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Metropolis is a silent German expressionism science fiction film directed by Fritz Lang and written by Lang and Thea von Harbou. Lang and von Harbou, who were married, wrote the screenplay in , and published a novelization in 1926, before the film was released. Produced in Germanymarker during a stable period of the Weimar Republicmarker, Metropolis is set in a futuristic urban dystopia and examines a common science fiction theme of the day: the social crisis between worker and owners in capitalism. The film stars Alfred Abel as the leader of the city, Gustav Fröhlich as his son, who tries to mediate between the elite caste and the workers, Brigitte Helm as both the pure-at-heart worker Maria and the debased robot version of her, and Rudolf Klein-Rogge as the mad scientist who creates the robot.

Metropolis was produced in the Babelsberg Studiosmarker by Universum Film A.G. (UFA) and released in 1927. The most expensive film of its time, it cost approximately 7 million Reichsmark to make. The film was cut substantially after its German premiere, and there have been several efforts to restore it, as well as rediscoveries of previously lost footage. The American copyright lapsed in , which eventually led to a proliferation of versions being released on video.


Note: There are multiple versions of Metropolis, all of which comprise various portions of the original, 153-minute 1927 cut (see "Release" section below). The plot description given here corresponds to the 2002 version released by the F. W. Murnau Foundation, the most complete cut that is currently available to the public.


Metropolis, a large city somewhere in the future, adheres spatially and socially to a caste system: at the top is Joh Fredersen (Alfred Abel) the ruler of this highly industrialized city under his command; at the bottom are workers without names, addressed by numbers instead.

In the Eternal Gardens the sons of ruling-class members enjoy themselves day and night. One of these carefree souls is Freder (Gustav Froehlich), Joh Fredersen’s son.Maria (Brigitte Helm), a young girl from the Workers' City, brings a group of workers’ children to the Eternal Gardens. Her saying "Look, these are your brothers!" deeply touches Freder. Fascinated by Maria, Freder searches for her after she is made to leave the Eternal Gardens.Freder ends up in the machine rooms. He witnesses a machine explosion which claims the lives of several workers. Freder has a vision: the machine is a fire-breathing Moloch.

Freder in his father’s office: He tells of the deplorable conditions in the machine room and understands, for the first time, with what degree of cold rationality Metropolis is being governed. Grot – the supervisor of the heart machine, which produces the needed energy for Metropolis – appears; he shows Fredersen plans indicating various secret activities in the Workers' City. Furious now, Fredersen fires Josaphat (Theodor Loos), the employee who should have given him this information ages ago. Freder feels to blame for Josaphat being fired and offers to hire him himself. Fredersen has the Thin Man (Fritz Rasp) follow his son.

Freder returns to the machine rooms. Worker No. 11811, known as Georgy (Erwin Biswanger), collapses on the job, and Freder wants to save at least this one worker from his sad fate. He changes clothes with him and takes over at Georgy’s machine. He tells Georgy to go to Josaphat’s apartment and to wait for him there. On the way there, Georgy succumbs to the temptations of Metropolis. He finds money in the pockets of Freder’s clothing and does not go to Josaphat’s apartment, but to the Yoshiwara, where the members of Metropolis’s upper crust abandon themselves to their unbridled pleasures.

The Thin Man, who has been observing Freder’s car, records Georgy’s movements in the assumption that Georgy is Freder. Meanwhile, Joh Fredersen goes to the inventor Rotwang (Rudolf Klein-Rogge). In Rotwang’s house he discovers a monument dedicated to Hel, the woman who is the fateful link between Rotwang and Fredersen. Hel was loved by Rotwang, but married Fredersen and died giving birth to her and Fredersen’s son Freder. Rotwang is unable to get over the loss of Hel, and rails against Fredersen in front of the monument. Triumphantly, he presents his last invention, a machine woman, who is to replace his lost Hel. He still needs 24 hours of work until the machine woman will be indistinguishable from his dead beloved.

Fredersen explains the reason for his visit: He wants Rotwang to help him decipher the plans found on the workers killed in the accident. While Fredersen is at Rotwang’s house, his son suffers the torments of a worker’s life in Metropolis. Freder has a second vision – the clock in his father’s office, dictating the pace of the workers’ ten-hourlong workday, appears on the machine’s surface. At the changing of their shifts, workers take Freder into the catacombs, in the depths of the Workers' City, where secret meetings are held. Rotwang deciphers the plans brought to him by Fredersen as being a guide through the catacombs. They both go down below; they observe a gathering of workers listening reverently to Maria.

