Reviewer's Rating 5 out of 5   User Rating 4 out of 5
Metropolis (1927)
PG

Mesmerising, thrilling, astonishing - pick an adjective. Fritz Lang's silent sci-fi classic may be well past pensionable age, but it still retains its power to smack gobs.

Released in 1927 to audience apathy, it's since been sliced up and restructured more often than Cher's face.

After years of restoration work, this latest version arrives with a quarter of the original print still missing, but is the closest we're likely to get to seeing the filmmaker's intended vision. It's dazzling.

In the titular futuristic city, a ruling class live in opulence, while a literal underclass toil in a vast subterranean workshop.

Lured from his Edenic existence by the saintly Maria (Brigitte Helm), Freder Fredersen (Gustav Fröhlich) witnesses the misery of the working class and vows to persuade his despotic father, Joh (Alfred Abel), to change the system.

But Joh has no qualms about the status quo, and works with a loony scientist to create a robotic 'Evil Maria', who they hope will turn the workers from revolutionary thoughts.

Narrative logic takes a backseat to rampant expressionism - with sense less important than ideas and startling visuals.

With its immense sets and stark lighting, the workers' city is a credible image of hell, while the overground landscapes were a seminal influence on all subsequent science fiction.

To hear fans of "Blade Runner" speak, you'd think Ridley Scott invented dystopian sci-fi. But this is the template.

And while a German silent film may not strike you as more appealing than a Harrison Ford thriller, "Metropolis" is a good deal warmer than Scott's dour noir tale.

Its portrayal of brutal capitalism and the importance of compassion remain hugely relevant, and its message - "There can be no understanding between the hands and the brain unless the heart acts as mediator" - resonant.

End Credits

Director: Fritz Lang

Writer: Thea Von Harbou, Fritz Lang

Stars: Gustav Fröhlich, Brigitte Helm, Alfred Abel, Rudolf Klein-Rogge, Fritz Rasp, Theodor Loos, Heinrich George

Genre: Science Fiction, Classic

Length: 123 minutes

Original: 1927

Cinema: 17 January 2003

Country: Germany

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