If there’s any single film that best illustrates cinema’s capacity to take on a whole new life outside the picture house, it’s Metropolis. Having been lost, rediscovered and restored since its creation in 1927, its mystique overshadows the film itself.
However, with this Ultimate Collector’s edition, which compiles much of the material found in the 2008 discovery of an original cut in Argentina (just two scenes were too damaged to include), this represents the most complete version of Fritz Lang’s expressionist classic ever released.
The influences for many of today’s classics are evident: Rotwang (Rudolf Klein-Rogge) is the mould for every mad scientist figure since, and Maria (Brigitte Helm) every dashing heroine. The likes of Blade Runner and Star Wars owe a heavy debt to Metropolis, which demonstrated how the majesty of its surrounds could conjure up more than just the characters we could see; there’s a whole world of characters living their own lives in the city, and the central tale of Freder (Gustav Frolich), Maria et al is just one of them.
Elsewhere on this release, the amount of bonus features available for aficionados is generous. As well as an extensive commentary from film historian David Kalat and critic Jonathan Rosenbaum, a number of documentaries are present: Metropolis Refound tells the story of the recent Argentina rediscovery; Giorgio Moroder Presents: Metropolis explores the 1984 reimagining of Lang’s masterpiece, and Die Reise Nach Metropolis is similarly illuminating. 88 years on from its release, and the fact that people are still finding new things to say about it is telling.
Even so, perhaps Metropolis’s greatest achievement after all this time is that it is still utterly hypnotic, utterly spellbinding, and above all, an incredible work of science fiction.
There’s a reason it keeps topping the ‘best of’ lists, but to truly find out what that is, you have to experience it for yourself.