She tells them of the Tower of Babel, destroyed by the slaves who erected it because no common language could be found between them and their rulers. Maria prophesies that soon a mediator will appear and make the lives of the workers bearable. Rotwang notices Freder among the workers, and hides this fact from Fredersen. Freder falls in love with Maria. He feels that he must take on the task of the mediator in Metropolis. Maria recognizes him as the awaited mediator. They plan to meet the next day at the cathedral.

Fredersen commissions Rotwang to give the machine woman not the appearance of Hel but the looks of Maria, thus enabling Fredersen to mislead the workers. Rotwang at first refuses, but changes his mind and agrees when he realizes that this way he can harm Fredersen even more than by recreating Hel. Now, with the help of the machine woman, he can drive a wedge between Fredersen and his son. Rotwang pursues Maria in the catacombs and abducts her to his house in order to give the machine woman her appearance.


The next day, Freder enters the cathedral of Metropolis. He listens to the sermon of a monk who announces that the apocalypse is drawing near and will announce itself in the form of a sinful woman. At the same time, Rotwang programs the machine woman in his laboratory to destroy all that belongs to Fredersen. Freder wanders through the cathedral and finds a group of figures representing Death and the Seven Deadly Sins.

Georgy, bleary-eyed, comes out of the Yoshi-wara, where he has spent all of Freder’s money. As he gets into Freder’s car, the Thin Man arrests him. He interrogates Georgy and finds out that Freder and Georgy have arranged to meet at Josaphat’s apartment. Not having found Maria at the cathedral, Freder finally goes to Josaphat’s place. He plans to meet Georgy there so that the latter can take him to the Workers' City and put him in touch with the workers. As Freder waits for him, Georgy is allowed to go free by the Thin Man on condition that he returns to his machine and erases the events of the past day from his memory.

The Thin Man goes to Josaphat’s apartment to find Freder. By the time he arrives there, however, Freder has already left. He has dropped Georgy’s cap, which the Thin Man finds and rightly regards as evidence of the subversive arrangements between Freder and Josaphat. He offers Josaphat money to leave Metropolis and thus quickly put an end to the whole affair before it comes out that he lost track of Freder for a whole day. Josaphat refuses, and there is a scuffle in which the Thin Man knocks Josaphat down. The Thin Man locks the defenseless Josaphat into his apartment.

Maria is overpowered by Rotwang. Freder hears Maria’s cries for help and tries in vain to help her. Rotwang brings Maria into his laboratory and transfers her appearance to the machine woman. Now there are two Marias: The real Maria is held prisoner by Rotwang; the false Maria serves Fredersen and causes discord among the workers and thus at the same time promoting Rotwang’s plan to destroy Metropolis.

After the successfully completed operation, Rotwang tells Freder that Maria is with Fredersen. In a letter, Rotwang invites Fredersen to the presentation of the false Maria; a dance performance before the »top hundred« of Metropolis will demonstrate whether people recognize that she is a machine.

In his office, Fredersen gives the false Maria instructions on what she should tell the workers. Freder arrives and finds them in an intimate pose together. Thinking his beloved has betrayed him, he swoons with horror and faints. The unconscious Freder is put to bed.

Meanwhile, at Yoshiwara, the false Maria performs a dance in the nude; she mesmerizes the men of Metropolis. The Thin Man keeps watch over the feverridden Freder, in his sickroom. In a vision Freder sees Der Schmale transformed into the monk who preached about the apocalypse in the cathedral and warned that the appearance of the whore of Babylon would precede the city’s downfall. The sons of Metropolis ruling-class citizens, are entranced by the false Maria’s dance and willing to commit all seven deadly sins for her sake.

Freder fantasizes with eyes wide open: The cathedral statues representing Death and the Seven Deadly Sins begin to move and come toward him. Death’s scythe sweeps through the sickroom as he screams "DEATH DESCENDS UPON THE CITY!" and collapses.


Josaphat escapes from his apartment and hides in Metropolis. He manages to make contact with Freder. Meanwhile the Thin Man tells Fredersen about the increasingly violent unrest amongst the workers. Josaphat informs Freder, who has recovered from his illness, of the events that have taken place while he was ill: two sons of the city have fought a duel over the false Maria in which Jan met his death. Since then, the Eternal Gardens have become deserted; the sons of the wealthy have all wandered off to Yoshiwara where the false Maria turns heads. As the sons fight for her favors, more and more of them are killed.

Josaphat tells Freder that the woman is also called Maria. As Josaphat is speaking, the sirens of Metropolis announce the change of shifts, which at the same time is the secret signal for the workers to gather in the catacombs around Maria. Freder decides to go down into the catacombs again.

