Fritz Lang’s sci-fi masterpiece ‘Metropolis’ reworked with a Kraftwerk soundtrack
Metropolis, the iconic 1927 German expressionist science-fiction film directed by Fritz Lang, has been lauded as one of the most influential films of all time.
Written by German screenwriter Thea von Harbou alongside Lang, Metropolis is a silent feature-length film starring the likes of Gustav Fröhlich, Alfred Abel, Rudolf Klein-Rogge and Brigitte Helm. At the time of filming, between 1925–26, director Fritz Lang was handed a lucrative budget which stretched in excess of five million reichsmarks. In response, Lang and his production team went to work for 17 straight months, filming in Germany during the Weimar period.
This film, which presents a highly stylised futuristic city, tells the story of a cultured utopia existing above a bleak underworld populated by, in large, mistreated workers. Focusing on privileged youth Freder, the character discovers a grim scene under the city and becomes intent on helping the workers which leads to greater conflict.
The film remains an ultimate cinematic classic, a picture that remains established in the annals of history. While Lang battled against many different issues while filming, he never compromised his vision and, quite often, it resulted in a series of gruelling work schedules. “The night shots lasted three weeks, and even if they did lead to the greatest dramatic moments—even if we did follow Fritz Lang’s directions as though in a trance, enthusiastic and enraptured at the same time—I can’t forget the incredible strain that they put us under,” actor Brigitte Helm later commented. “The work wasn’t easy, and the authenticity in the portrayal ended up testing our nerves now and then. For instance, it wasn’t fun at all when Grot drags me by the hair, to have me burned at the stake. Once I even fainted: during the transformation scene, Maria, as the android, is clamped in a kind of wooden armament, and because the shot took so long, I didn’t get enough air.”
Despite the relentless schedule and the sometimes brutal conditions, Lang prevailed in his desire to create “the costliest and most ambitious picture ever” and one that fans, scholars, cinephiles and the rest have pawed over since its release. While many have tried to put their own interpretations into Lang’s work, one filmmaker has gone to new lengths in creative collaborations. Here, John McWilliam attempted to give the film a contemporary twist by mixing the work of German electronic music pioneers Kraftwerk with Metropolis.
“This homage to the 1927 art deco silent movie masterpiece by Fritz Lang has been re-edited to make it more appreciable by a modern audience,” creator McWilliam said. “Originally two-and-a-half hours long it has been reduced down to one hour 23 minutes to pace it up including removing the subtitle cards between shots and placing them over picture instead.”
He added: “Wall to wall music from the famous German electronik band, Kraftwerk, plus copious quantities of sound effects drive the story forward relentlessly once it gets rolling. Best watched on a big-ass TV hooked up to a big-booty sound system.”