Enjoyed watching the restored version of the hugely influential 1927 sci-fi movie #Metropolis
I hadn’t seen any of the 20m or so of restored footage. Added main title music was good, but repetitive and not always emotionally aligned with the story.
The print was very clear, with crisp details. Nothing like the version I saw 25 years ago on VHS. The recovered footage was grainy but still welcome.
The choreography needs a nod, too — the workers schlepping in unison, and when the Fredersen’s assistant gets sacked, his body language changes so that he walks like one of the underground workers — there was no need for the dialogue that explains being dismissed by Fredersen means exile.
This is my first time seeing the restored version from about 10 years ago, though I did read the novel in grad school. It’s just amazing spotting the huge number of tropes that come from this movie, which of course was borrowing from theater and opera for its staged spectacles.
Also struck rewatching Freder’s vision of the human sacrifices being forced into the fire, which is then supplanted by the images of the phalanx of workers marching into the fire under their own power. Maria’s extended freakout in the catacombs, which reminds me of the cartoon Snow White’s freakout when she’s first sent into the woods — those extended closeups of the actor showing a terror-stricken face was a way to enter into the character’s fear, because we had to imagine whatever it was that made the character that terrified.
Yes, it’s dated, because today they’d do a CGI-infused jump-scare and move on to the next special effect. It’s amazing to see how cinematography has developed. Even the scene where Maria is walking around with the candle is so carefully lit — once or twice when she raises the candle you can see the shadow of the candle against her body, but mostly it’s carefully lit so it looks like the light is coming direclty from the candle — something that I expect would have been impossible with the film they had available back then.
And the way Rotwang’s spotlight pins her down and seems to physically assault her. They did so much with visuals. I loved the moment when Frederson is dictating, and he pauses to find the right word, casually making a very commanding gesture. Quick reaction shots don’t seem to be a thing yet — any time they cut to a close-up, the story is fully and totally about that close-up; we don’t see that many action shots that feature an inserted close-up reaction shot, and I think that’s one reason the characters seem stiff.
The girl in the garden that Freder abandons when Maria shows up tells quite a story with her face. In her I can see some of the Daryl Hannah character from Blade Runner.
Amazing crowd scenes. The slow pace of the movie added to the tension… the scene with the children in danger goes on for so long. Josephat has a nice story arc, though I wanted some resolution between him and Frederson. A modern editor could have trimmed some of the action sequences to make room for more character moments, but this was almost 95 years ago, so I’ll cut them some slack.
Good film. Nice to spend some time watching this with family members.