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LOST – PRESERVED: THE CONTENTS OF THE ORIGINAL VERSION
(text from Martin Koerber, with kind permission of Friedrich-Wilhelm-Murnau-Stiftung)
Prelude. Metropolis, a large city somewhere in the future, adheres spatially and socially to a caste system: at the top is Joh Fredersen, the ruler of this highly industrialized city under his command; at the bottom are workers without names, addressed by numbers instead; and between these two, a class of technocrats employed to keep the machinery running smoothly. In the »Eternal Gardens« the sons of ruling-class members enjoy themselves day and night. One of these carefree souls is Freder, Joh Fredersen’s son.
Maria, a young girl from the »Lower City«, brings a group of workers’ children to the »Eternal Gardens«. Her saying »Look, these are your brothers« deeply touches Freder. Fascinated by Maria, Freder searches for her after she is made to leave the »Eternal Gardens«. Freder ends up in the »Lower City« machine rooms. He witnesses a machine explosion which claims the lives of several workers. Freder has his a vision: the machine is a fire-breathing Moloch. Freder in his father’s office: He tells of the deplorable conditions in the machine room and understands, for the first time, with what degree of cold rationality Metropolis is being governed. Grot – the supervisor of the heart machine, which produces the needed energy for Metropolis – appears; he shows Fredersen plans indicating various secret activities in the Lower City. Furious now, Fredersen firesJosaphat, the employee who should have given him this information ages ago. Freder feels to blame for Josaphat being fired and offers to hire him himself. Fredersen has »Der Schmale« follow his son.
Freder returns to the Lower City. Worker No. 11811, known as Georgy, collapses on the job, and Freder wants to save at least this one worker from his sad fate. He changes clothes with him and takes over at Georgy’s machine. He tells Georgy to go to Josaphat’s apartment and to wait for him there. On the way there, Georgy succumbs to the temptations of the »Upper City«. He finds money in the pockets of Freder’s clothing and does not go to Josaphat’s apartment, but to the Yoshiwara, where the members of Metropolis’s upper crust abandon themselves to their unbridled pleasures.
Der Schmale, who has been observing Freder’s car, records Georgy’s movements in the assumption that Georgy is Freder. Meanwhile, Joh Fredersen goes to the inventor Rotwang. In Rotwang’s house he discovers a monument dedicated to Hel, the woman who is the fateful link between Rotwang and Fredersen. Hel was loved by Rotwang, but married Fredersen and died giving birth to her and Fredersen’s son Freder. Rotwang is unable to get over the loss of Hel, and rails against Fredersen in front of the monument. Triumphantly, he presents his last invention, a machine woman, who is to replace his lost Hel.
He still needs 24 hours of work until the machine woman will be indistinguishable from his dead beloved: »The woman is mine, Joh Fredersen! You have Hel’s son!« Fredersen explains the reason for his visit: He wants Rotwang to help him decipher the plans found on the workers killed in the accident. While Fredersen is at Rotwang’s house, his son suffers the torments of a worker’s life in Metropolis. Freder has a second vision – the clock in his father’s office, dictating the pace of the workers’ ten-hourlong workday, appears on the machine’s surface. At the changing of their shifts, workers take Freder into the catacombs, in the depths of the Lower City, where secret meetings are held.
Rotwang deciphers the plans brought to him by Fredersen as being a guide through the catacombs. They both go down below; they observe a gathering of workers listening reverently to Maria. She tells them of the Tower of Babel, destroyed by the slaves who erected it because no common language could be found between them and their rulers. Maria prophesies that soon a mediator will appear and make the lives of the workers bearable. Rotwang notices Freder among the workers, and hides this fact from Fredersen. Freder falls in love with Maria. He feels that he must take on the task of the mediator in Metropolis. Maria recognizes him as the awaited mediator. They plan to meet the next day at the cathedral.
