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METROPOLIS – Gottfried Huppertz


Original Review by Craig Lysy

Director Fritz Lang had early access to his wife Thea von Harbou’s 1925 novel Metropolis, and was inspired to bring its bold futuristic social commentary to the big screen. The couple worked together to fashion the screenplay and secured financing from the German production company WFA and the German distribution company Parufamet, which was created by investment from Paramount and MGM studios. He pitched his screenplay to Erich Pommer, the most powerful film producer in Germany of the time, and secured his backing to produce the film. A fine cast was assembled which included Alfred Abel as the Master of Metropolis Joh Fredersen, Gustav Fröhlich as Joh Fredersen’s son, Rudolph Klein-Rogge as Rotwang the inventor, and Brigitte Helm as the unforgettable Maria. The film’s narrative offers a potent social commentary, which is set in the far future in the great city of Metropolis. The society is dystopian with an elite ruling class of capitalist industrial oligarchs who live above ground in luxurious skyscrapers and hold power over a lower working class who live impoverished underground, toiling endlessly to operate and maintain the great machines that power the city. They share not in the profits, nor any of the benefits, which go solely to the ruling elite. Freder, who is the son of the Master of Metropolis, bears witness to the misery of the working class and resolves to advocate for them. Freder meets a worker prophetess named Maria who foresees the arrival of a Mediator who will unify the workers and ruling elite of Metropolis in a new Utopia. He falls in love with Maria and aspires to assume the role of Mediator. Against this backdrop the evil inventor Rotwang creates a robot bearing Maria’s likeness to foment dissent and revolution, which will bring him to power. In the end, after much intrigue and fighting, Freder kills Rotwang and fulfills his role as Mediator.

Unfortunately the film was a commercial failure earning only 75,000 Riechsmarks against its production cost of 5.3 million Reichsmarks. Reception was influenced when Nazi party leader Adolf Hitler and propagandist Joseph Goebbels extolled the film’s message of social justice and declared that the reign of “the political bourgeoisie” is about to leave the stage of history. This resulted in critical reception that was mixed, as the socialist overtones served to politicize it, alienating a significant number of both critics and the viewing public. As a foreign film Metropolis did not receive any nominations for the 1st Academy Awards of 1929. Lang had enjoyed his collaboration with renowned German composer Gottfried Huppertz on three prior films and was keen to work with him again. He was attached from the earliest stage of production, and was guided by Thea’s extensive musical notes, which spotted music for various scenes.

Huppertz was born of the Romantic school and so fashioned his soundscape utilizing traditional leitmotifs for characters, settings and dramatic scenes. An astounding sixteen themes were written to support the film. Assessing them in categories, we first have themes associated with the beautiful city of Metropolis; The Metropolis Theme serves as the identity of the magnificent city and by extension the elite whom inhabit it. It offers a gorgeous refulgent major modal statement, which resounds with proud horns regale that offer a testament to its architectural magnificence and grandeur. The Stadium Theme is kindred to the Metropolis Theme and speaks to their athletic prowess and privilege. It is major modal and carried by horns trionfanti. The Eternal Garden Theme is also kindred to the Metropolis Theme and emotes as a gentle valzer gentile. It speaks to the privilege and idyllic life of its inhabitants.

The next set of themes are associated with the underground city; The Worker Theme serves as their collective identity and that of their underground city. The juxtaposition with the idyllic Metropolis upper city theme is striking. This minor modal theme is grim, carried by kinetic pounding drums, cyclic trilling woodwinds, dire horns, and dark bass, all joined in a syncopated mechanistic rhythm that speak to the massive machines they maintain, and their servitude existence, which is devoid of humanity and hope. Le Marseillaise, the French revolutionary anthem, was interpolated by Huppertz and serves as a theme for rebellion for the workers. The Rebellion Theme serves as the aggrieved worker’s anthem of the rebellion and offers repeating eleven note phrases emoted by martial trumpets. The Escape Theme offers a repeating, long-lined construct by lyrical strings, ascending and then descending, which sow a mounting desperation. The Flood Theme speaks to the massive waterfall torrent pouring done from the ceilings. Huppertz utilizes repeating orchestral descents to mirror the waterfalls.

The next set of themes concern our heroes; Freder’s Theme serves as his identity as protagonist. What is notable is that it demonstrates a transformation as his journey progressives. Initially it shares the same bright, major modal pride and confidence as the other Metropolis identities, yet as he falls in love with Maria and advocates for the workers below ground aspects of their themes begin to manifest and be woven into his thematic expression; for Maria more warmth, romanticism and use of woodwinds, while for the workers we discern increased dissonance and mechanistic energy. Maria’s Theme offers a classic feminine construct, which supports her identity. It emotes atop a solo clarinet gentile with an exquisite harp adorned ethereal romanticism, which speaks to her softness, nobility and care for her people. Her theme is also rendered in a multiplicity of forms, especially when coopted by the ‘Maria’ imposter who twists and militarizes its expression. The Love Theme speaks to Freder and Maria’s love and offers a classic 19th century florid construct born by sumptuous strings romantico. It is major modal, and filled with yearning and hope for brighter days.

For the villains we have; Rotwang’s Theme serves as the identity of the villainous inventor who acts as antagonist to Freder. Strings sinestri, grim horns and unsettling drums evoke his presence and allude to his menace and dark purpose. Joh’s Theme serves as his identity as Freder’s father, the Master of Metropolis. Low register horns regale and bass create a grave construct and imbue him a grim purpose. The music is not sympathetic, nor inviting, but instead, austere. The Spy’s Theme offers a malevolent construct supported by string sinestri, which speak to the lurking threat of Fredersen’s spy. The theme is kindred to Fredersen’s theme, yet darker and more malignant. Moloch’s Theme serves as the identity of the ancient Canaanite devouring god Moloch, who was associated with human sacrifice. Huppertz creates a truly monstrous construct empowered by horns barbaro, dire bass and drums of doom. The Dies Irae Theme (Day of Wrath) comes from the Roman Catholic requiem Mass. Within the words of the Dies Irae chant is the Day of Judgment, which devout Christians believe they will ascend to heaven while the accursed will descend unto the fire pit of Hell. Huppertz utilizes it to portend death, damnation and calamity.

The film opens without music as the opening credits begin to roll. At 2:17 in the film music enters with the cue “The Metropolis Theme”, which supports the completion of the credits. Huppertz offers a gorgeous refulgent major modal statement of the theme, which resounds with proud horns regale that speak to its architectural magnificence and grandeur. We climax gloriously atop fanfare with the display of “Metropolis”. We immediately segue into the film with “Machines”, where we see a montage of massive machines, spinning gears and churning mechanisms powering Metropolis supported by the kinetic mechanistic Underground City Theme. We build to a dynamic climax atop ferocious percussion and woodwind blasts, which mimic a ticking clock that crests with a massive organ chord at 0:42, which supports a display of “Shift Change”. At 1:03 we see massive gates open over opposing lanes with one lane supporting black clad workers marching in, and the other workers marching out. All heads are down, they march in a slow joyless rhythm, in which Huppertz sow’s monotony and hopelessness with an oppressive marcia doloroso. A descent motif and oppressive music supports an elevator ride down to the “Worker’s City” deep underground. A steam whistle blast is supported by organ blasts at 1:34, which coincides with their arrival. The grim march of toil and hopelessness resumes as they march in unison to their posts as horns of doom resound. We close with a dirge like diminuendo of despair. In a masterstroke Huppertz’s music and Lang’s narrative achieve a stunning confluence, which perfectly sets the tone of the film.

In “The Stadium” script relates to the idyllic life above with its lecture halls, libraries, theaters and stadium. We view a stadium with young men dressed in white who line up to commence a race. The race is supported by the exhilarating Stadium Theme propelled by horns trionfanti, which speaks to their athletic prowess and privilege. We flow into “The Eternal Gardens” where script displays how the machines below created their idyllic life. Ornately clad women stroll through the gardens carried by the waltz gentile of the Eternal Gardens Theme. The caretaker asks who will entertain the Master’s son Freder, and the waltz continues the ambiance as one woman after another twirls in her dress, hoping she in chosen. Freder enters and all the women chase after him hoping to secure his affection, again supported by the waltz rhythms. As he catches one and embraces for a kiss, giant doors open in “Maria with Children” a score highlight where we are graced by wondrous thematic interplay. We see Maria enter the garden with children on a tour. Freder is captivated and Huppertz supports the scene atop clarinet gentile and the exquisite harp adorned ethereal romanticism of Maria’s Theme. As she declares “These are your brothers!” the Eternal Garden Waltz joins at 1:01, and becomes animated as men surround them. At 1:36 the romanticism of Maria’s Theme rejoins and blossoms as their eyes lock and we see Freder holding his hands over his heart. Maria and the children are escorted out and Freder asks the caretaker her identity. We conclude atop the waltz at 3:00 as Freder runs off in search of his newfound love.

