10 Questions about METROPOLIS (1927/2010)
1. There already are several restored versions of METROPOLIS; the one from 2001 even belonging to the UNESCO World Documentary Heritage. What is so special about the restoration of 2010?
All the copies of METROPOLIS that were available so far could only base on the shortened and dramaturgically modified versions that have been used for German and international utilization. They could not be based on the 30 minutes longer version that has received its world premiere on January 10, 1927. This copy had only been on screen for a few months and for decades was considered to be irrecoverable.
So the myth of METROPOLIS as filmic torso grew bigger: It was a known fact that the masterpiece had to undergo significant mutilations; different sources tell about the missing scenes but the repeated search for the wanted footage was unsuccessful. Despite the research of generations of archivists as well as of the Murnau Foundation itself about one quarter of the original version remained missing – up to the sensational discovery in Buenos Aires in 2008 and the current restoration.
2. How does the current restoration look like?
The current restoration wishes to reconstruct as close as possible the original version of METROPOLIS that premiered 1927 and that has been lost for decades. The extensive digital restoration from 2001 provides the base for the version to be restored right now. It will be completed by the newly found pieces of the Argentinian copy. At first the montage of the original version had to be reconstructed that is the order of shots, scenes, and sequences.
Second the footage found in Argentina is being restored digitally. Restoration aims to reduce the damage of the heavily used Argentinian material – whose pictures are difficult to recognize – by using the best amount of digital technology. Furthermore the original score is being re-edited based on the the score composed by Gottfried Huppertz.
3. How far is the restoration of METROPOLIS?
Restoring METROPOLIS not only counts as a film culturally significant but also very complex project. This is due to the problematic condition of the found footage that is a 16mm Dup Negative, not a contemporary 35mm copy or a camera negative. Thanks to the close cooperation of all partners the Murnau Foundation will be able to present the restoration project in February 2010 to the public. The first step, meaning the reconstruction (merging the material known so far with the newly found scenes of the Argentinian version), is finished by now. Right now the scenes coming from the Argentinian version (about 25 minutes length) are being digitally restored.
4. Contrary to the restoration of 2001 that has been included in the UNESCO World Documentary Heritage the base material of the approximate 25 minutes is not a 35mm camera negative but a 16mm Dup Negative. What does this mean for the restoration?
A 35mm nitro copy of the Argentinian distributor from 1927 after commercial utilization became private property of the film critic Manuel Pena Rodriguez. He screened the copy in private film clubs until the 1960s.
His collection later passed into the possession of the Fondo Nacional de las Artes. Safety copies in 16mm Negative were made from the nitro material that afterwards supposedly has been destroyed. This copying lacked competent supervision and duplicated all the damage and stain of the heavily torn copy. In addition the format reduction (35mm to 16mm) resulted in a loss of resolution quality as well as a heavy cut of the picture size.
5. Does the restoration effect change about the plot?
The METROPOLIS version 1927/2010 differs significantly from all the versions known so far. Although the plot of the film keeps its well-known framework the structure of the plot changes: It becomes more harmonic and more comprehensible. Especially the minor characters that Fritz Lang gives room emerge again. Two newly found scenes give Georgy, Josaphat and The Thin Man back their own profiles that through the cuts were almost downgraded to extras.
The now included sequences like Georgy´s car ride through Metropolis as well as Freder and The Thin Man´s visiting with Josaphat turn out to be siginificant for the plot. But also the relationship between the inventor Rotwang and Joh Fredersen, the ruler over Metropolis, as well as the reason for their rivalry become clear through the current restoration: Finally one can see the famous scene “Chamber of Hel”, the departed woman loved by both rivals, from which up to now only one still and several descriptions existed. METROPOLIS (1927/2010) is going to be a film event of it´s own!
7. Will one reach the photographic quality from the version of 2001?
Even by digital means the difference in quality between the version of 2001 which is based on a camera negative and the heavily torn Argentinian material cannot be eliminated. The difference between the two materials will stay visible. The reinserted pieces that have been removed about 80 years ago because of commercial reasons will always be noticeable. Therefore METROPOLIS as filmic torso, a myth capturing generations, will be documented also in the almost complete version.
8. How will the premiere take place?
The world premiere of the restored version of the Murnau Foundation takes place on February 12 at the same time in the Alte Oper (Frankfurt am Main) accompanied by the Staatsorchester Braunschweig under the direction of Helmut Imig as well as in the Friedrichstadtpalast on the occasion of the 60th Berlin International Film Festival accompanied by the Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin under the direction of Frank Strobel.
Tickets for the performance in Frankfurt cost 25,50 respectively 39,50 Euro. Tickets are available at the usual advance ticket sale agencies as well as online.
Tickets for the performance on the occasion of the Berlinale will be available in the middle of January. Information can be found on the web page of the Berlinale.
9. Will METROPOLIS be re-released for theatre screenings?
After the score will be recorded and the analogue version of the film is on hand copies can be made and distribution will be possible. We assume that the film is available for theatre distribution in autumn 2010. Transit Film, Munich will be in charge of the world sale.
10. Will there be a DVD release?
Naturally there will be a DVD release by the Murnau Foundation after the technical requirements (like music recording) have been met and bonus material is completed. The estimated release date will be the end of 2010.