It’s funny how certain ideas recur in little clusters. When I was in Atlanta last week, we went to the Margaret Mitchell Museum and somewhere along the way, someone talked about the disintegration of film masters like Gone with the Wind. I came home to discover that Mr. Math had picked up a copy of Metropolis. This movie is a favorite of mine. It’s a silent film made by Fritz Lang. According to the Wiki, it’s the first full length science fiction film, and, at the time it was filmed in 1925, it was the most expensive movie ever made. It’s also a love story set in a dystopian future (2026), and one in which love heals all wounds. (What’s not to love about that?) The eye candy is interesting too – it’s always intriguing to see how people envision the future. I like also that Fritz Lang and his wife, Thea Von Harbou, wrote the screenplay together. She actually wrote a book first, and the screenplay was derived from it. (Wiki says the magic and occult segments of her book were left out of the film. I’d really love to read that book!)
Metropolis was heavily edited after its initial release because it was long, then suffered disintegration of the film masters. The films and records were scattered during the Second World War, so bits and ends were even harder to locate than is usual with old films. The end result was that a number of scenes seemed to be lost forever and the plot progression was jumpy.
The interesting thing about these old movies is that different versions were cut from the master for different countries and territories. And over the years, some of those regional masters and films for Metropolis have been discovered. Restorations have been done over the years, incorporating found pieces, and digitizations have also been done to preserve what exists.
The version of Metropolis that Mr. Math brought home was the 1984 restoration by George Morodis, which featured a pop soundtrack. (I doubt that the release date was a coincidence.) This version also added scenes (discovered in far-flung collections) and straightened out the chronology of the story, some of which was conjecture without having either Mr. Lang or the script at hand. The film was tinted, as well. There’s more content, but the film speed is faster. I remember seeing this movie when it was in general release, at the Carleton Theatre in Toronto (which was where one went to see arty stuff, back in the day).
Recently, longer versions of Metropolis were discovered in New Zealand and Argentina. There’s a newer restoration from 2010 which adds 25 minutes to the running time, courtesy of these discoveries. We’ve ordered a copy to watch it, too, and I’m excited about more Metropolis.
If you want to read more about the history of this film, here’s the Wiki.
If you want to see more about the 2010 restoration, here’s the website for it.
What’s your favourite old movie? What’s your favourite dystopian-set love story? Are there different versions of your fave old movie available?