Fritz Lang’s silent opus “Metropolis” was the first film ever to be granted World Heritage status by UNESCO. Yet for years the version film buffs and auteurs had hailed as a masterpiece was incomplete. But next February, a Berlin audience will finally get to see the original version of the sci-fi classic in the city where it first premiered 83 years ago.
Lang’s majestic fantasy film with its love story set against the backdrop of class struggle in a futuristic city had been the most expensive German film ever made when it premiered in January 1927 at Berlin’s Ufa Palast cinema. However, the film which had been made at the Bablesberg studios failed to capture the audience’s imagination and the Ufa studio quickly withdrew the film and released a much shorter version later that year. For over 80 years it seemed the cut 30 minutes had been lost to posterity forever.
It was only the discovery of 16-millimeter negatives of the film in Buenos Aires last year that made this cinematic miracle possible. This uncut “Metropolis” had been sent to Argentina in 1928 and had ended up in a private collector’s archive.
The Murnau Foundation, based in Wiesbaden, then set to work restoring the missing 30 minutes, having already completed work on the rest of the film in 2001. Eberhard Junkersdorf of the Murnau Foundation said in a statement on Thursday that the work to restore the lost original cut had been part of the foundation’s commitment to save and restore “our rich film heritage” and to make it accessible to the public. “With the restoration and re-screening of ‘Metropolis’ a dream has been fulfilled.”
Originally published on SPIEGEL ONLINE International: