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METROPOLIS

The movie "Metropolis" represented a new standard in the film history. The realization of the materials wasn't so easy, particularly since it stood out to be enormous expensive for the transformation of this story. 
In the end the expenditure amounted to 3.5 million German Reichs-Mark, four times more as calculated. However the decoration and the lighting cost more than half a million Deutsch Mark, in addition to 150 actors and countless extras, about 600'000 meters of negative films and 1.3 million meters of positive films were used.
In spite of these immense amounts the film became a desaster for the UFA at the world premiere. 
The consequences: The producer Erich Pommer was discharged during the shooting, the UFA was took over by Alfred Hugenberg few months after the premiere. 
 

The movie appeared at the beginning of 1927. At the first night all the notables were present. The whole government and even the old Reichspräsident Paul von Hindenburg didn't let slid this event. 
After the show Hindenburg gave to understand how strong the movie had impressed him. Though bad tongues claimed that Hindenburg was slumbin in his chair especially at the most thrilling passages. 
When Fritz Lang and Brigitte Helm stepped out of the drapes the people came into rage for a good half an hour. 
Despite this successful world premiere the film did not appeal by the normal filmgoer. The movie only brought in about 75'000 German Reichs-Mark in Germany (this are about 15'000 onlookers).

When the movie was sold to Paramount in the USA the big tale of woe began for the movie. The movie became truncated and seriously reduced and was brought into the movie theaters in this new version. This from Channing Pollock reduced version was also released in Germany again but still without success. The cutted material was destroyed and it seemed it was lost forever.
For the UFA the movie became nearly their ruin, only in later years it avanced to a prestige, although a very expensive one.

In later years Fritz Lang distanced himself from the movie because of its simple philosophy that the mediator between brain and hands has to be the heart - a philosophy which was created by Thea von Harbou. But in an interview in 1971 Fritz Lang said that when he talked with the juvenile of today and asked them what they are missing in the now computer controlled society they told him "the heart". Hereupon Fritz Lang expressed himself that he feels no longer certain if Thea von Harbou was not 100 % right with this philosophy. 

First efforts to reconstruct the reduced movie came in the 60s into being. There were found some single movie clips in different film archives around the world time and again which were used for the reconstruction.

When Giorgio Moroder released Metropolis in 1984 again with a total length of 80 minutes and his own composed songs which were interpreted by the icons of the 80s like Freddy Mercury, Bonnie Tyler and Adam Ant, the movie experienced a resurrection and achived cult status. In 1986 when this version was shown at the Berlinale the leading actor Gustav Fröhlich was also present. He descriped the version as loud but very beautiful.

In the year 2001 "Metropolis" was inherited into the Unesco register "Memory of the World" as the only movie till today. 

For years later followed the next headline when an original movie poster - of which only four are existing - was auctioned off to the record price of 398'000 British pounds.

When no one reckoned with it there was found a complete version of the original worldpremiere of 1927 in Argentina in 2008, although in a very bad condition. This unexpected cicumstance predated the happening that an Argentinean film lender was present at the work premiere in 1927 and had bought a kopie of it on the spot before the movie became destroyed in the USA. Later the movie came into the hands of a collector who borrowed the movie often which was not so good for the quality of the movie. At the end the film reel landed in the Museo del Cine in Buenos Aires where it finally was developed.
Now it was possible to reconstruct the movie for nearly 100 % (they assume that only five minutes are missing so far) and they were able to create the original version also thanks to the meticulous written original film music by Gottfried Huppertz which involved about 1200 clues. The now rearranged movie was released in 2010 at the Berlinale. Like in 1927 there were again numerous stars of the German film and politicians present in order to celebrate this event. 
 

The doer of this movie were producer Erich Pommer, the ingenious script writer and author Thea von Harbou as well as director Fritz Lang.
Fritz Lang was in America because of an invitation of a great motion-picture company. This visit left a great impression to him especially the entrance into the harbour of New York and the huge buildings which seemed to grow out of the sea. Although Fritz Lang claimed in later years that this visit released the idea to realise Metropolis one knows today that Thea von Harbou had already written the book in July 1924 - so before Fritz Lang was in America. 
But the common visit of Fritz Land and Erich Pommer was an anew impulse surely to start with the realisation of Metropolis, although Erich Pommer had considered the possibility of a realisation of such a gigantic project. Even the UFA wouldn't be in a position to build skyscrapers for the film studio, this would come too expensive. But Fritz Lang knew how to dissipate his objection. He was familiar with a new method which was developed by cinematographer Eugen Schüfftan. This method allowed to put models in the picture through a complicated discharge of reflection and re-reflection (called the Schüfftan-method) that it looked like huge buildings. This method was made perfectly during the shooting. 
Now nothing was in the way against a realisation of the movie. 
 

The content:
Metropolis is a huge industrial town divided into an upper and a lower town. One could imagine a modern factory run by CMMS software products maintaining the day to day operation of the factory. This would be a similar theme to the town in Metropolis.
In the lower one, where the sunlight hardly reaches the lowlands, there live and work the destitute people which have to operate enormous machines in order to provide the city with the necessary energy.  In the upper town there live the rich bigwigs in immense luxury. The constellation of either sides reminds strong of the pharaoes and their slaves, which scraped a hopeless living in the shadow of their sovereigns. But the rabble mobilizes his strength and starts a rebellion against the oppressors. In order to give the story the necessary spice, Freder, the son of one of the most powerful big industrialists, stand by the side of the rebel workmen. Beside Freder, played by Gustav Fröhlich, who was an unknown actor in those days, there performs Brigitte Helm, who made her debut in the film business in the role of Maria. This Maria tries to convince the workmen to give up their resistance and get on well with the rulers. Her philosophy is that it depends only on the "unification of heart and brain" to become well in anything. Freder falls in love with Maria and together they try to direct the threating escalation into a controlled course.

But Freder's father Joh. Fredersen, acted by the incomparable actor Alfred Abel, has other plans. He eavesdrop on a speech of Maria and looks upon her as a threat for the existing system. He makes plans to produce an imitation of Maria in order to provoke the workmen to an act of violence. Because of that he would have the possibility to take action against the rebels and to put down the revolution bloody. To realize his devilish plan he instructs the genius but also mad inventor Rotwang, acted by Rudolf Klein-Rogge, who took part in nearly all movies of Fritz Lang. But the plan has a catch. Rotwang has a deep resentment against Fredersen. That one snatched that woman away from him who he loved so dearly but still she became the wife of Joh. Fredersen.

But the plans of the two go wrong. The Roboter-Maria develops own instincts and finally incite the workmen to destroy the big machines. Flood gates have been opened and a colossal tidal wave pours over the lower town. Countless children and adults threatened to drown. The rebellion get out of control and degenerates in a bloody revolution.
In this general chaos Rotwang sees the chance to revenge himself on Joh. Fredersen and his son and kidnaps the real Maria. Shortly afterwards Freder notices that the inciting Maria couldn't be the same person he has known. He finds Rotwang out and picks up the pursuit. Rotwang climbs up to a church tower with the unconscious Maria where he was hunted down by Freder. A life-and-death struggle breaks out. 
Joh. Fredersen watches helpless the occurrence at the foot of the church. He gets so into excitement that his hair becomes snow-white from one moment to the other. Finally the villain Rotwang falls into the depth. Maria and Freder arrive in the nick of time in order to save the escalating situation. The Roboter-Maria has been burnt, merely a steel skeleton is left.
The industrialist Joh. Fredersen becomes reconciled with his son, with Maria and the leader of the workmen.
 

The movie Metropolis is very remarkable in many respects.
Together with the huge sceneries which were built as high as two meters, some such as the gigantic heart machine for the production of the energy were built in life size. 
The architecture is doubtless one of the most important aspects which forms the fascination of this movie. The buildings and the environment were created by the great Otto Hunte, Erich Kettelhut and Karl Vollbrecht aw well as Walter Schulze-Mittendorf, who was responsible for the roboter and the sculptures. 