Fredersen commissions Rotwang to give the machine woman not the appearance of Hel but the looks of Maria, thus enabling Fredersen to mislead the workers. Rotwang at first refuses, but changes his mind and agrees when he realizes that this way he can harm Fredersen even more than by recreating Hel. Now, with the help of the machine woman, he can drive a wedge between Fredersen and his son. Rotwang pursues Maria in the catacombs and abducts her to his house in order to give the machine woman her appearance.
Interlude. The next day, Freder enters the cathedral of Metropolis. He listens to the sermon of a monk who announces that the apocalypse is drawing near and will announce itself in the form of a sinful woman. At the same time, Rotwang programs the machine woman in his laboratory: »You shall destroy Joh Fredersen – him and his city and his son.« Freder wanders through the cathedral and finds a group of figures representing »The Death and the Seven Deadly Sins«. Georgy, bleary-eyed, comes out of the Yoshi-wara, where he has spent all of Freder’s money. As he gets into Freder’s car, Der Schmale arrests him. He interrogates Georgy and finds out that Freder and Georgy have arranged to meet at Josaphat’s apartment. Not having found Maria at the cathedral, Freder finally goes to Josaphat’s place. He plans to meet Georgy there so that the latter can take him to the »Lower City« and put him in touch with the workers. As Freder waits for him, Georgy is allowed to go free by Der Schmale on condition that he returns to his machine and erases the events of the past day from his memory. Der Schmale goes to Jo-saphat’s apartment to find Freder. By the time he arrives there, however, Freder has already left. He has dropped Georgy’s cap, which Der Schmale finds and rightly regards as evidence of the subversive arrangements between Freder and Josaphat. He offers Josaphat money to leave Metropolis and thus quickly put an end to the whole affair before it comes out that he lost track of Freder for a whole day. Josaphat refuses, and there is a scuffle in which Der Schmale knocks Josaphat down.
Der Schmale locks the defenseless Josaphat into his apartment. Maria is overpowered by Rotwang. Freder hears Maria’s cries for help and tries in vain to help her. Rotwang brings Maria into his laboratory and transfers her appearance to the machine woman. Now there are two Marias: The real Maria is held prisoner by Rotwang; the false Maria serves Fredersen and causes discord among the workers and thus at the same time promoting Rotwang’s plan to destroy Metropolis. After the successfully completed operation, Rotwang tells Freder that Maria is with Fredersen. In a letter, Rotwang invites Fredersen to the presentation of the false Maria; a dance performance before the »top hundred« of Metropolis will demonstrate whether people recognize that she is a machine.
In his office, Fredersen gives the false Maria instructions on what she should tell the workers. Freder arrives and finds them in an intimate pose together. Thinking his beloved has betrayed him, he swoons with horror and faints. The unconscious Freder is put to bed.
Meanwhile, at Rotwang’s house, the false Maria performs a dance in the nude; she mesmerizes the men of Metropolis. Der Schmale keeps watch over the feverridden Freder, in his sickroom. In a vision Freder sees Der Schmale transformed into the monk who preached about the apocalypse in the cathedral and warned that the appearance of the whore of Babylon would precede the city’s downfall. Jan and Marinus, sons of Metropolis ruling-class citizens, are entranced by the false Maria’s dance and willing to commit »all seven deadly sins« for her sake.
Freder fantasizes with eyes wide open: The cathedral statues representing »Death and the Seven Deadly Sins« begin to move and come toward him. Death’s scythe sweeps through the sickroom.
Furioso. Josaphat escapes from his apartment and hides in Metropolis. He manages to make contact with Freder. Meanwhile Der Schmale tells Fredersen about the increasingly violent unrest in the »Lower City«: »The only thing that still keeps the workers in check is that they are still waiting for the ›mediator‹ they were promised …« Josaphat informs Freder, who has recovered from his illness, of the events that have taken place while he was ill: Jan and Marinus have fought a duel over the false Maria in which Jan met his death. Since then, the »Eternal Gardens« have become deserted; the sons of the wealthy have all wandered off to Yoshiwara where the false Maria turns heads. As the sons fight for her favors, more and more of them are killed. Josaphat tells Freder that »this woman, at whose feet all sins accrue« is also called Maria. As Josaphat is speaking, the sirens of Metropolis announce the change of shifts, which at the same time is the secret signal for the workers to gather in the catacombs around Maria. Freder decides to go down into the catacombs again.