Fredersen dictates to the Thin Man that it is his express order that workers should on no account be stopped whatever they decide to do. He again sets off to meet Rotwang. The real Maria is still imprisoned in Rotwang’s house. Rotwang explains to her that the false Maria only seems to follow Fredersen’s orders while she incites the workers to rebel.

The false Maria urges the workers to destroy the machines. Freder and Josaphat join the group. Freder realizes that the agitator cannot be the real Maria. The false Maria identifies Freder before the workers as Joh Fredersen’s son; she orders him murdered. Georgy shields Freder with his own body and is killed. When the workers, agitated by the false Maria, rush off to destroy the machines, Freder and Josaphat manage to escape.

Fredersen has listened unobserved to what Rotwang reveals to Maria, and knocks down Rotwang. While the two are fighting, Maria is able to free herself and to escape into the city.

Enraged workers reach the gates of the machine rooms. Grot, who guards the heart machine, is made aware by warning signals of what is going on, and locks the hall where the heart machine is located to protect it. He tries to reach Fredersen in order to make a report. The crowd rages outside the gates demanding to be let in. Fredersen orders him to open the gate and to let things take their course. Grot reluctantly obeys, but blocks the workers’ way and tries to calm them. No one listens to him. The false Maria detonates the heart machine and escapes to Yoshiwara.

The real Maria finds her way to the deserted Workers' City again. The first signs of water leakage point to the dangerous state of the machine rooms. Maria gathers the workers’ children and flees with them. After the heart machine explodes, the city is affected by a massive power failure.

Josaphat and Freder find Maria and the children. Freder is now convinced that he has found the real Maria again. As they climb up through the air shafts, they come to a dead end – a locked grille; only in the last minute do they manage to save themselves and the children from the rising flood. Grot explains to the victory-dancing, elated workers the extent of the catastrophe in the machine rooms. The workers’ mood suddenly changes.

Meanwhile, in Yoshiwara, the false Maria spur her guests on to a witch’s sabbath. A dancing crowd pours from the Yoshiwara into the city. Rotwang, who has survived Fredersen’s blows, regains consciousness and drags himself to Hel’s monument, where he sets out to recapture his machine woman.

In front of the Club of the Sons, Maria is confronted by the angry crowd. She flees from the menacing workers back into the city. The procession of workers and the Yoshiwara procession collide. The workers find the false Maria, seize her, and erect a stake, meant for her, in front of the cathedral.

Freder searches the city looking for the real Maria. She hides in a niche of the cathedral’s portal, across from Rotwang, who attempts to catch her believing she is Hel. Maria flees from Rotwang, first to the bell tower, and finally to the church roof.Burning at the stake, the false Maria is transformed into the android again.

Now Freder and the workers, too, realize that they have been tricked, and that the real Maria is in grave danger. Freder fights with Rotwang on the roof of the church; he frees Maria. Fredersen appears on the square before the cathedral where the assembled workers threaten him. Josaphat tells the workers their children are in safety. Rotwang falls to his death from the church roof.

Grateful and remorseful, the workers gather before the cathedral’s portal. Maria and Freder – the prophet of reconciliation and the mediator – declare an alliance between the rulers and the ruled, and place Fredersen’s hand (of the brain) in Grot’s hand (of the worker).

Metropolis ends once again proclaiming the film's epigram:"THE MEDIATOR BETWEEN THE HEAD AND HANDS MUST BE THE HEART!"


Architecture and visual effects

Metropolis features special effects and set designs that still impress modern audiences with their visual impact – the film contains cinematic and thematic links to German Expressionism, though the architecture as portrayed in the film appears based on contemporary Modernism and Art Deco. The latter, a brand-new style in Europe at the time, had not reached mass production yet and was considered an emblem of the bourgeois class, and similarly associated with the ruling class in the film.

Rotwang's Art Deco laboratory with its lights and industrial machinery is a forerunner of the Streamline Moderne style, highly influential on the look of Frankenstein-style laboratories of "mad scientists" in pop culture. When applied to science fiction, this style is sometimes called Raygun Gothic.

The effects expert, Eugen Schüfftan, created innovative visual displays widely acclaimed in following years. Among the effects used are miniatures of the city, a camera on a swing, and most notably, the so-called Schüfftan process, in which mirrors are used to "place" actors inside miniature sets. This new technique was seen again just two years later in Alfred Hitchcock's film Blackmail ( ).

