat down the stairs and prevents him from killing himself. They start to talk and in between their conversation Freder throws a disgruntled look at his father’s closed door. The camera shifts from Freder’s glance, travels up the stairs, meets Frederson’s angry glance in his office and bounces back onto the closed door.”
a quotation from The Genius of Fritz Lang by Gautam Valluri.
The New Scenes and the Architecture
There are a lot of new scenes but I will just feature those with architecture.
The Upper World
The kids from the working underworld are trying to escape the floods caused by their parents who attacked the heart machine. The water originated from the upper world and these are the new scenes.
A more impressioning ‘new’ sculpture is the altar who was built for Hel by Rotwang. Rotwang (the scientist) is Joh Frederson’s (the boss of metropolis) rival, since he had married his beloved Hel. Hel has died while giving birth to Freder, Joh’s son.
In the scene Joh discovers the altar behind black theatrical curtains. He pulls one of the two cords hanging down on each side. The curtains open vertically in the middle. A woman’s head is posed on a monumental podium – all in white. Joh seems so small in-front of the altar.
Now we can see a scene in the Yoshiwara, the amusement city. I can’t wait to see the whole film to see these new key images in its natural content to really understand what is happening.
The Murnau Foundation who also financed the restauration for the DVD in 2003 will finance the restauration of the new scenes. But the copy is so bad that we will always see some scratches and will miss the contrast in those scenes. I think it very frank to show its history in this way.
Tell me if you have heard of more architectural details in Metropolis by just adding a comment.
director: Fritz Lang
script: Thea von Harbou, Fritz Lang
camera: Karl Freund, Günther Rittau, Walter Ruttmann
cast: Alfred Abel (Johann “Joh” Fredersen), Brigitte Helm (Maria / machine human), Gustav Fröhlich (Freder, Joh’s son), Rudolf Klein-Rogge (Rotwang, the scientist), Fritz Rasp, Theodor Loos (Josaphat), Erwin Biswanger (Georgy, Nr. 11811), Heinrich George (Grot, portier of the heart machine), Olaf Storm (Jan), Hanns Leo Reich (Marinus), Heinrich Gotho (ceremonial master), Margarete Lanner (lady in the car), Max Dietze, Walter Kühle, Arthur Reinhardt, Erwin Vater, Georg John (Arbeiter), Grete Berger, Olly Böheim, Ellen Frey, Lisa Gray, Rose Lichtenstein, Helene Weigel (workers), Erwin Alberti (creative human) Rolf von Goth (son in the ever gardens)
related links to other sites
To view scenes, stills and sequences visit RECOM ART
The Zeit Magazin Leben, a surplus magazine to the German newspaper ‘Die Zeit’ features the find of the entire Metropolis.