Since its release in 1927, Fritz Lang’s epic modern fable has only been available in truncated form. Even with an extra 25 minutes, this restored version isn’t entirely complete, but it’s the closest we’re likely to get, and it’s a triumph. The added material doesn’t yield a fundamentally different picture, but amplifies its strengths, the narrative finally proving as compelling as the film’s ambitious idealism, production design and special effects always were.
Set in a future city where a sliver of gilded society lives atop a mountain of subterranean labour, ‘Metropolis’ sends the city leader’s son on an odyssey to the depths in pursuit of saintly workers’ advocate Maria. Meanwhile, her evil robot doppelgänger is set loose on a mission to corrupt and destroy the city. (Brigitte Helm’s amazing, freaky double performance is a major asset.)
Building on earlier science fiction and endlessly influential on later works, Lang’s film is a mammoth marvel, fusing modernism and expressionism, art deco and Biblical spectacle, Wagnerian bombast, sentimental Marxism and religiose millenarianism. Sit close to a big screen and submit to the machine.