Also the music of Gottfried Huppertz stand out which not only underlays some scenes but tells actively. It's a film composition which was not used in this way at that time and only became stan dard in later years by other film composers. 

The movies shows beside impressive buildings and crowded freeways - only for this ten seconds lasting scene shot in stop motion technic Fritz Lang needed 10 days of work - also trains and air taxies, a very utopian future for that time. 
Even an allusion to the forthcoming age of TV was shown in a scene as Fredersen calls the foreman and looks at him at the same time. For this scene it was the first time at all that the method of a back projection was used, the method was invented beside as it were.
Also for the making of the imitated human Fritz Lang reached deep into the trick box. Fascinating electronic rings like glorioles slid up and down along the roboter and conjured up a nightmarish scenario on the screen.
 

For the production of the movie Fritz Lang asked for six thousand extras, which had to come with shaven heads and to look like prisoners. The production managers hurried to the film associations but the extras didn't think of to shave their heads for few Deutsch Mark. Tomorrow or the day after tomorrow other directors would turn down them because of their appearance. But the problem solves itself. In this time there were more than enough unemployed persons in Berlin. These people agreed to shave their head, after all they had to provide their wife and children. Pommer granted "only" one thousand extras. In his opinion it shoud be possible to give one thousand people the impression of six thousand. Now the engaged persons had to do exactly the opposite of their real life, namely to slave away unspeakable right to the collapse. 
Till all scenes were done to Fritz Lang's satisfaction many extras got into a sweat. 
They were taken to a further toughness test, when the scene with the open floodgate followed. Although in the finished film this sequence lasted only 10 minutes, the shooting needed more than six weeks. The extras had to tremble in cold water and the situation was nearly similar like the movie itself, with Fritz Lang as their oppressor.
Also countless children were employed for the mass scene. The children had to look underfed. The production manager flocked through Berlin looking for such children and found enough of them, more than enough, far too much.

But even the leading actors had to go to their limit in order to fulfill Fritz Lang's imagination of the movie. Gustav Fröhlich had to knee in front of Brigitte Helm in one scene and this one was repeated for several days till Gustav Fröhlich could hardly stand upright. Also the 19 years old Brigitte Helm had to suffer in some scenes. The heavy wood adult costumes of the roboter let her nearly air for breathe and she collapsed several time although the shootings were interrupted often in order to create fresh air with a ventilator. 

But the result was worth of the efforts.


Casting list
Maria/The Roboter Brigitte HELM
Freder Gustav FROEHLICH
Joh. Fredersen Alfred ABEL
Rotwang Rudolf KLEIN-ROGGE
The Slim Fritz RASP
Josaphat/Joseph Theodor LOOS
Groth Heinrich GEORGE
Creative person Fritz ALBERTI
Jan Olaf STORM
Georg (No. 11811)  Erwin BISWANGER
Marinus Hanns Leo REICH
Ceremony master Heinrich GOTHO
Woman in car  Margarete LANNER
Doktor Jaro FÜRTH
Working women Grete BERGER, Olly BOEHEIM, Ellen FREY, Lisa GRAY, Helene WEIGEL, Rose LICHTENSTEIN
Workmen Max DIETZE, Georg JOHN, Walter KUEHLE, Erwin VATER, Arthur REINHARD
Women in the eternal garden Beatrice GARGA, Anny HINTZE, Hilde WOITSCHEFF, Helen von MÜNCHOFEN
Director Fritz LANG
Writer Thea von HARBOU, Fritz LANG
Producer Erich POMMER
Cinematographer Karl FREUND, Günther RITTAU
Special effectsEugen SCHÜFFTAN
Film Composer Gottfried HUPPERTZ
Production Designer Otto HUNTE, Erich KETTELHUT, Karl VOLLBRECHT, Walter SCHULZE-MITTENDORFF
Set Designer Edgar G. Ulmer
Costume Designer Aenne Willkomm


 

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