The Maschinenmensch, the robot character played by Brigitte Helm, was created by Walter Schultze-Mittendorf. A chance discovery of a sample of "plastic wood" (a pliable substance designed as wood-filler) allowed him to sculpt the costume like a suit of armour over a plaster cast of the actress. Spraypainted a mix of silver and bronze, it helped create some of the most memorable moments on film. Helm suffered greatly during the filming of these scenes wearing this rigid and uncomfortable costume, which cut and bruised her, but Fritz Lang insisted on her playing the part, even if nobody would know it was her. Walter Schulze-Mittendorf (Mittendorff), the sculptor, is still the owner of the copyrights for the Maschinenmensch – Robotdesign.


On January 10, 1927, a 153 minute version of the film premiered in Berlinmarker with moderate success. Before it was shown outside Germany, however, the film was cut and re-edited, changing many key elements. American and foreign theatre managers were generally unwilling to allow more than ninety minutes to a feature in their program, during a period when film attendance figures were high. Metropolis suffered as the original version was thought to be too long. Many theatres projected the film at the standard sound film speed of around 24 frames per second, rather than the standard silent film speed of 16 frames per second, at which the film was made. This affected the rhythm and pace of the original film. As a result of these changes, few people outside of Berlin saw Metropolis as Fritz Lang originally intended; the version shown to European and American audiences in 1928 was disjointed and illogical in parts.. In the United Statesmarker, the movie was shown in a version edited by the American playwright Channing Pollock, who almost completely obscured the original plot, which was considered too controversial by the American distributors; the Pollock version is considerably shortened. In Germany, a version similar to Pollock's was shown on August 5 1927.

As a result of the edited versions, the original premiere cut eventually disappeared and a quarter of the original film was long believed to be lost forever. In 2001, a new 75th anniversary restoration, commissioned by the Friedrich-Wilhelm-Murnau-Stiftung, was screened at the Berlin International Film Festival. This version, with a running time of 124 minutes, restored the original story line using stills and intertitles to bridge missing footage. It also added a soundtrack using the orchestral score originally composed by Gottfried Huppertz to go with the film. This restoration received the National Society of Film Critics Heritage Award for Restoration 2002.(ref: Koerber, Martin. Liner notes Kino Restored Authorized Edition, 2002) In June 2008, twenty to twenty-five minutes of lost footage were discovered in an archive of the Museum of Cinema in Buenos Airesmarker, Argentinamarker. It was believed this was a copy made of a print owned by a private collector, who brought the original cut to the country in 1928.

Despite the film's later reputation, some contemporary critics panned it. The New York Times critic Mourdant Hall called it a "technical marvel with feet of clay". The Times went on the next month to publish a lengthy review by H. G. Wells who accused it of "foolishness, cliché, platitude, and muddlement about mechanical progress and progress in general." He faulted Metropolis for its premise that automation created drudgery rather than relieving it, wondered who was buying the machines' output if not the workers, and found parts of the story derivative of Shelley's Frankenstein, Karel Čapek's robot stories, and his own The Sleeper Awakes.

Joseph Goebbels was impressed however and clearly took the film's message to heart. In a speech of 1928 he noted: "The political bourgeoisie is about to leave the stage of history. In its place advance the oppressed producers of the head and hand, the forces of Labour, to begin their historical mission".

Fritz Lang himself expressed dissatisfaction with the film. In an interview with Peter Bogdanovich (available in Who The Devil Made It...), he expressed his reservations.
The main thesis was Mrs. Von Harbou's, but I am at least 50 percent responsible because I did it. I was not so politically minded in those days as I am now. You cannot make a social-conscious picture in which you say that the intermediary between the hand and the brain is the heart. I mean, that's a fairy tale -- definitely. But I was very interested in machines. Anyway, I didn't like the picture -- thought it was silly and stupid -- then, when I saw the astronauts: what else are they but part of a machine? It's very hard to talk about pictures--should I say now that I like Metropolis because something I have seen in my imagination comes true, when I detested it after it was finished?
In his profile for Lang featured in the same book, which prefaces the interview, Bogdanovich suggested that Lang's distaste for his own film also stemmed from the Nazi party's fascination with the film. Von Harbou became a passionate member of the Nazi Party in 1933, and she and Lang divorced in 1934.

Restorations and re-releases

Several restored versions (all of them missing varying amounts of footage) were released in the 1980s and 1990s, running for 90 minutes.

