Introduced by their mutual employer, director Joe May, Fritz Lang and Thea Von Harbou's ensuing collaboration quickly flourishes into an illicit romance. Von Harbou soon moves into Lang's apartment building and divorces her first husband, Rudolf Klein-Rogge. Shortly after discovering Lang and Von Harbou together, Lang's wife Lisa Rosenthal is found dead of an allegedly self- inflicted gunshot wound to her chest. Despite rumors surrounding the suicide, Lang and Von Harbou are never implicated. They marry in August of 1922.
Though it had been under discussion and development for nearly a year prior, Fritz Lang always maintained that the genesis of METROPOLIS was his first glimpse of the Manhattan skyline while on a publicity tour of the US in 1924. In the teeming streets and towering skyscrapers of New York, Lang discovered, in his words, both, ?a crater of blind, confused human forces? and ?a luxurious cloth hung from the dark sky to dazzle, distract and hypnotize.
From the beginning of principal photography METROPOLIS pushes the ingenuity of UFA studios' technicians to it's limits. Eugen Schüfftan's innovative new partial mirror process is used to combine miniature sets and full sized live action elements on the same negative. For shots of futuristic car and airplane traffic, effects photographer Gunther Rittau utilizes stop motion animation. These sequences, lasting barely a minute on film, take nearly a week to photograph.
As shooting on METROPOLIS continues, endless rehearsals of crowd scenes boasting more than 36,000 extras and a variety of other practical and technical inclemencies inflate the film's already bankruptcy-courting budget. Producer Erich Pommer becomes a convenient scapegoat for Lang's excesses and is dismissed from METROPOLIS by UFA's worried board. Editing begins in July, scoring shortly thereafter and by October the 310 days and sixty nights of shooting finally come to an end.
METROPOLIS premieres on 10 January at UFA's flagship theater, Palast Am Zoo in Berlin with an original running time of two hours and thirty three minutes. Paramount, UFA's new American partner, demands to re-cut and shorten METROPOLIS for it's American release. Playwright Channing Pollock's butchered, disjointed Paramount version of METROPOLIS opens at the Rialto in New York on March 3rd. UFA re-releases METROPOLIS in a German version based on the Pollock re-edit in August. By the end of 1927 the film had been cut down to a running time of eighty nine minutes. Fritz Lang maintains that by the middle of 1927 his original film no longer exists.
A print of the German language Paramount edit of METROPOLIS is acquired (along with prints of several other German films) by Iris Barry for the Museum of Modern Art's fledgling new film library. MoMA's film collection now exceeds 14,000 films and four million film stills. The MoMA print is subsequently re-titled in English and serves as the source for most prints of the film after W.W.II. Their print of METROPOLIS is repatriated back to the Munich Film Archive in 1986.
Between 1968 and 1972, the East German Staatliches Filmarchiv der DDR compiled a version of the film with the help of other world archives. Even though this was an improvement from previous versions, many riddles of the film's abridged narration could not be solved due to a lack of secondary sources and an original script. This version is 7,750 feet.
In 1984, the rights to the film were licensed to composer Giorgio Moroder. Moroder put together a "pop" version of this classic film by re-cutting shots and replacing missing scenes with a montage of stills. This version used few intertitles, included subtitles and added color tints to the film, but none of these elements were more controversial than its newly composed score. It featured songs by Queen's Freddy Mercury ("Love Kills"), Bonnie Tyler ("Here She Comes") and Jon Anderson ("Cage of Freedom"). This version of 7,469 feet (with a running time of 87 minutes at 24 fps), proved to be successful both in theatres and on video, making this classic film widely available to a much larger - and younger - audience.
Kino International releases the definitive new METROPOLIS. Film Preservationist Martin Koeber, working with a team of archivists headed by the F. W. Murnau Foundation, the post unification German Bundes FilmArchiv and Alpha Omega of Munich have digitally restored over 12,000 different picture elements of the Enno Patalas "Munich Version" of the film to a level of clarity never before possible. All the original intertitles, newly translated into English as well as titles detailing the film's still missing scenes, are inserted. Finally, for the first time since 1927, Gottfried Huppertz powerful and dynamic score is reunited with the unforgettable visuals it was created for.
The German newspaper Die Zeit reports that a copy of Metropolis -- significantly longer than any known print -- has been discovered at the Museo del Cine de Buenos Aires. The cinematic holy grail is a 16mm dupe negative, derived from a 35mm nitrate print that had been owned by film critic Manuel Peña Rodriguez, who sold it to Argentina's National Art Fund in the 1960s. In 1992, the film was inherited by the Museo del Cine, where it lay unnoticed until Museo del Cine curator Paula Félix-Didier screened the film, acting on a tip from the film curator of the Museum of Latin American Art. After making the discovery, Félix-Didier traveled to Berlin with a copy of the film to show the editors of Die Zeit. According to the initial coverage, "Félix-Didier wanted the news to be announced in Germany where Fritz Lang had worked -- and she hoped that it would attract a greater level of attention in Germany than in Argentina."
The meticulous restoration of Metropolis is given its world premiere at the Friedrichstadtpalast, as part of the 60th Berlin Film Festival. The film is simultaneously screened at the Brandenburg Gate and at the Alte Opera House in Frankfurt. Gottfried Huppertz's original score is performed live by the Berlin Rudfunk Symphony Orchestra, adapted and conducted by Frank Strobel. On April 25, the restored Metropolis makes its North American debut at Grauman's Chinese Theatre, as part of the TCM Classic Film Festival, with a new music score by the Alloy Orchestra.