Monday, 31 December 2007

Metropolis Double Bill Film Review

The second in the Double Bill series goes back nearly eighty years, and looks at the work of one of the world’s greatest film makers, Fritz Lang.

Lang will always be best remembered for his masterpiece, Metropolis. Released in 1927 after nearly sixteen months of filming, and featuring a cast of thousands  - 37, 383 to be exact - Metropolis is a city, a utopian dream, whose wealthy inhabitants live in palatial apartments, while the city’s slave community live underground, working gruelling shifts so that their masters can continue to live in the style they have become accustomed.

The workers are unhappy with their conditions, but are stopped from rebelling by the saintly Maria. Realising that she holds a great deal of power, industrialist John Frederson has Maria kidnapped, and orders mad scientist Rothwang to create a robot replica to take her place. But Frederson’s plan goes awry, and the robot Maria incites the workers to revolt.

Metropolis is a cinematic masterpiece, but Lang had problems with the film’s money men.Germany’s biggest film company, UFA, was almost bankrupted by the film’s two million dollar budget. UFA took final editing out of Lang’s hands, and he hated the final edit that was released. It was several years before Lang’s vision of the film finally saw the light of day.

Even after all these years, Metropolis still stands as a monument to Lang’s artistic vision. It’s a truly stunning, truly breathtaking piece of work.

It was almost sixty years later when Metropolis was released again, but this time in a different form. Italian composer Giorgio Moroder, renowned for his work on Flashdance, composed a new soundtrack for the film, with tracks performed by Freddie Mercury, Bonnie Tyler, Jon Anderson, Pat Benatar, and many more.

Even though, as someone who grew up in the eighties, I enjoyed the music a great deal, the combination of 1920’s film making and 1980’s pop music just didn’t work for me. Although I’m sure he had the work’s best interests at heart, Moroder’s music took away from Lang’s vision,and while Lang’s original lasted over two hours, Moroder’s version lasted a shade under ninety minutes.

As the old saying goes, if it ain’t broke, don’t fix it. If you ever get the chance to watch Metropolis in the way that it should be watched, the way that Lang wanted us to see his futuristic world, then you’ll be in for a hell of an experience. Forget Moroder’s vision of Lang’s world, unless you want a good eighties soundtrack. But then again, I’m sure you can get the soundtrack on CD somewhere.