Metropolis: Detailed Synopsis of Restored Version

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A Kino International Release

Note: Passages and sections still considered lost are italicized; new additions to the latest restoration are in bold.
 
In Metropolis, a towering city of the future, society is divided into two classes: one of planners and management, who live high above the Earth in skyscrapers; and one of workers, who live and toil underground, slaves to the whistle of Metropolis’s ten-hour clock.
 
Like the other children born into the privileged upper caste, Freder Fredersen, the only son of Metropolis’ ruler, lives a life of luxury. One day, as he and his friends play games in the lush, private Eternal Gardens, they are interrupted by a beautiful girl, accompanied by a group of workers’ children. They are quickly ejected, but Freder is transfixed by the girl–and decides to follows her down to the grim Lower City machine rooms. As he watches, a worker collapses at his station and an enormous machine (known as the M-Machine) violently explodes and kills dozens of workers. In the smoke, Freder has a vision of the Mmachine as Moloch, the god of fire, gobbling up chained slaves offered in sacrifice.
 
Horrified by what he has seen, Freder returns to the New Tower of Babel, a massive skyscraper owned by his father Joh Fredersen (hereafter referred to as ‘Fredersen’). He confronts his father and describes the deplorable conditions and horrific accident in the machine room, but Fredersen is more focused on hearing about the accident from Freder and not from his clerk Josephat–a cold rationality that shocks Freder. Grot, foreman of the Heart Machine (which produces the needed energy for Metrpolis) informs Fredersen of papers resembling maps or plans that have been discovered in the dead workers’ pockets. Furious, Fredersen fires Josaphat and tells his brooding henchman Der Schmale (aka the Thin Man) to start following his son.
 
Outside the office, Freder keeps Josaphat from committing suicide and they commiserate together, finally agreeing to meet later at Josaphat’s place. Returning to the Lower City, Freder takes over for Worker No. 11811 (known as Georgy), who works a machine that directs electrical power to the enormous series of elevators in the New Tower of Babel, and has collapsed at his station. They exchange clothes, and Freder tells Georgy to go to Josaphat’s apartment and to wait for him there. When he reaches Freder’s car, however, Georgy finds large blocks of money in the pocket of Freder’s pants and decides to go to Yoshiwara, the city’s red-light district. The Thin Man, meanwhile, records Georgy’s movements, mistaking him for Freder.
 
Fredersen, curious about the papers found, decides to consult the scientist Rotwang, an old collaborator who lives in a house contained in the lower levels of the city. In Rotwang’s inner sanctum, Fredersen discovers a monument dedicated to Hel, his late wife; though Rotwang loved Hel, she abandoned him for the wealthy, powerful Fredersen, and died giving birth to their son Freder. Rotwang has never been able to get over the loss, and is furious when he sees that Fredersen has discovered the hidden sculpture. After railing against his past rival, Rotwang presents his latest invention: a machine woman who is to replace his lost Hel.
 
In 24 hours, he tells Fredersen, the machine woman will be indistinguishable from his dead beloved. Meanwhile, Freder works at Georgy’s machine until he becomes delirious, having visions of being crucified to the factory clock. When Fredersen asks Rotwang to help him decipher the papers, Rotwang identifies them as maps to the 2,000-year-old catacombs that are deep under the Lower City. Back in the factory, the shifts change, and workers take Freder down into the catacombs for their secret meeting. Fredersen and Rotwang follow their map to the catacombs at the same time. There, the beautiful Maria appears and begins preaching to the workers (including the disguised Freder) about the Tower of Babel, which was destroyed by the slaves that erected it because no common language could be found between them and their rulers. She predicts the arrival of a mediator who will ease the unspeakable hardships that the workers of Metropolis endure.
 
Listening to the sermon, Fredersen realizes that Maria is a threat to his authority over the workers. Rotwang notices Freder in the crowd, but hides this fact from Fredersen. Freder is overcome with his passion for Maria and for her cause. As the crowd of workers adjourns, Maria recognizes Freder as the awaited mediator.
 
Fredersen instructs Rotwang to give his machine woman the appearance of Maria, thus enabling him to mislead the workers. Rotwang agrees, but has ulterior motives, intending to use the machine-man to ruin Fredersen’s life. Freder and Maria kiss, and agree to meet the next day at the cathedral in the Upper City. When Fredersen returns to his offices, Rotwang pursues Maria through the catacombs, terrorizing her with the beam of his flashlight before abducting her.
 
The next day, Freder enters the cathedral of Metropolis and listens to the sermon of a monk who declares that the apocalypse is drawing near and will announce itself in the form of a sinful woman.
 
Back in his laboratory, Rotwang instructs his new machine woman (the “false Maria”) to destroy Fredersen’s city and murder his son. As Freder wanders through the cathedral, he finds a group of figures representing Death and the Seven Deadly Sins.
 
A bleary-eyed Georgy emerges from Yoshiwara after a long night of pleasure. As he gets into Freder’s car, he is apprehended by the Thin Man and forced to reveal details of a planned meeting at Josaphat’s house. After missing Maria at the cathedral, Freder goes to Josaphat’s place so that Georgy can take him to the Lower City–but he is surprised to learn from Josaphat that Georgy never showed up.
 
Freder leaves to continue his search for Maria, but moments later the Thin Man arrives and discovers Georgy’s cap, further evidence of the link between Freder, Josaphat and Georgy. He tries to get Josaphat to betray Freder, first through bribery, then through threats and intimidation, and finally by force. The two men struggle, but the Thin Man is too strong for Josaphat; after defeating him, he tells Josaphat that he will return for him in three hours.
 
Freder walks through the streets and hears Maria’s cries as she is overpowered by Rotwang. He follows the sound to the door of Rotwang’s house–where a further series of doors open for him, trapping him inside. When Freder demands to know where Maria is, Rotwang tells him that she is with Fredersen. In a letter, Rotwang invites Fredersen to a demonstration of the false Maria: a dance performance before the male elite of Metropolis that will prove no one can tell that she is a machine.
 
In his office, Fredersen ogles the false Maria and instructs her on what to do to sabotage the workers. Freder discovers the two together, and he collapses at the thought that his beloved has betrayed him with his father. As Freder languishes in bed, the false Maria beguiles the male elite with an erotic dance; Jan and Marinus, sons of ruling-class citizens, are entranced — and willing to commit “all seven deadly sins” for her sake.
 
The Thin Man keeps watch over the fever-ridden Freder. In a vision, Freder sees him 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. When he awakes, he finds the invitation to the false Maria’s unveiling on his nightstand, where a doctor has carelessly left it. As a nurse tends to him, Freder has another vision of the cathedral statues of Death and the Seven Deadly Sins coming toward him, with Death’s scythe sweeping through the sickroom.
 
As the elite sons’ response to the false Maria’s licentious dance reaches fever pitch, Josaphat escapes his confinement and is reunited with Freder. The Thin Man reports to Fredersen about the increasing unrest in the Lower City, warning that “the only thing keeping the workers in check is their expectation of getting the mediator promised to them.” Jan is killed in a duel with Marinus over the false Maria, and the Eternal Gardens become deserted as the privileged sons of Metropolis all gather in Yoshiwara to vie for the false Maria’s favors, and even more of them die in confrontations with each other. Josaphat tells Freder that “this woman, at whose feet all sins are heaped, is also named Maria,” and that it is the same Maria who gives sermons to the workers in the catacombs. The shift whistle sounds, signaling for the workers to go the catacombs, and Freder tells Josaphat that it is time for the mediator to appear at last. Freder and Josaphat descend into the Lower City.
 
Fredersen instructs the Thin Man that the workers should not be stopped, no matter what they decide to do. He sets off to meet Rotwang, who is still holding the real Maria prisoner. Rotwang explains to her that the false Maria only seems to follow Fredersen’s orders – when in fact she obeys Rotwang’s will alone.
 
At the secret meeting in the catacombs, the false Maria urges the workers to rebel and destroy the Lower City’s machines. When Freder and Josaphat arrive, Freder realizes that the agitator cannot be the real Maria and cries out. A worker under the false Maria’s rabble-rousing spell identifies Freder as Joh Fredersen’s son, and the mob of workers attacks Freder and Josaphat. Georgy is stabbed as he shields Freder with his own body.
 
The workers, led by the false Maria, rush off to destroy the machines, leaving Georgy to die in Freder and Josaphat’s arms. Meanwhile, Fredersen has secretly heard what Rotwang has revealed to the real Maria, and he attacks Rotwang. While the two fight, Maria escapes into the city. Wave after wave of enraged workers mass at the gates and elevators leading to the machine rooms, and the real Maria follows. The false Maria and the rioters attack the M-Machine, convincing the workers there to join them — but when they attempt to move on to the Heart Machine, Grot closes the giant gates. Fredersen, having defeated Rotwang in their fight, returns to his office and receives a desperate report from Grot over a videophone.
 
He orders Grot to open the gate and to let things take their course. Grot reluctantly obeys, but holds the surge of workers at bay with a wrench. As the real Maria draws close, the false Maria damages the Heart Machine and escapes to the Upper City. As the Lower City begins to flood from the damage to the Heart Machine, the real Maria sounds the alarm and gathers the workers’ children, but their escape is cut short by an avalanche of wrecked machine room elevators. As the water rushes in from all sides and quickly rises around them, they become trapped and increasingly desperate. Josaphat and Freder finally discover them, but their attempt to reach safety through the stairwell of the towering airshaft is blocked by a locked steel grille. As countless children continue to climb into the stairwell, Freder and Josaphat are able to break through the grille and on to safety as the Lower City is engulfed by flood.
 
While Fredersen fears for Freder’s safety, Grot crawls from the Heart Machine wreckage and stops the workers’ victory dance, telling them that their children must have all drowned. The workers blame Maria, declaring her a witch. Meanwhile, in Yoshiwara, the false Maria urges the dancing crowd out onto the street, crying: “Let’s watch the world go to hell!” Rotwang, who has survived Fredersen’s attack, regains consciousness and drags himself to Hel’s monument. With the words, “Now I am going to take you home, my Hel!,” he sets out to recapture his machine woman.
Freder, Josaphat and Maria find refuge for the children at the Upper City’s Club of the Sons, but an exhausted Maria briefly pauses to rest outside the club and is separated from the group. At the same time, Grot leads the riotous workers through the streets–and when they come upon Maria outside the club, Grot calls her a witch and declares that she must be burned at the stake. Terrified, she runs from the menacing workers into the city streets.
 
As the angry mob of workers and the procession of Yoshiwara revelers collide, Grot mistakenly seizes the false Maria, and the workers tie her to a stake in front of the cathedral and prepare to burn her. Freder’s frantic search for “his” Maria brings him to the cathedral, where he fears the real Maria is about to be burned at the stake. Meanwhile, the real Maria is chased into the cathedral portal by Rotwang, who takes her for his machine woman and now wants to give her the likeness of Hel after all. Maria flees from him into the bell tower, where she hangs desperately from the cathedral bell’s massive rope.
 
As the bell rings, the false Maria is unmasked by the rising flames. When Freder and the workers realize that they have been tricked, they look up and see Rotwang chasing the real Maria across the cathedral roof. Freder races into the cathedral and pursues Rotwang and Maria, and he and Rotwang engage in a fierce fight. Josaphat brings Fredersen to the cathedral square, where he reassures the assembled workers that their children were rescued. Rotwang carries the real Maria farther up the cathedral roof, but Freder frees her and Rotwang falls to his death.
 
Later, 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. Freder places Fredersen’s hand in Grot’s and declares that “the mediator between brain and hands must be the heart.”
 
Cast
 
Joh Fredersen………………………………. Alfred Abel
Freder Fredersen…………………………… Gustav Fröhlich
Maria / The Robot…………………………. Brigitte Helm
Rotwang……………………………………. Rudolf Klein-Rogge
Josephat…………………………………….. Theodor Loos
Grot (Foreman)…………………………….. Heinrich George
Slim………………………………………… Fritz Rasp
Master of Ceremonies……………………… Heinrich Gotho
Georgi, 11811……………………………… Erwin Biswanger
Mafinus…………………………………….. Hans Leo Reich
Jan………………………………………….. Olaf Storm
 
Crew
 
Director…………………………………….. Fritz Lang
Screenplay………………………………….. Fritz Lang & Thea von Harbou
Producer……………………………………. Erich Pommer
Original Music Score………………………. Gottfried Huppertz
Cinematography……………………………. Karl Freund & Günther Rittau
Art Direction……………………………….. Otto Hunte, Erich Kettelhut &
Karl Vollbrecht
Costume Design……………………………. Aenne Willkomm
Set Designer………………………………… Edgar G. Ulmer
Special Effects……………………………… Ernst Kunstmann
Visual Effects………………………………. Gunther Rittau & H.O. Schulze
Painted Effects & Technical Advisor……… Erich Kettelhut
Sculptures & Robot Design………………… Walter Schultze-Mittendorf
Makeup…………………………………….. Otto Genath
Still Photography…………………………… Horst von Harbou
Production………………………………….. Universum-Film AG (UFA), Berlin
 
 

 

 

 

 

 

 

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