MARTIN KOERBER: REBUILDING “METROPOLIS”

The new version about to be released in the U.S. reportedly contains a short scene that was never included in previous versions. What is the scene about and where was the footage located? Also, what other recovered footage has been located that was never seen before?
There is only one shot with Maria and the children at the foot of the stairs, while the water is rising, which is nothing to brag about. Otherwise all the footage you can see has been already in the Munich restoration in one form or another. The big difference is that we now have finally brought the original image quality back, as we could base the restoration on a camera negative and first generation prints, which makes all the difference in the world, because you can finally see the real thing and not a bad dupe that looks like a photocopy.
Of course, I don’t know which version you have seen before, and I guess not many people have had a chance to see the Munich version in the U.S. So for them the new version of “Metropolis” would be completely new, compared to the Museum of Modern Art, for instance, which I think has been the one that most people have seen.

This new edition was restored from positive prints and camera negatives. Where did your team locate all of this footage? And how many archives, museums and private collections did you need to contact to assemble the footage?
Camera negative for 80 % of the film, and first generation prints for the rest. The camera negative was in the Bundesarchiv-Filmarchiv in Berlin (where it should be), additional footage came from the George Eastman House, the British Film Institute, the Fondazione Cineteca Italiana, and the Friedrich-Wilhelm-Murnau-Stiftung. Filmmuseum Munich made their version available as a model, and Enno Patalas worked with me on the assembling of the footage according to his notes. Indirectly, many other archives contributed to this version, because their previous research went into this new version too, much in the same way that any modern research is of course based on generations of previous work. Hence the long rolling title at the end with additional credits to Gosfilmofond of Russia, the Cinematheque Francaise, Screensound Australia, and others.

For the first time since 1927, Gottfried Huppertz’ original score will accompany the film in theatrical release. Why has the Huppertz score never been used with the film in all of these years?
The Huppertz score has been performed many times in many shows around the globe with the Munich Filmmuseum restoration. Also, a piano version of it has been shown on television, a re-working of it had been around in the prints distributed in the 1950s. However, the real thing adapted to the best possible restoration just did not exist until this restoration came about. Once we had the image together, Friedrich-Wilhelm-Murnau-Stiftung got together with Bernd Heller, the conductor who did the adaptation and also owns the rights to the Huppertz compositions, and did the new recording.

What is it about “Metropolis” that continues to fascinate audiences to this day, despite the film’s long history of being presented in drastically incomplete versions?
In my opinion it is the outstanding art direction, the vision of society, the social comment, the bizarre mix of a world that seems to be light-years ahead as well as centuries back at the same time, the re-working of popular myth and even religion into the script. Thus the film touches on ideas which everybody can relate to one way or another, and can reach out to you even after 75 years.




Posted on October 3, 2002 in Interviews by

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