Metropolis Information

Metropolis is a 1927 German expressionist science-fiction film directed by Fritz Lang. The film was written by Lang and his wife Thea Von Harbou, and starred Brigitte Helm, Gustav Fröhlich, Alfred Abel and Rudolf Klein-Rogge. A silent film, it was produced in the Babelsberg Studios by UFA.

Made in Germany during the Weimar Period, Metropolis is set in a futuristic urban dystopia, and follows the attempts of Freder, the wealthy son of the city's ruler, and Maria, whose background is not fully explained in the film, to overcome the vast gulf separating the classist nature of their city. Metropolis was filmed in 1925, at a cost of approximately five million Reichsmarks. The film was met with a mixed response upon its initial release, with many critics praising its technical achievements and allegorical social metaphors with some deriding its "simplistic and naïve" presentation. Due both to its long running-time and footage censors found questionable, Metropolis was cut substantially after its German premiere; large portions of the film were lost over the subsequent decades.

Numerous attempts have been made to restore the film since the 1970s-80s. Giorgio Moroder, a music producer, released a version with a soundtrack by rock artists such as Freddie Mercury and Adam Ant in 1984. A new reconstruction of Metropolis was shown at the Berlin Film Festival in 2001, and the film was inscribed on UNESCO's Memory of the World Register in the same year, the first film thus distinguished. In 2008, a print of Lang's original cut of the film was found in a museum in Argentina. After a long restoration process, the restored film was shown on large screens in Berlin and Frankfurt simultaneously on 12 February 2010.


In late 2026, in a dystopian society called Metropolis, wealthy industrialists rule from vast tower complexes, oppressing the workers who live in the depths in the underground worker's city complex beneath them. The film follows Freder (Gustav Fröhlich), the son of the ruthless master of the city, Joh Fredersen (Alfred Abel). While idling away his leisure time in a pleasure garden, Freder encounters a young woman named Maria (Brigitte Helm) who has brought a group of workers' children to see the privileged lifestyle led by the rich. Maria and the children are quickly ushered away, but Freder is fascinated by Maria and descends to the underground worker's city in an attempt to find her.

Freder finds the worker's city and watches in horror as a huge machine explodes, after its operator collapses from exhaustion, injuring many. Appalled by what he has witnessed, Freder runs to tell his father. Joh is angered that he learned of the explosion from Freder rather than his assistant Josaphat (Theodor Loos), and fires Josaphat as a result. When Freder berates his father for this, Joh is unsympathetic to Josaphat or the Workers, being obsessed with money and power. Josaphat, sad about the loss of his job, attempts to commit suicide over his dismissal, but is stopped by Freder. Freder tells Josaphat to return to his apartment and wait for him there, leaving to return to the workers' city. Concerned by his son's unusual behaviour, Joh sends The Thin Man (Fritz Rasp) to keep track of his movements.

In the worker's city, Freder sees a worker named Georgy (Erwin Biswanger) close to collapsing at his post. Freder relieves him, swapping clothes with Georgy and telling him to go to Josaphat's apartment and wait for him there. Georgy is driven away by Freder's chauffeur, but on his way to Josaphat's apartment he is distracted by the bright lights of the licentious nightclub Yoshiwara. Back in the worker's city, Freder finds a plan folded tightly in his pocket and is told of an approaching meeting by a passerby.

Meanwhile, Joh has learned of mysterious plans being shared amongst the workers. He takes the plans to Rotwang (Rudolf Klein-Rogge), a scientist and old collaborator who informs him the plans show the underground tunnels that lie beneath the worker's city. Rotwang was in love with Joh's deceased wife Hel, and " to Joh's horror "? reveals that he has been building a robot in order to ?resurrect' her. Rotwang discovers the plans are a map of the ancient catacombs beneath the city, and he and Joh leave to investigate. Freder, after suffering hallucinations brought on by exhaustion, follows the workers down into the catacombs, where Maria is waiting to speak to them.

In the catacombs, Maria prophesies the arrival of a mediator between the workers and the rulers. Freder watches her transfixed, and once she has finished speaking approaches her and declares his love. They arrange to meet later in a cathedral, and part. Joh and Rotwang watch the entire scene unfold, and plot to kidnap Maria, give the robot her appearance and use it to discredit her. Joh is pleased with the plan, unaware that Rotwang intends to use the false Maria to destroy his son. Rotwang follows Maria through the catacombs, and kidnaps her.

After leaving Yoshiwara the next morning, Georgy finds The Thin Man waiting for him in his car. The Thin Man orders Georgy to return to his post and forget everything that occurred, taking Josaphat's address from him. Meanwhile Freder goes to Josaphat's apartment, and asks for Georgy. Josaphat tells Freder that Georgy has not arrived. Freder tells Josaphat of his experiences in the worker's city, before departing to meet Maria. The Thin Man arrives at Josaphat's apartment just after Freder's departure, and attempts to intimidate him into leaving Metropolis. The two fight, and Josaphat manages to escape and hide in the worker's city.

When Maria does not arrive at the cathedral, Freder goes in search of her. He hears her cries as he approaches Rotwang's house, and makes futile attempts to reach her. In his laboratory Rotwang successfully transforms the robot into Maria's double, and sends it to greet Joh. Freder returns to his father, and sees him and the false Maria embracing. He faints, and experiences a series of nightmarish visions. The false Maria begins to unleash chaos throughout Metropolis, driving men to murder out of lust for her in Yoshiwara and stirring dissent amongst the workers. Meanwhile, the real Maria manages to flee from Rotwang's house as Rotwang and Fredersen duel after Fredersen becomes aware of Rotwang's treachery, who is really after the Joh's position.

When Freder recovers ten days later, he finds out from Josaphat that the Robot, whom they believe is Maria, is raising havoc. The pair venture down to Maria's altar, where the robot is urging the workers to rise up and revolt. Freder calls the robot out, knowing that Maria would never preach war, but is recognized as Joh Frederson's son and is attacked by the mob. In the chaos, Georgy is stabbed trying to protect Freder. Joh has ordered that the workers are allowed to rampage, in order to justify the use of heavy force against them at a later stage. The robot leads the workers from the city, who unknowingly leave their children behind, and they surge into the machine halls, abandoning their posts and destroying the Heart Machine, the central power station of the city, which causes all the city's systems to fail. With no power for the pumps, the subterranean workers' city begins to flood. Maria finds the children trying to escape the flood and attempts to save as many as she can from the water, sounding the city's alarm to gather them in one spot. She is soon joined by Freder and Josaphat, who help her rescue the children and escape to the upper levels of the city via an escape ladder. They manage to evacuate the children just as the workers' city begins to collapse.

As the workers revel in the Machine Halls, Grot, foreman of the Heart Machine, manages to suppress the out-of-control crowd, and berates them for their behavior and actions. Realizing their children have been left behind in the flooded workers' city, the workers are driven mad by grief. Considering Maria the cause of their misery, they launch a witch hunt, capture the false Maria, who had been reveling with the city's rich, and tie her to a stake. Having been separated from the real Maria, Freder watches as the false Maria is set afire and gradually transforms back into her robot form.

A delusional Rotwang finds the real Maria hiding from the mob in the cathedral, and, mistaking her for Hel, gives chase. Rotwang and Maria end up on the roof of the cathedral, and are seen by Freder from the ground. Freder climbs up to the roof of the cathedral and confronts Rotwang; the two fight, and Rotwang eventually loses his balance and falls to his death. The film ends with Freder declaring a truce between the workers and the thinkers, and linking the hands of his father and Grot (Heinrich George), becoming the Mediator between head and hands.


  • Gustav Fröhlich as Freder, the hero of the film.
  • Brigitte Helm as both the virginal Maria and her robot double.
  • Alfred Abel as Joh Fredersen, the master of Metropolis.
  • Rudolf Klein-Rogge as Rotwang, a mad scientist.
  • Heinrich George as Grot, the Foreman of the Heart Machine.
  • Fritz Rasp as The Thin Man, Joh's spy.
  • Theodor Loos as Josaphat, Joh's assistant.
  • Erwin Biswanger as Georgy (or 11811), a downtrodden worker.


Metropolis features a range of elaborate special effects and set designs, ranging from a huge gothic cathedral to a futuristic cityscape.

In an interview, Fritz Lang reported that "the film was born from my first sight of the skyscrapers in New York in October 1924". Describing his first impressions of the city, Lang said that "the buildings seemed to be a vertical sail, scintillating and very light, a luxurious backdrop, suspended in the dark sky to dazzle, distract and hypnotize".

The appearance of the city in Metropolis is strongly informed by the Art Deco movement; however it also incorporates elements from other traditions. Ingeborg Hoesterey described the architecture featured in Metropolis as eclectic, writing how its locales represent both "functionalist modernism [and] art deco" whilst also featuring "the scientist's archaic little house with its high-powered laboratory, the catacombs [and] the Gothic cathedral". The film's use of art deco architecture was highly influential, and has been reported to have contributed to the style's subsequent popularity in Europe and America.

The film drew heavily on Biblical sources for several of its key set-pieces. During her first talk to the workers, Maria uses the story of the Tower of Babel to highlight the discord between the intellectuals and the workers. Additionally, a delusional Freder imagines the false-Maria as the Whore of Babylon, riding on the back of a many-headed dragon.



The screenplay of Metropolis was written by Fritz Lang and his wife, Thea Von Harbou, a popular writer in Weimar Germany. The film's plot originated from a novel written by Harbou for the sole purpose of being made into a film. The novel featured strongly in the film's marketing campaign, and was serialized in the journal Illustriertes Blatt in the run-up to its release. Harbou and Lang collaborated on the screenplay derived from the novel, and several plot points and thematic elements "? including most of the references to magic and occultism present in the novel "? were dropped. The screenplay itself went through many re-writes, and at one point featured an ending where Freder would have flown to the stars; this plot element later became the basis for Lang's Woman in the Moon.


Metropolis began filming on 22 May 1925. The cast of the film was mostly composed of unknowns; this was particularly true of nineteen-year-old Brigitte Helm who had no previous film experience.

Shooting of the film was a draining experience for the actors involved, due to the demands made of them by director Fritz Lang. For the scene where the worker's city was flooded, Helm and five hundred children from the poorest districts of Berlin had to work for fourteen days in a pool of water that Lang intentionally kept at a low temperature. Lang would frequently demand numerous re-takes, and took three days to shoot a simple scene where Freder collapses at Maria's feet; by the time Lang was satisfied with the footage he had shot, actor Gustav Fröhlich found he could barely stand. Other anecdotes involve Lang's insistence on using real fire for the climatic scene where the false Maria is burnt at the stake (which resulted in Helm's dress catching fire), and his ordering extras to throw themselves towards powerful jets of water when filming the flooding of the worker's city.

Helm recalled her experiences of shooting the film in a contemporary interview, saying that "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. 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."

Shooting on Metropolis lasted over a year, and was finally completed on 30 October 1926.

Special effects

The effects expert, Eugen Schüfftan, created pioneering visual effects for Metropolis. Among the effects used are miniatures of the city, a camera on a swing, and most notably, the Schüfftan process, in which mirrors are used to create the illusion that actors are occupying miniature sets. This new technique was seen again just two years later in Alfred Hitchcock's film Blackmail (1929).

The Maschinenmensch "? the robot built by Rotwang to resurrect his lost love Hel "? was created by sculptor Walter Schulze-Mittendorff. A whole-body plaster cast was taken of actress Brigitte Helm, and the costume was then constructed around it. A chance discovery of a sample of "plastic wood" (a pliable substance designed as wood-filler) allowed Schulze-Mittendorff to build a costume that would both appear metallic and allow a small amount of free movement. Helm sustained cuts and bruises while in character as the robot, as the costume was rigid and uncomfortable.


Early release history

Metropolis had its premiere at the Ufa-Palast am Zoo movie theater in Berlin on 10 January 1927, where the audience reacted to several of the film's most spectacular scenes with "spontaneous applause". At the time of its German premiere, Metropolis had a length of 4,189 metres (approximately 153 mins at 24 fps). Metropolis had been funded in part by Paramount Pictures and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer, and UFA had formed a distribution deal with the two companies whereby they were "entitled to make any change [to films produced by UFA] they found appropriate to ensure profitability". The distribution of Metropolis was handled by Parufamet, a multinational company that incorporated all three film studios. Considering Metropolis too long and unwieldy, Parufamet commissioned American playwright Channing Pollock to write a simpler version of the film that could be assembled using the existing material. Pollock shortened the film dramatically, altered its inter-titles and removed all references to the character of Hel (as the name sounded too similar to the English word Hell), thereby removing Rotwang's original motivation for creating his robot. In Pollock's cut, the film ran for 3170 meters, or approximately 115 minutes. This version of Metropolis premiered in the U.S in March 1927, and was released in the U.K around the same time with different title cards.

Alfred Hugenberg, a nationalist businessman, cancelled UFA's debt to Paramount and Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer after taking charge of the company in April 1927, and chose to halt distribution in German cinemas of Metropolis in its original form. Hugenberg had the film cut down to a length of 3241 meters, removing the film's perceived "inappropriate" communist subtext and religious imagery. Hugenberg's cut of the film was released in German cinemas in August 1927. UFA distributed a still shorter version of the film (2530 meters, 91 minutes) in 1936, and an English version of this cut was archived in the MOMA film library.


Despite the film's later reputation, some contemporary critics panned it. The New York Times critic Mordaunt 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 ?apek's robot stories, and his own The Sleeper Awakes. Wells called Metropolis "quite the silliest film."

Nazi propagandist Joseph Goebbels was impressed, however, and took the film's message to heart. In a 1928 speech he declared that "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 Labor, to begin their historical mission".

Fritz Lang later expressed dissatisfaction with the film. In an interview with Peter Bogdanovich (in Who The Devil Made It: Conversations with Legendary Film Directors, published in 1998), 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. They divorced the following year.

Roger Ebert noted that "Metropolis is one of the great achievements of the silent era, a work so audacious in its vision and so angry in its message that it is, if anything, more powerful today than when it was made." The film also has a 99% rating at Rotten Tomatoes, based on 104 reviews.


The original premiere cut eventually disappeared, and a quarter of the original film was long believed to be lost forever.

In 1984, a new restoration and edit of the film was made by Giorgio Moroder. Moroder's version of the film was tinted throughout, featured additional special effects, subtitles instead of intertitles and a pop soundtrack featuring well-known singers, instead of a traditional score. It was the first serious attempt made at restoring Metropolis to Lang's original vision, and until Kino's restoration in 2002 and 2010, it was the most complete version of the film in existence; the shorter run time was due to a faster frame rate than the original. In August 2011, after years of being unavailable on video in any format due to music licensing issues, it was announced that Kino International had managed to resolve the issues, and not only would the film be released on both Blu-Ray and DVD in November of that year, but it would also have a limited theatrical re-release.

The moderate commercial success of the Moroder version of the film inspired Enno Patalas to make an exhaustive attempt to restore the movie in 1986. This version was the most accurate reconstruction until that time, being based on the film's script and musical score. The basis of Patalas' work was a copy in the Museum of Modern Art's collection.

In conjunction with Kino International, Metropolis's current copyright holder, the F.W. Murnau Foundation released a digitally restored version of the film in 2002. This edition included the film's original music score and title cards that described the events featured in missing sequences. Previously unknown sections of the film were discovered in film museums and archives around the world, and the footage was digitally cleaned and repaired to remove defects.

In 2005, Wollongong-based historian and politician Michael Organ had examined a print of the film in the National Film Archive of New Zealand. Organ discovered that the print contained scenes missing from other copies of the film. After hearing of the discovery of the Argentine print of the film and the restoration project currently under way, Organ contacted the German restorers about his find. The New Zealand print contained eleven missing scenes and featured some brief pieces of footage that were used to restore damaged sections of the Argentine print. It is believed that the Australian, New Zealand and Argentine prints were all scored from the same master. The newly discovered footage was used in the restoration project.

On 1 July 2008, film experts in Berlin announced that a 16 mm reduction negative of the original cut of the film had been discovered in the archives of the Museo del Cine in Buenos Aires, Argentina. The print had been in circulation since 1928, starting off with a film distributor and subsequently being passed to a private collector, an art foundation and finally the Museo del Cine. The print was investigated by the museum's curator after he heard an anecdote from a cinema club manager expressing surprise at the length of a print of Metropolis he had viewed. The print was in poor condition and required considerable restoration before it was re-premiered in February 2010. Two short sequences from the film, depicting a monk preaching in the cathedral and a fight between Rotwang and Fredersen, were in extremely poor condition and could not be salvaged.

Copyright issues

The American copyright had lapsed in 1953, which eventually led to a proliferation of versions being released on video. Along with other foreign-made works, the film's U.S. copyright was restored in 1998, but the constitutionality of this copyright extension was challenged in Golan v. Gonzales and as Golan v. Holder it was ruled that "In the United States, that body of law includes the bedrock principle that works in the public domain remain in the public domain. Removing works from the public domain violated Plaintiffs' vested First Amendment interests." This only applied to the rights of so-called reliance parties, i.e. parties who had previously relied on the public domain status of restored works. The case was overturned on appeal to the Tenth Circuit and that decision was upheld by the US Supreme Court on January 18, 2012. This had the effect of restoring the copyright in the work as of January 1, 1996. Under current US copyright law, it remains copyrighted until January 1, 2023.


