Flutterby™! : Restoration and Revelation

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Restoration and Revelation

2010-06-11 19:36:58.766961+00 by petronius 1 comments

Last night I saw the new restoration of Fritz Lang's Metropolis on the big screen. It is a marvel, with newly restored scenes so that we have all but 10 minutes of the original. What is interesting, however, is that I got far more out of the film than I expected. This is at least the 5th restoration I have seen since the early 70s, including the clever but grotesque Grigorio Moroder version from 1984 with a musical track by Freddy Mercury and Adam Ant, among others. This time the original story is much more coherent, and while somewhat corney still enthalling. I found myself not seeing it for the great models of the future city with biplanes and zeppelins floating between the towers, but for the actual flow and ebb of the story. Instead of being a cultural artifact it became a work of art able to stand on its own terms.

Now some of the melodramatic moments still cause some giggles in the audience, but I was able to see past that. We tend to see silent films as quaint, no matter how serious. But we wouldn't call Lang's crime masterpiece M of just a few years later quaint. So, what happened? Sound added a layer of reality to the process that the stylization of the silent era did not have, even for lurid melodramas like Lang's works. Shakespeare is stylized, as is Sophocles, yet we still enjoy them. Maybe the answer is not to dismiss silent films as quaint melodramas, but instead compare them to theater, not to modern films (ie, anything after 1929) The distancing of the stage lets us accept that in one scene we are in Rome and the next 500 miles away at the Battle of Actium in Antony and Cleopatra, and maybe we can accept that for a time people carried out their dramatic lives in silence.

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#Comment Re: made: 2010-06-11 21:14:36.356214+00 by: meuon

Kewl. I have a DVD of one of the remakes with sound, it's an awesome party background video. I'll have to seek this out.