In 1984, a new restoration and edit of the film was compiled by Giorgio Moroder, a music producer who specialized in pop-rock soundtracks for motion pictures. Moroder’s version of the film introduced a new contemporary pop music soundtrack for the film. Although it restored a number of previously missing scenes and plot details from the original release, his version of the film runs to only 80 minutes in length, although this is mainly due to the original intertitles being replaced with subtitles, and being run at 24 frame/s. The “Moroder version” of Metropolis sparked heated debate among film buffs and fans, with outspoken critics and supporters of the film falling into equal camps. Even though the Moroder version was nominated at The 1985 Razzie Awards for Worst Original Score and Worst Original Song (with Freddie Mercury), there have even been petitions to get his cut alongside the uncut version for future releases on DVD and Bluray.

Enno Patalas made an exhaustive attempt to restore the movie in 1986. This restoration was the most accurate for its time, thanks to the script and the musical score that had been discovered. The basis of Patalas' work was a copy in the Museum of Modern Artmarker's collection.

Along with other foreign-made works, the film's U.S. copyright was restored in 1998, but the court decision in Golan v. Holder ruled that action unconstitutional.

F.W. Murnau Foundation (which now owns the film's copyright where applicable) and Kino International (now the film's American distributor) released a 124-minute, digitally restored version in 2002, supervised by Martin Koerber. It included the original music score and title cards describing the action in the missing sequences. Lost clips were gleaned from museums and archives around the world, and computers were used to digitally clean each frame and repair minor defects. The original score was re-recorded with an orchestral ensemble. Many scenes had still not been recovered at that point and were considered lost. Among the missing scenes are the adventures of 11811, a worker who trades places with Freder; the Thin Man spying on Josephat; Maria's incarceration; Rotwang's gloating and her subsequent escape; and scenes which establish the longstanding rivalry between Joh Fredersen and Rotwang.

Most silent films were shot at speeds of between 16 and 20 frames per second, but the digitally restored version with soundtrack plays at the speed of 25 frames per second, which is the standard speed of PAL video (the US DVD is a conversion from PAL to NTSC). This speed often makes the action look unnaturally fast. A documentary on the Kino DVD edition states that Metropolis may have been filmed at 25 frames per second, but this is disputed. There have been reports stating that the world premiere of Metropolis was shown at 24 frame/s, but these, too, are unconfirmed. In the 1970s, the BBC prepared a version with electronic sound that ran at 18 frames per second and consequently had much more realistic-looking movement. Since there is no concrete evidence of Fritz Lang's wishes on this subject, it continues to be hotly debated within the silent film community.


On July 1, 2008, film experts in Berlin announced that a 16 mm reduction negative of the original cut of the film, which runs over 210 minutes in length and features many lost scenes, had been discovered in the archives of the Museo del Cine (a film museum) in Buenos Aires, Argentinamarker. The find has been authenticated by film experts working for Die Zeit. Passed around since 1928 from film distributor, to private collector, to an art foundation, the Metropolis copy arrived at the Museo del Cine, where it stayed undiscovered in their archives. After hearing an anecdote by the cinema club manager—who years before had been surprised by the length when this copy was screened—the museum's curator and the director of the film department of the Museum of Latin American Art reviewed the film and discovered the missing scenes. The print is in poor condition and will require considerable restoration before it is viewable.

The rights holders of Metropolis, the F.W. Murnau Stiftung, later confirmed that the newly discovered footage largely completes the missing footage, except for a single scene which was badly damaged due to being at a reel end, although the new footage is said to be in a "deplorable" condition. They announced in February 2009 that they had begun restoration work on the rediscovered film and had the "ambitious target" for the restoration to be completed by early 2010.

In November 2009 Turner Classic Movies announced its first ever Classic Film Festival, to be held in Hollywood April 22nd-25th, 2010. Included in the festival will be the North American premiere of the newly restored version of the film, with an original score performed live by the Alloy Orchestra.

Online sources have reported that this footage will appear on a new DVD and Blu-ray to be released in . However, it is not yet clear whether or not the footage will be released as an extra feature or will be fully integrated into the film, which will require extensive restoration before it can be viewed as it was during its original release in 1927 (minus the single scene that was too damaged to repair).

A possible 9.5mm copy of the movie was found in 2005 in the film archive of Universidad de Chile. The copy was sent to Germany in late 2008 for verification.

Another possible copy was discovered in New Zealandmarker but has not yet been investigated in detail.


The original score

Like many big budget films of the time, the original release of Metropolis had an original musical score meant to be performed by large orchestras accompanying the film in major theatres. The music was composed by Gottfried Huppertz, who had composed the original scores for Lang's Die Nibelungen films in 1924. For Metropolis Huppertz composed a leitmotific orchestral score which included many elements from the music of Richard Wagner and Richard Strauss, plus some mild modernism for the city of the workers and the use of the popular Dies Irae for some apocalyptic imagery. His music played a prominent role during the shooting of the film, since during principal photography many scenes were accompanied by him playing the piano to get a certain effect from the actors.

