Tuesday, April 24, 2007


Expect no blogging tonight. I just received in the mail the Kino Video release of Fritz Lang's classic silent film Metropolis. This is the 2002 restored version that tries to recreate what 15,000 film goers in Berlin saw in 1927, the 153 minute original.

I just finished watching two of the special extras. First was The Metropolis Case which discusses the history of German cinema after WWI and the influences that lead to such a prolific number of films being produced. We are treated to history, the stage, art, and finally the cinema itself. One is also granted a very enlightening look behind the scenes at the creation of Metropolis, the scenery, score, special effects, and yes even Hel. Of course that evil corporal has to stick his thumb into the act, he was a fan of Metropolis. Even after the National Socialists banned Lang's disturbing film of a town's underworld hunting down a murderous pedophile, starring Peter Lorre as the pedophile, called M; they offered Lang to be the head of German film. As Lang relates in an interview from the 1960s, the day after that offer in 1933 was made he left for Paris and then to the United States where he continued to work in films.

The second special feature discussed the restoration process. They were forced to pull together nitrate negatives and positives from various sources to assemble something approaching the original version. In some cases it was only because some scenes existed in multiple negatives that a corroded scene from their primary source was restored to the film. Where no length of negative or stills can be found of a scene, new title cards were created to describe what was supposed to be there. The restoration team made a digital negative so they could correct the varying qualities of their multiple archive sources. There is also discussion of why using automatic settings in software like Limelight is a bad idea, rapid movement could result in a book vanishing or people's limbs disappearing because the software is doing frame by frame comparisons when in automatic mode. Another method they used to remove many of the scratches was the wet film process in which a liquid is used to cover the negative; this liquid has the proper optical properties that once it is in the pits and scratches, the pits and scratches vanish. It was after all this intensive work that a new digital negative was created.

Now I am going to sit back and watch what will probably be the most complete version of Metropolis to ever see the light of day since 1927. And until I read the liner notes that came with the DVD, I thought I had seen every version of Metropolis from the shortened Paramount version to the colorized version that had a score arranged by Queen. Alas there are many more versions than these three. And no, I do not feel the urge to try and watch every version. Three is enough with the Kino Video version being the closest to the original.

As for the poster image, I get a feeling Tron stole some visual cues from this movie. Then again, so many movies have been influenced by the truncated versions what is one more film except further affirmation that Metropolis is a classic.

No comments: