The restoration is being carried out by the Wiesbaden-based Murnau Foundation in cooperation with ZDF and arte, and the Deutsche Kinemathek – Museum für Film und Fernsehen (Berlin), and with the Museo del Cine Pablo C. Ducros Hicken (Buenos Aires). The original music by Gottfried Huppertz will be re-edited by the European FilmPhilharmonic / Die Film-Philarmonie GmbH. Restoration and re-screening are being funded by the Federal Commissioner for Culture and the Media, the Gemeinnützige Kulturfonds Frankfurt Rhine-Main, by the Verwertungsgesellschaft für Nutzungsrechte an Filmwerken mbH, as well as the DEFA Foundation. Transit Film GmbH (Munich) will be in charge of internationally distributing this most recent reconstructed version of Metropolis.
The problematic condition of the found material poses the biggest challenge during restoration. The up to now missing shots and scenes have been found as 16mm Dup Negative whose original was a heavily used 35mm distribution copy from Argentina. Despite state-of-the-art restoration the newly found pieces of more than 30 minutes length will always vary from the photographic quality of the version from 2001. Music plays a significant role in restoring the montage of the original version as the original score of Gottfried Huppertz – besides censorship information and reviews – made up the most important source for the restoring team consisting of Anke Wilkening, Martin Koerber and Frank Strobel.
The long forgotten globally unique version of METROPOLIS was found by Fernando Martín Peña and Paula Félix-Didier, director of the Museo del Cine, who immediately realised the significance of the discovery and made contact with Germany in June 2008. The first observation happened shortly after and the material was brought to Wiesbaden in July 2009. At the moment re-edition of the score and digital restoring of the film material take place.
METROPOLIS and its versions
The mutilation of the monumental film began immediately after its premiere at the Berlin Ufa-Palast am Zoo on January 10, 1927. Approved by the Film Board, the 4189-meter-long version screened at this venue without success for four months; as a consequence, the Ufa withdrew the film and produced a much shorter version, 3241 meters in length, for release to movie theaters in the summer of 1927.
The Ufa based this version for German and international distribution on the American distribution copy already made in 1926 that has been reduced by Paramount by one quarter, totaling a well-established length of 3100 meters. Stage writer Channing Pollock who got the assignment made far-reaching changes: Amongst others he eliminated the rivalry between ruler Fredersen and inventor Rotwang for a beloved woman (Hel) who they both lost – and therefore purging the motive for building a female robot.
For decades only one original negative and copies of the shortened version used for German and international distribution were thought to exist. The version of film distributor Adolfo Z. Wilson which he purchased immediately after the Berlin premiere in January 1927 – and therefore before the cuts – was released in Argentinian movie theaters in May 1928. After commercial utilization the Argentinian distribution copy became private property of the film critic Manuel Pena Rodriguez whose collection – by passing the Fondo Nacional de las Artes – finally reached the Museo del Cine Pablo C. Ducros Hicken.
From the heavily used nitro copy in the 1970s a safety copy in 16mm negative was made, a process which – in today´s opinion – lacked competent supervision. It seems the easily inflammable nitro material whose damage and stain can now be seen on the duplicate has been destroyed afterwards. For decades noone knew about the treasure that has been hidden in Buenos Aires.