Movies: Metropolis *****
One mustn't grumble, but sometimes you emerge from a particularly nihilistic feature-film press screening wondering if there's any legal way of suing the producers so you can get the hour-and-a-half back. We critics, poor, mistreated underlings that we are, have to sit through some fearful garbage. So it was a real treat to be required to experience all two-and-a-half hours of Metropolis.
When it was originally released in 1927, Fritz Lang's dystopian extravaganza was cut to shreds for the US market, and much of it was thought lost forever. This re-release comes on foot of the discovery of a pretty complete copy of the film that had been gathering dust in a Buenos Aires museum, and the finished restoration is a thing of beauty.
Set in a futuristic burg presided over by a totalitarian visionary, Metropolis tells the story of a workers' revolt and the appearance of a monstrous robot with which a rival scientist hopes to destroy the city. With a fine, original score by Gottfried Huppertz, the film unfolds in a series of dramatic episodes. Some of the acting might seem a little odd at this remove, but silent actors were expected to convey a lot more with their faces and bodies, and lead actress Brigitte Helm is absolutely brilliant in a tricky dual role. The real star, though, is Lang's incredibly fecund imagination and his glorious realisation of the futuristic Babel he dreamt up in his head.