The score was rerecorded for the most recent DVD release of the film with Berndt Heller conducting the Rundfunksinfonieorchester Saarbrücken. It was the first release of the reasonably reconstructed movie accompanied by the music that was originally intended for it. In 2007 the original film score was also played live by the VCS Radio Symphony which accompanied the restored version of the film at Brenden Theatres in Vacaville, CA on August 1 & 2. The score was also produced in a salon orchestration which was performed for the first time in the United States in August, 2007 by The Bijou Orchestra under the direction of Leo Najar as part of a German Expressionist film festival in Bay City, Michigan. The same forces also performed the work at the Traverse City Film Festival in Traverse City, Michigan in August, 2009.

Other soundtracks

There have been many other soundtracks created for Metropolis by many different artists, including, but not limited to:

  • 1975 - The BBC version of Metropolis features an electronic score, composed by William Fitzwater and Hugh Davies.
  • 1984 - Video Yesteryear, VHS release - The original score is performed by Rosa Rio at the Hammond organ.
  • 1984 – Giorgio Moroder restored and produced the 80-minute re-release, which had a pop soundtrack written by Moroder and performed by Moroder, Pat Benatar, Bonnie Tyler, Jon Anderson, Adam Ant, Cycle V, Loverboy, Billy Squier, and Freddie Mercury. The Moroder soundtrack is available on CD, but his version of the film itself is not available on DVD, only on out-of print laserdiscs and videotapes.
  • 1991 – Club Foot Orchestra. Performed live to accompany the 80-minute Moroder version. Soundtrack available on CD.
  • 1991 – The Alloy Orchestra formed to create a new original score to Moroder's version of Metropolis.
  • 1994 – Rambo Amadeus, Serbiamarker-based Montenegrinmarker composer. At a movie screening at Sava Center, Rambo's music was played by Belgrade Philharmonic. The material was recorded in 1998 by Rambo himself along with Miroslav Savić and Heavily Manipulated Orchestra, and released as Metropolis B (Tour de Force).
  • 1994 – Galeshka Moravioff. Score used in one of the variants of Filmmuseum Munich restoration.
  • 1995 – Martin Matalon. Score used in another variant of Filmmuseum Munich restoration.
  • 1996 – DJ Dado records techno version of the "Tower of Babel" section of Moroder's score. The German CD release contains several mixes.
  • 1998 – Peter Osborne. Synth orchestral / electronic. For JEF/Eureka 139-minute B&W DVD version, released only in UK. Not available on CD.
  • 1999 – Angel Tech. 3-piece group from Bristol, UK. Performed live to various versions in 1999/2000. Availability unknown.
  • 2000 – After Quartet. Jazz group. Score by Brian McWhorter. Accompanies the 80-minute Moroder cut. Soundtrack available on CD.
  • 2000 – Dan Schaaf. Performed live for festivals in 2000/2001. Available on CD.
  • 2001 – Mute Life Dept. Portuguese group. Accompanied Filmmuseum Munich version, for live performance at Porto 2001. Available on CD.
  • 2001 – Jeff Mills. Electronic artist. Available on CD.
  • 2001 – Bernd Schultheis and Sofia's Radio Orchestra. Accompaniment for film festivals in 2001. Availability unknown. (Shown on German TV)
  • 2002 – The original Gottfried Huppertz score was rerecorded in this entirety for the DVD release by Kino International.
  • 2002 - Art Zoyd - Metropolis. French avant-garde/electronic band. Available on CD.
  • 2004 – Abel Korzeniowski - Metropolis—Symphony of Fear (40-minute preview) (requires Flash).
  • 2004 – Denver filmmaker Ronnie Cramer. Available on CD.
  • 2005 – South Australian group " The New Pollutants" (Benjamin Speed and Tyson Hopprich) released Metropolis Rescore. It was performed live for festivals 2005/2006.
  • 2009 - Dublin ambient rock collective 3epkano. Performed live at the Brooklyn Academy of Music.
  • 2009 - London electronic group Serum Electronique. Performing in various south London venues towards the end of the year including Elefest in the Groovy Movie Picture House mobile solar powered cinema.


