Metropolis" over the weekend. I've always loved the 1927 silent film for its visual beauty, but not the story.
2-and-a-half-hour film was not treated kindly by its distributors, and
shortly after its premier was chopped down to a more "manageable" run
time of under two hours.
I've enjoyed the 2001 Kino
version, which had pulled together and restored as much of the surviving
footage as they could find. There was still a substantial amount of the
film that remained missing until a copy was discovered in Brazil in 2008.
The additional 25 minutes don't completely restore "Metropolis," but it
comes close -- and redefines many of the relationships between the
characters in the process.
One of the most menacing figures in the film, Fritz Rasp
as the Thin Man, had his role reduced to almost nothing in the early
edits. Restoring his scenes makes a world of difference. Rasp had a
knack for portraying dangerously powerful men on screen (check out his
role as Colonel Jellusic in "Spies").
he plays the eyes and ears of Joh Fredersen, the CEO of Metropolis. He's
assigned the task of trailing Jon's impulsive son Freder, a job he does
with quiet efficiency.
The still at left is from the
restored footage. Look at the cold menace in Rasp's face. But note
something else. That flat-brimmed hat reminded me of Jack Nicholson's
portrayal of the Joker. Except the Thin Man is far scarier.
restored footage clarifies the conflict between the mad scientist
Rotwang and Joh Fredersen, and also offers a better reason for the
creation of the robot. In the edited version, Fredersen wanted something
to replace the workers with, a motive that doesn't make much sense with
his later actions. In the original version. Rotwang creates the robot
as a reincarnation of Hel, the woman he lost to Fredersen (which also
explains their conflict).
Also changing roles is Josaphat,
an administrator fired by Joh Fredersen. In the edited version, it
appears that he drops to the lower working class, showing up later in
overall and togs. In the original version, he instead is hired by Freder
to be his eyes and ears.
The worker's clothes he
dons are only a disguise. Josaphat remains (thanks to Freder's employ) part of
the very small middle class. The restored version is the only place we
see a hint of this middle class.
If you've ever seen any version of "Metropolis," and
didn't think much of it, give this restored version a view. It's
different enough that it make change your mind. And if you've seen
"Metropolis" and enjoyed it despite its flaws, The Complete Metropolis
should justify your faith in the potential of this sprawling opus.