It’s one of those key moments of a Sci-Fi fans life, to see such an epic movie such as Metropolis on a cinema screen and in its glory with remastered visuals and brilliant soundtrack to go with it and recently I had that very chance at the Scala Cinema & Arts Centre in Prestatyn when they held the BFI Fear and Wonder weekend.
Now before I go on, I do have to say that I have a copy of Metropolis on DVD, but even on a large screen TV and Dolby Digital 5.1 sound, nothing compares to seeing the movie on a large cinema screen, surrounded like like-minded fans of Sci-Fi that appreciate the epic 1927 German expressionistic Science-Fiction classic.
In a futuristic city sharply divided between the working class and the city planners, the son of the city’s mastermind falls in love with a working class prophet who predicts the coming of a saviour to mediate their differences.
Way before the days of blatant over use of CGI, Metropolis was perhaps one of the forerunners of the genre, with its superb use of miniatures to capture the overall grandeur of Metropolis and its pioneering visual effects such as matt painting to add to the feel of the movie.
Cinema goers of the 1920’s must have been amazed by what they were seeing on their cinema screens at the time.
Metropolis was directed by Fritz Lang and also written by him and his wife Thea von Harbouand starred Brigitte Helm, Gustav Fröhlich, Alfred Abel and Rudolf Klein-Rogge. At the time the film was the most expensive to be made in its genre, costing around five million Reichmarks.
Although the film did receive mixed reviews upon its release and was cut down by the censors due to it very long running time and footage which they found questionable at the time, sadly due to this large sections of the film were lost over the decades, leaving us with scenes we can now only dream of.
Over the years, many people have attempted to restore Metropolis to its former glory since the early 1970s, in 1984 Giorgio Moroder attempted a version with a rock soundtrack which included artists such as Freddie Mercury (Remember the Radio Ga-Ga video by Queen?), Adam Ant and Loverboy, then in 2001 a new cut was shown at the Berlin Film Festival, later in 2008 a damaged print of Fritz Lang’s original cut was found of Metropolis, after a very long process of restoring the film to around 95% of its entirety, it was released on large screen in Berlin and Franfurt on the 12 February 2010.
This 95% print is what we were lucky to see at the Scala on the BFI weekend and believe me when I say that it was stunning, it was so wonderful to see such an amazing piece of work restored, with only a few scenes that were so badly damaged that they were restored to their best possible quality, but sadly some scenes weren’t saved and were implemented by text explain the scene. But this didn’t deter from the experience of the movie which now runs at 2h33m, a much superior cut than the 83min version that many have seen.
I have to say a massive thank you to the Scala Cinema & Arts Centre in Prestatyn for allowing us to get to see such a powerful masterpiece on a big screen, a film that ran for two and half hours, but only felt like 30 minutes long, what a fantastic choice of film to start with, the sheer enjoyment of seeing something that was possibly as close to how Fritz Lang would have seen the film and we even had an amazing orchestral soundtrack, with the sounds of music sheets turning, coughs from the orchestra etc.
It all felt like we had a live orchestra in the cinema accompanying the showing, very much like they may have had back in the 20’s, superb, an experience that I, and may be the other cinema goers, will never forget.