One of the great things I got to do this weekend was see Metropolis down at the Detroit Film Theatre, as I mentioned in a post a few weeks back.
I've actually seen a shorter version of this film, but like most people, this was the first time I got to see this new complete version, which is almost identical to the original film. It was amazing and breathtaking and extraordinary. Even as the music was coming up, I could hear my heart start to pound. Most of the images were beautifully restored, so most of the movie is absolutely gorgeous, which the black and white and grays all stark looking. It's so clear in places you can see the white face paint of Freder's face. Some of the prints are still battered, and there are sections of the movie where there are lines running through the images, but most of the movie looks great, like it was filmed recently, not in Germany pre-Nazis. The set and music to this movie are amazing. I love this movie, especially the ending.
So, some of the changes from the version I saw several years ago involved a few subplots. One was of how 11811 switched places with Freder, the main character, so that he could throw the Thin Man off. There was also an action scene where the Thin Man beat up on poor, long suffering Josephat. And we discovered that Rotwang and Joh loved and fought over the same woman, Hel. Rotwang had this really creepy statue of Hel in his nefarious house and laboratory, making me think of the shrine to Arnold that Helga has in Hey Arnold! They also establish more religious themes in the movie. When I first saw this movie, the burning of the witch, Evil Robot Maria, took place in front of this building that I had never seen. At the end, I thought it looked like a church, but I couldn't figure out why we were there. Turns out there was a church in the earlier part of the film, and Freder goes there to hear a sermon, that is sadly, one of the two scenes that is still lost. The church also had these cool human personifications of the seven deadly sins and Death. The Death costume was particularly cool, since he had these intricate finger bones on and played a bone piccolo. It's the most scary and absorbing Death I've ever seen. You want to look away, but you can't.
I also learned a lot about this film through an essay they had for you to read. Apparently, part of the reason they cut out Hel was because censors feared that audiences wouldn't understand this was a name and not Hell. (Though I thought it was cool and possibly important that it so closely resembled Hell. Like maybe the scientist and the capitalist were fighting over the right to own Hell, which is what Metropolis has become.)
I was thinking of writing about this film in terms of race and gender. Women have a small role in this film, and it might be interesting to break down what that role is, especially if I allow for differences in class. There was also a brief moment in the film where Bad Robot Maria, imitating the Whore of Babylon, was being carried around by Black men, and I thought it would be interesting to see what the film was saying about that, especially if I mull it over and pull it apart like I do with so many of my interpretations.
Totally go see this. It will change everything you know about film and storytelling. The story will stay with you, especially how creepy the Thin Man is, how silly Rotwang and Evil Robot Maria are, and how sweet Good Maria and Freder are.