The film contains a scene where Maria retells a variation of the story of the Tower of Babel from the Biblical Book of Genesis, but in a way that connects it to the situation she and her fellow workers face. The scene changes from Maria to creative men of antiquity deciding to build a monument to the greatness of humanity and the creator of the world, high enough to reach the stars. Since they cannot build their monument by themselves, they contract workers to build it for them for wages. The camera focuses on armies of workers led to the construction site of the monument. They work hard but cannot understand the dreams of the Tower's designers, and the designers don't concern themselves with the mind of their workers. As the film explains, "The dreams of a few had turned to the curses of many". It then ironically inverts the original story's conclusion, noting that the planners and the workers spoke the same language but didn't understand each other. The workers revolt and in their fury destroy the monument. As the scene ends and the camera returns to Maria, only ruins remain of the Tower of Babel. This retelling is notable in keeping the theme of the lack of communication from the original story but placing it in the context of relations between social classes.

The entire film is dominated by technology, with Lang using a mixture of both 1920s and futuristic devices. Much of the technology portrayed in the film is unexplained and appears bizarre—such as the enormous "M-Machine" and the "Heart Machine." The Heart Machine is implied to be the electrical power station of the city and appears to be a massive electric generator, but the purpose of the M-Machine or the other vast machinery around it is never revealed. The dial machine at which Freder works also has no explanation in the film, although the novel reveals that it runs the massive system of Paternoster-lifts in the New Tower of Babel. Technology is also visible in Fredersen's office: he has a television-like device which allows him to contact the foreman in the factories, and built into his desk is an electronic console which allows him to remotely open doors. The office features two unfamiliar clocks: a 24-hour clock and a ten-hour clock, ten hours being the length of the workers' shifts. In the city itself, we see a mixture of futuristic monorails and airships combined with 1920s-style cars and aircraft.

Dualism is a running theme amongst many of the characters, who demonstrate that they cannot be confined to the rigid class system of the city. The workers are dehumanised, existing either as part of a mob or as work-units, almost part of the machines themselves (the shots of them working do not let the viewer see their faces, and they work and move as rhythmically as the machines they operate), and yet they are also human beings who are being exploited. Rotwang is an intelligent philosopher, in many ways far more prescient than Joh Frederson, but also an obsessive and selfish man who uses his skills for his own purposes, and by the end of the film has deteriorated almost into machine-like monomania. Joh Frederson cannot reconcile his role as ruler of the city and as a father, which leads him to make rash and damaging decisions. Meanwhile, Maria expresses this theme most literally of all by being physically replicated as a robot.

The ultimate expression of technology in the entire film is the female robot built by Rotwang, referred to as the Maschinenmensch ("Machine Human" or "Machine Man"). In the original German version Rotwang's creation is a reconstruction of his dead lover, a woman called Hel (a reference to the Norse goddess Hel). Both Rotwang and Joh Fredersen were in love with her. She chose Fredersen and became Freder's mother, though she died in childbirth. Rotwang, insanely jealous and angry about her death, creates the Maschinenmensch Hel. In other versions, The Machine Man is merely a fully functioning automaton designed to replace human workers, whilst its appearance can be synthesised to resemble any human being - little or no connection is made between Hel and the robot, or Rotwang's motives in creating it.

In the U.S. version, the Machine Man is sentient, and eventually Rotwang loses control of it. It performs the required task of fomenting revolution, but then becomes an exotic dancer, turning the young men of Metropolis against one another for its own entertainment. This echoes themes from Karel Čapek's 1921 play Rossum's Universal Robots and anticipates the themes of many late-twentieth century films, in which seemingly unsentient machines gain consciousness and turn against the intentions of their creators. In the original version, the robot is apparently following Rotwang's instructions throughout, implying that the ruination of Metropolis and its master is actually the inventor's goal, not one chosen by the machine itself.

Part of Fritz Lang's visual inspiration for the movie came during a trip to Manhattanmarker, New Yorkmarker. He is quoted on the DVD of the Murnau Foundation version as saying "I saw the buildings like a vertical curtain, opalescent, and very light. Filling the back of the stage, hanging from a sinister sky, in order to dazzle, to diffuse, to hypnotize." Lang, in his later years did claim his visit to New York inspired Metropolis, but a mention of the script for Metropolis being recently finished is made in the Licht-Bild-Bühne journal of June 1924, Lang traveled to New York in October of the same year (which means he had not originally visualized the Metropolis such and refined his visuals for the movie later).

Rotwang's home is decorated with a pentagram which may be seen as being a symbol of Pythagoreanism (an ancient Greek philosophy), magic/occultism (the pentagram is inverted in Rotwang's laboratory similar to the suit of "coins" or "Pentacles" in the Tarot thus symbolizing those who work with their hands.), or Freemasonry. It has been suggested that it was also meant as a reference to Judaism, but that is probably attributable to the pentagram being confused with the Jewish Star of David, which has six points.


