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 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
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.
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
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
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.
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
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.
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.
|Georg (No. 11811)
||Hanns Leo REICH
|Woman in car
||Grete BERGER, Olly BOEHEIM, Ellen FREY, Lisa GRAY, Helene
WEIGEL, Rose LICHTENSTEIN
||Max DIETZE, Georg JOHN, Walter KUEHLE, Erwin VATER, Arthur REINHARD
|Women in the eternal garden
||Beatrice GARGA, Anny HINTZE, Hilde WOITSCHEFF, Helen
||Thea von HARBOU, Fritz LANG
||Karl FREUND, Günther RITTAU
|Special effects||Eugen SCHÜFFTAN|
||Otto HUNTE, Erich KETTELHUT, Karl VOLLBRECHT, Walter
||Edgar G. Ulmer