Fredersen dictates to Der Schmale that it is his express order that workers should on no account be stopped whatever they decide to do. He again sets off to meet Rotwang. The real Maria is still imprisoned in Rotwang’s house. Rotwang explains to her that the false Maria only seems to follow Fredersen’s orders while she incites the workers to rebel. »But I tricked Joh Fredersen! His creature does not obey his will – but mine alone.«
The false Maria urges the workers to destroy the machines. Freder and Josaphat join the group. Freder realizes that the agitator cannot be the real Maria. The false Maria identifies Freder before the workers as Joh Fredersen’s son; she orders him murdered. Georgy shields Freder with his own body and is killed. When the workers, agitated by the false Maria, rush off to destroy the machines, Freder and Josaphat manage to escape. Fredersen has listened unobserved to what Rotwang reveals to Maria, and knocks down Rotwang. While the two are fighting, Maria is able to free herself and to escape into the city.
Enraged workers reach the gates of the machine rooms. Grot, who guards the heart machine, is made aware by warning signals of what is going on, and locks the hall where the heart machine is located to protect it. He tries to reach Fredersen in order to make a report. The crowd rages outside the gates demanding to be let in. Fredersen orders him to open the gate and to let things take their course. Grot reluctantly obeys, but blocks the workers’ way and tries to calm them. No one listens to him. The false Maria detonates the heart machine and escapes to the upper regions – the Upper City.
The real Maria finds her way to the deserted Lower City again. The first signs of water leakage point to the dangerous state of the machine rooms. Maria gathers the workers’ children and flees with them. After the heart machine explodes, the Upper City is effected by a power failure. Josaphat and Freder find Maria and the children. Freder is now convinced that he has found the real Maria again. As they climb up through the air shafts, they come to a dead end – a locked grille; only in the last minute do they manage to save themselves and the children from the rising flood.
Grot explains to the victory-dancing, elated workers the extent of the catastrophe in the machine rooms. The workers’ mood suddenly changes. Meanwhile, in Yoshiwara, the false Maria spur her guests on to a witch’s sabbath: »Let’s watch the world go to hell!« A dancing crowd pours from the Yoshiwara into the city. Rotwang, who has survived Fredersen’s blows, regains consciousness and drags himself to Hel’s monument. With the words, »Now I’ll come and bring you back home, my Hel!« he sets out to recapture his machine woman.
In front of the »Club of the Sons«, Maria is confronted by the angry crowd. She flees from the menacing workers back into the city. The procession of workers and the Yoshiwara procession collide. The workers find the false Maria, seize her, and erect a stake, meant for her, in front of the cathedral. Freder searches the city looking for »his« Maria. She hides in a niche of the cathedral’s portal, where false Maria, his machine woman, Hel. Maria flees from Rotwang, first to the bell tower, and finally to the church roof.
Burning at the stake, the false Maria is transformed into the android again. Now Freder and the workers, too, realize that they have been tricked, and that the real Maria is in grave danger. Freder fights with Rotwang on the roof of the church; he frees Maria. Fredersen appears on the square before the cathedral where the assembled workers threaten him. Josaphat tells the workers their children are in safety. Rotwang falls to his death from the church roof. Grateful and remorseful, the workers gather before the cathedral’s portal. Maria and Freder – the prophet of reconciliation and the mediator – declare an alliance between the rulers and the ruled, and place Fredersen’s hand in Grot’s: »The mediator between brain and hands must be the heart.«
| Martin Koerber|
| right-owner of ‚Metropolis' is Friedrich-Wilhelm-Murnau-Stiftung, Wiesbaden.|
worldtrading company of ‚Metropolis' is Transit-Film, München
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