Giorgio Moroder Presents Metropolis

In all the world, no city was more impressive than Metropolis – an exaltation of buildings towering into the skies. A city to be idolized and adored where people seemed free to concentrate on pleasurable pursuits. But beneath the surface lay the reason why Metropolis thrived. As happy as life was above the surface, so was the sadness of the workers beneath the city’s shiny exterior. Working long days deep below without daylight or fresh air, it was a dismal existence consumed by backbreaking labor. Joh Fredersen, the city’s founder and architect, observed all from on high with a watchful eye. His son Freder lives among the carefree unaware of the horrors underneath. Then one day Freder encounters the beautiful Maria, a woman who takes care of the worker’s children while they toil. He is immediately smitten by her and trails her to learn more about the woman. He soon becomes aware of the ugly side of Metropolis. Horrified by the drudgery of the troubled lives of the working class he vows to become an agent for change.

Giorgio Moroder Presents Metropolis is a marvelous reinterpretation of an incredible film. Fritz Lang’s Metropolis is an important work and synth wizard Giorgio Moroder complements Fritz Lang‘s artistic vision. Metropolis was a silent first released in 1927. It had an orchestral musical arrangement by Gottfried Huppertz which included elements from the music of Richard Wagner and Richard Strauss. In 1984 Giorgio Moroder took the Metropolis print, composed a new more modern score, added sound effects, and color tinted certain scenes. The Giorgio Moroder entry was actually shorter than existing prints at the time. This was due mainly to the addition of subtitles to replace intertitles that displayed dialogue and running at a quicker 24 frames/second. This version was a restoration of sorts for the time, but it’s also HIS vision. Highly controversial when it was released back in 1984, this strongly divided audiences. I can imagine that to purists, taking a respected work of art and applying such changes is something akin to blasphemy. I, however, am not one those people. Obviously the concept isn’t meant to replace the original Metropolis, which still exists in all its glory, but it is a revitalization of the silent classic. In fact, Moroder’s undertaking was key in stoking renewed interest in the seminal work. In 2010 the most compete version of Metropolis was discovered totaling 147 minutes. I recommend seeking that as well as it approximates Fritz Lang’s work as it was originally presented.

Moroder’s synth driven score gives the action on screen a vitality and energy not present in the original. Being a silent with all of the print and sound quality issues that go along with it, the application of contemporary music with color tints doesn’t seem so abhorrent. It provides a modern context to a picture already visually ahead of its time. Although mostly an instrumental creation, he also included several pop songs written for the movie by the likes of Freddie Mercury, Bonnie Tyler and Pat Benatar. The lyrics of these songs inform the storyline so they don’t just feel like throwaway numbers. The pop rock compositions revitalize the original. Much like a remix of a classic song, they energize the narrative and make it more cohesive and urgent. Every spectacle pulses with a renewed vitality. The disco number that plays over Maria’s striptease only emphasizes the seductive nature of the dance. The adaptation succeeds because Giorgio Moroder has an obvious love for the material.

Scene after scene fascinates with mind-blowing displays that have never been equaled in style or design. Metropolis is among the most visually notable triumphs ever. Quite a feat considering it was released in 1927. The architecture of the city is a combination of contemporary Modernism and Art Deco. Even by today’s standards these images continue to impress. When a enormous machine explodes killing dozens of workers, Freder imagines it as a monstrous deity to which the laborers are sacrificed. Stunning visions of the Tower of Babel, based on a painting by Pieter Bruegel , are mesmerizing. And perhaps most iconic of all, the astonishing moment in which scientist Rotwang transforms a robot into a double of Maria using her soul. The segment is technologically dazzling manifestation of light and electricity. The undulating Saturn-like rings pulsate around the metal creation complete with futuristic sound effects. Metropolis remains the most expensive silent film ever made and it shows.

Metropolis is a fundamental work in science fiction. True, the melodramatic acting of silent films can come across as unintentionally comedic. And the parable of class warfare is about as timeworn an idea as they come. At one point, Maria implores “There can be no understanding between the hand and the brain unless the heart acts as mediator.” That sounds like the wisdom from a fortune cookie, but along with those overworked ideas, beats Fritz Lang’s vision of a ultramodern city that continues to influence filmmakers of today. Star Wars, Blade Runner, The Fifth Element all gather inspiration from Metropolis. Even the video for Madonna’s “Express Yourself” relies heavily on the masterpiece. Giorgio Moroder’s reinterpretation only accentuates Fritz Lang’s imaginative talent. At times it’s ridiculously over the top, but that’s what makes the story so endlessly watchable. It stands up to repeated viewings. Giorgio Moroder Presents Metropolis is a revitalized adaptation of a classic film and deserves a hallowed place along side the original.

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5 Responses to “Giorgio Moroder Presents Metropolis”

  1. LOVED your review! It also made me feel a little bad since I haven’t seen the movie in any of its versions. I should get to it soon.

  2. It’s so hard to believe that this movie was made in 1927. It is way ahead of its time. The music is truly amazing. I will be buying this on dvd.

  3. Your description of and enthusiasm for the Moroder re-working makes me want to give it a try. I did see an earlier version that had been updated less elaborately, and I thought it was an improvement over the original. The notion of using U.S. popular music as background for a vision of the future made in the Germany of the 1920’s, however, sounds like it might come off a bit crass and undermine whatever unique qualities the director had managed to get into his point of view. But maybe not.

    On another point I wonder if this was the first movie to show the dark side of a mythical nation of the future, technologically advanced but awful in the way it regiments or victimizes people — a story of a sort that became fairly common later on with various versions of 1984, for example, Logan’s Run, Soylent Green, THX 1138, Brazil… you can probably name a bunch more. There was a 1936 British film called Things to Come (which you may have seen) that had a somewhat similar view of where the world was headed, but curiously in that case, the audience was (I think) supposed to APPROVE of the almost total control Raymond Massey and his pals exercised over mankind — a little like the mind-numbingly immense assemblage of parliamentary bureaucrats George Lucas visualized as benignly ruling the galaxy (with the support of the Jedi Warriors?!) in the later-made but earlier-occurring episodes of Star Wars.

  4. Pleased with your review! In fact, almost immediately after I read it, I added this film to my IMDb Watchlist! Thanks!

  5. I haven’t seen Giorgio Moroder’s refurbishing, per se, but I just saw the original 1927 version. Here’s my review:
    http://themoviefreakblog.wordpress.com/2012/02/07/review-metropolis/

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