the fresh films reviews

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Metropolis (1926)

Directed by:
Fritz Lang



153 min (original)
116 min (1927 edit)
148 min (2010)

Produced by:
Erich Pommer

Written by (based on her novel):
Thea von Harbou

Cast includes:

Joh Fredersen Alfred Abel
Freder Gustav Frölich
Rotwang Rudolf Klein-Rogge
Maria / Machinenmensch Brigitte Helm ½
Der Schmale Fritz Rasp -
Josaphat Theodor Loos -
Grot Heinrich George -



One of film history's earliest triumphs in visual effects and production design, Metropolis still looks and feels magnificent even after a century of ageing. Fritz Lang deployed a record-breaking budget and avant-garde use of miniatures and special effects, most notably the Schüfftan process, in order to create the illusory, dreamlike sci-fi world of Metropolis – a futuristic city in which the division between the lowly workers and the sophisticated upper class has grown to dangerous, tyrannical proportions. We follow the young and idealistic Freder (Gustav Frölich), son of the city's oppressive master, in his search for the truth about his father's reign – and a more substantial meaning to life than idling away at various sheltered past-times. The clash between the privileged and the poor is inevitable in this epic. Still, Lang's depiction of it, and of the film's dystopian society, remains multifaceted, relevant and remarkably universal. The fact that Metropolis was so prophetic for what was to happen in Germany about a decade later is more a confirmation of the timeless validity of Lang and his screenwriter Thea von Harbou's story; a reminder that a totalitarian rule is only ever a complacent society away. Despite this, there is a sentimental optimism to Metropolis which infuses the silent moments and makes it a remarkably satisfying watch in addition to all the impressive extravaganza. One of the most influential, monumental and aesthetically flawless pictures of all time.

PS! The film exists in several different cuts, one of which is from 2010 and includes a number of segments from Fritz Lang's original cut which were found in a damaged print in an Argentinian museum in 2008. These newly restored segments are of such a poor technical quality that they work more as a detraction than a completion, and therefore I recommend the 2001 cut instead.

Re-reviewed: Copyright © 12.05.2023 Fredrik Gunerius Fevang
Original review: Copyright © 05.11.1996 Fredrik Gunerius Fevang