Original score

The film score of the original release of Metropolis was composed by Gottfried Huppertz and it was meant to be performed by large orchestras to accompany the film during production. Huppertz took inspiration from 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. Huppertz borrowed and altered the "Dies Irae" theme from Berlioz's Symphony Fantastique as well as the French National Anthem. 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 2001 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, California on 1 and 2 August. 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.

For the 2010 almost complete reconstruction, the score was performed and recorded for the DVD release by the Berlin Radio Symphony Orchestra, conducted by Frank Strobel, who also conducted the premiere of the reconstructed version at Berlin Friedrichstadtpalast.

Other soundtracks

There have been many other soundtracks created for Metropolis by 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 " Giorgio Moroder restored and produced the 80-minute 1984 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.
  • 2000 " Jeff Mills created a techno score for Metropolis which was released as an album. He also performed the score live at public screenings of the film.
  • 2004 " Abel Korzeniowski created a score for Metropolis played live by a 90-piece orchestra and a choir of 60 voices and two soloists. The first performance took place at the Era Nowe Horyzonty Film Festival in Poland.
  • 2004 " Ronnie Cramer produced a score and effects soundtrack for Metropolis that won two Aurora awards.
  • 2005/2011 " The New Pollutants (Mister Speed and DJ Tr!p) performed Metropolis Rescore live for festivals since 2005 and are rescoring to the 2010 version of the film for premiere at the Adelaide Film Festival 2011.
  • 2010 "? The Alloy Orchestra has scored four different versions of the film, most recently for the American premiere of the 2010 restoration.


Several adaptations have been made of the original Metropolis, including at least two musical theatre adaptations (see Metropolis).

The 2001 animated film Metropolis, is based on an original manga by Osamu Tezuka, which is loosely based on the film, though Tezuka claims he had not seen the film at the time.(see Metropolis).

In December 2007, producer Thomas Schühly (Alexander, The Adventures of Baron Munchausen) gained the remake rights to Metropolis, but it is still unknown if the remake is in production.

Some scenes from the film were featured in the music video for Queen's 1984 hit "Radio Ga Ga".

Whitney Houston's music video "Queen of the Night" includes clips from the film as well as Houston wearing a shiny metallic ensemble resembling Maschinenmensch.

Madonna's music video for "Express Yourself" pays homage to the film.

Janelle Monáe based both her concept albums on the original film including her EP, Metropolis: Suite I (The Chase) released mid-2007 and The ArchAndroid released in 2009. The latter also included an homage to Metropolis on the album cover, with the film version of the Tower of Babel amongst the remainder of the city. The albums follow the adventures of Monáe's alter-ego and robot, Cindi Mayweather, as an messianic figure to the android community of Metropolis.

Australian pop star Kylie Minogue has also paid homage to the film in two of her concert tours, KylieFever2002 and KylieX2008.

A short clip from the film was shown in the music video for System of a Down's "Sugar".

In 2013, the Swedish post-metal band Cult of Luna released an album, Vertikal, based thematically on the film.

In late 2012 and subsequently into early 2013, California based electronic musicians The M Machine released "Metropolis Pt. 1" and "Metropolis Pt. 2", a two part album based on themes and storylines from both the original adaptation and also from the Giorgio Moroder's musical reworking.

The music video for UK punk rock band UFX' 2013 "Crack" remaster uses several sections of the film edited together, including the transformation of the robot into Maria's double, Freder's nightmarish visions and the robot Maria's dance.

Awards and honors

  • Ranked No. 12 in Empire magazine's "The 100 Best Films Of World Cinema" in 2010. It was ranked number 2 in a list of the 100 greatest films of the Silent Era.
The 2002 version awarded the "New York Film Critics Circle Awards" "Special Award" to Kino International for the restoration.

In 2012, in correspondence with the Sight & Sound Poll, the British Film Institute called ?Metropolis? the 35th greatest film of all time.

See also

  • List of dystopian films
  • List of films featuring surveillance
  • List of films in the public domain in the United States
  • List of German films 1919"1933
  • List of most expensive non-English language films
  • List of rediscovered films

This webpage uses material from the Wikipedia article "Metropolis_%28film%29" and is licensed under the GNU Free Documentation License. Reality TV World is not responsible for any errors or omissions the Wikipedia article may contain.



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