Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Music Saves Metropolis!

In 2008, a 16mm print of a nearly-complete version of the silent film Metropolis was found in the archives of the Museo del Cine in Buenos Aires, Argentina.  Using the best available 35mm prints, and that badly damaged 16mm print, a new digital master was created, and The Complete Metropolis premiered in Berlin in early 2010. Following the film’s American premiere at the Turner Classic Movies film festival in April, 2010, the film toured the country, and is now available on DVD and Blu-ray.

How did the restoration team piece together the complete film?  As it turns out, music is what may have saved the movie for future generations.

The Complete Metropolis is accompanied by its original Gottfried Huppertz score, newly recorded for this restoration. Huppertz’ music looks back toward the 19th century harmonically, but matches the modern story well. As it turns out, no shooting script for Metropolis exists. No records detail the cuts made to the film since 1927. But one thing that did survive was Huppertz’s written score. By following the notes in that annotated score, and carefully matching it to 16mm print discovered in Buenos Aires in 2008 that prompted this latest restoration, archivists were able to assemble the most complete version of Metropolis the world has seen since 1927. Even if it were not such a thrilling historical find, this production would still be, as Roger Ebert called it, “the film event of 2010.”

--Nathan Cone

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