Metropolis

Most people who have known me for more than fives minutes are very aware that my favorite movie is Jaws. But a slightly lesser known fact is this: Metropolis inspired me to be a filmmaker.

Fritz Lang’s Metropolis, released in 1927. A German silent film about a future society rife with class struggles and cool art deco buildings.

So when did I see it? As a college student? Nope. As a film nerdy high school student? Nope. I saw it before I ever realized how much I liked movies. 7th grade. Honors English Class. I was blown away by the images. They were right up my sci-fi/fantasy alley. But the music, combined with the images… therein was something called a story. This one experience led me to explore music in film, then foley and other audio, then directing the visual image, and now, screenwriting.

One story changed the course of my life.

And of course, my husband knows this. So what did he get me for Christmas? The Complete Metropolis Blu-Ray.

It includes the most complete version of the film offered, along with a newly recorded score, which makes an incredible difference for a silent film so influenced by its music. Best of all, it’s almost completely restored. And the image is gorgeous.

 
I started the disc to check the quality and couldn’t tear myself away. The story is compelling and the images are profound. It’s not overly interrupted by title cards. And the music? Well, it’s epic. I watched so long, my husband wandered into the living room just to see what I was watching… and got sucked in, too.

Of course, I said it was mostly restored. There are bits and pieces that were salvaged from a print in Argentina that are still quite scratched. But that print is what makes a complete version of Metropolis possible. The film release is its own compelling story. But succinctly, I’ll just say it was chopped up a few times from its original 148 minutes run time and only now restored because a thirty minute chunk, once thought destroyed, showed up in the form of a 16mm copy from a very poorly treated 35mm print. The scratches and poor image are a testament to the films troubled beginnings and enduring life.

On the same blu-ray, there’s a documentary about the film and its history up to the most recent restoration. Unfortunately, it’s not very well made, but it’s fairly informative. It’s how I knew about the Argentina print and why pieces of the film are still unrestored. It’s also how I know Metropolis was one of the biggest box office flops of all times and that it endured to inspire a young Ridley Scott to practically copy the world for his movie, Blade Runner.

I realize silent movies aren’t everybody’s cup of tea. But this is an incredible piece of film history that fuels my own spark, that little piece of something inside me that loves story, moving pictures, music, and their combined ability to communicate to the heart of an audience I may never physically speak to or see. I’d highly recommend giving it a chance. Especially this edition.

Just gorgeous.

Thanks Nick, for giving me such an incredible gift right when I needed it.

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