Fritz Lang (Germany, 1926)
Judith Rosenberg on Piano
Lang's futuristic superproduction is an anxiety dream of urban dystopia expressed as science fiction: set in the year 2026, Metropolis envisions a repressive technoligarchy in which soaring art deco towers and overhead freeways mock an underclass of techno slaves. They are ruled by a "supertrustee" (Alfred Abel) who lives with his collaborators in the paradisiacal garden of Yoshiwara. Lang even posits a virtual woman, an evil doppelganger cloned from the people's hero and spokeswoman Maria (Brigitte Helm). The robot, at once lustful and threatening, suggests the attitude of attraction/repulsion toward dehumanization that informs many of the films in this series-an attraction no less evident in the formal qualities of this exquisite ballet of machines and men. The film is beautifully served by its stunning restoration, made directly from the original negative. Although there is still missing footage (and intertitles to explain what we don't see), this is probably the closest we're ever likely to get to Lang's monumental original.
• Written by Lang, Thea von Harbou. Photographed by Karl Freund, Günther Rittau. With Brigitte Helm, Alfred Abel, Gustav Fröhlich, Rudolf Klein-Rogge. (148 mins @ 20 fps, Silent with English intertitles, B&W, 35mm, From Kino International)