Several adaptations have been made of the original Metropolis, including at least two musical theater adaptations (see Metropolis). The 2001 animated film Metropolis, is based on an original manga by Osamu Tezuka (see Metropolis); Tezuka's manga was in fact inspired by a poster for the film, and he never saw the film itself. The anime's story is much closer to the original film than Tezuka's manga, although all three feature similar themes.

In December 2007, producer Thomas Schuehly (Alexander, The Adventures of Baron Munchausen) gained the remake rights to Metropolis.

Cultural influences

  • In a Flash Gordon serial from 1936, the eponymous hero visits Vultan's city, where a sweatshop appears featuring a machine where the operator has to move huge dials to different parts of the machine while standing up.

  • In the DC comic All-Star Squadron, first published in 1981, a robotic villain named Mekanique travels from the future to ensure that her creator — Rotwang — would rule his era, and prevent a woman named Maria from starting a workers' revolution. The robot's back-story, and the images shown in the comic, are taken directly from Metropolis.

  • The visual design for Ridley Scott's Blade Runner ( ) was influenced by Metropolis. These include a built up urban environment, in which the wealthy literally live above the workers, dominated by a huge building — the New Tower of Babel in Metropolis and the Tyrell Building in Blade Runner. "There is an awful lot of Metropolis in Blade Runner," says special effects supervisor David Dryer, who used stills from Metropolis when lining up Blade Runner's miniature building shots.

  • Shots from the film are extensively featured in the video for Queen's song "Radio Ga Ga". The video also featured the members of the band in situations taken from the movie, inside a white adaptation of the film's set. Queen singer Freddie Mercury participated in Giorgio Moroder's soundtrack of the film.

  • Much of the design for Gotham City in Tim Burton's Batman was influenced by Metropolis. Additionally, Burton pays homage to Metropolis in Batman's climactic cathedral scene, which parallels almost exactly the cathedral scene from Metropolis.

  • Film scholar Jason Alexander notes that Anakin Skywalker in George Lucas's Star Wars prequels bears a resemblance to the mad scientist Rotwang. Both are partly mechanical and lives "in twisted rage over the long ago loss of a woman" to Fredersen. Both create androids and whip up a "false revolutionary frenzy, all as a pretext" for a "crackdown".

See also


  1. Schoenbaum, David, Hitler’s Social Revolution: Class and Status in Nazi Germany 1933 – 1939, WW Norton and Company, (London 1997), p. 25.
  2. "New Metropolis Sparks Controversy at Cannes." Variety. May 16, 1984. For an analysis of both sides, with critics mostly supporting Moroder's version, see: Michael Minden and Holger Bachmann. (2002) Fritz Lang's Metropolis: Cinematic Visions of Technology and Fear. Boydell & Brewer. ISBN 1571131469. "Moroder's reissue...was bound to offend the purists if only because it smacked of such crass commercialism and seemed so evidently calculated to jump the culture barrier." Thomas Elsaesser, p. 124. Most critics agree that the opionion of the film purists aside, Moroder's version was a welcome addition: "Although harshly criticized for its synthesized rock score, Moroder's reconstruction does have the virtue of clarifying a muddled plotline...Moroder's new version provides some illuminating changes in narrative continuity and character motivation, while still preserving the integrity of Lang's extravagant satiric vision." Jurkiewicz, Kenneth. (March 1990). "Using Film in the Humanities Classroom: The Case of Metropolis." The English Journal. (79):3 p. 47. For a brief but in-depth anaylsis of Moroder's restoration, see: Bertellini, Giorgio (Autumn, 1995) "Restoration, Genealogy and Palimpsests". Film History (7):3 pp. 277-290.
  3. Razzie Award nomination
  4. Golan v. Ashcroft
  5. Metropolis Reborn,, 2 July 2008
  6. Lost scenes of 'Metropolis' discovered in Argentina, The Local, 2 July 2008
  7. "Key scenes rediscovered", Zeit online, 2 July 2008.
  8. The Reporter, VCS to play live film score at screening review. July 25, 2007.
  9. My Bay 'Metropolis - (with The Bijou Orchestra) August 11, 2007 at 7:00 p.m.",
  10. Traverse City Record Eagle 'Film Festival Outtakes 8/03/09
  11. Jim Steranko. Foreword. Superman: Archive Editions. Volume 1
  12. Ignition City workblog: July 17

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