“Machine Hall with Moloch” offers a stunning score highlight. Freder has entered the vast underground machine world in search of Maria. The mechanistic Underground Machine City Theme resounds as he workers moving like automatons to and fro as though they were part of the machine. We see a debilitated man at the control room console too weak to turn the pressure release valve. As we see the pressure meter rising its ascent is carried by a swelling accelerando of doom, which crests horrifically at 1:40 as Freder witnesses an explosion that kills and sears many workers. At 1:56 we see he is traumatized, and suffers a hallucination in which the massive machine transforms in to the ancient Canaanite god Moloch who begins devouring the workers dragged into his gapping mouth by temple priests. Huppertz supports with the monstrous Moloch Theme empowered by horns barbaro, dire bass and drums of doom. We commence an accelerando at 2:38 that shows Freder horrified as black dressed workers willing march in unison up the stairs into Moloch’s mouth to their doom. At 3:02 a diminuendo by grieving strings ends the hallucination as Freder watches injured workers being helped to safety. At 3:46 the relentless driving Worker Theme resumes and Freder is appalled as we see new workers manning their posts and the machine restarts as though nothing had happened. At 3:59 the proud horns of the Metropolis Theme carry Freder’s progress as he returns to the tower of Babel to see his father. A grand presentation carries his progress as we bear witness to the architectural magnificence of Metropolis. At 4:51 fanfare by horns regale and joyous chorus support the sight of the tower of Babel and Freder’s arrival.

In “Fredersen’s Office” we see Master Fredersen in his massive office. Huppertz supports with the austere Joh’s Theme, empowered by low register horns regale and bass, which create a grave construct and imbue him with a grim purpose. As he discusses matters of state with bureaucrats Freder burst in at 0:59 and imperious horns resound as Joh raises his hand for Freder to stay put. As Josaphat comes to him Freder weeps on his chest as Moloch’s Theme resounds. When Joh finally recognizes him Freder runs to him and relates the disaster supported by Moloch’s Theme. Joh is dismissive and his theme becomes ascendant as he queries Josaphat why he is learning this from his son, and not him. At 3:24 Freder relates his story and Moloch’s grim theme dominates their discussion. At 4:11 Maria’s Theme enters to support Joh’s query as to why Freder went underground and interplays with Joh’s Theme. At 4:37 the Metropolis Theme enters and swells for score’s most magnificent statement that climaxes in a flourish as Freder exalts his father for being Master of this great city. Yet we end on a diminuendo of pain carrying statements of the Dies Irae Theme, which reflect Freder’s devastation when his father answers his query “Where are the people who built this city?” with “Where they belong… in the depths.” “Grot’s Ideas – the Thin Man” feature’s outstanding thematic interplay. Grot enters Joh’s office carried by the malevolence of Moloch’s Theme. As he relates the discovery of two more mysterious maps found on the corpses of two men a martial rendering of Joh’s Theme resounds, becoming menacing when Josaphat is asked why these maps came from Grot and not him? He then fires him, which devastates him and Freder. At 3:24 when Joh relates to Freder that this condemns Josaphat to the depths below his theme resounds with cruelty. At 3:54 Freder races after Josaphat and stops his suicide attempt carried by his resplendent theme, which joins Joh’s Theme in extended interplay. He asks Josaphat to come with him to safety, and Joh’s order’s security to trace Freder’s every step.

“Freder in the Machine Hall” reveals Freder descending once again into the underground city. His theme carries his progress, but it has begun to evolve, assuming some of the sensibilities of the Workers Theme. He rescues a man, worker 11811 who is tasked with an impossible job of constantly shifting circuits as energy demands light up. At 1:01 a warm rendering of his theme sounds as Freder states that the man must rest and that he would perform his job. At 1:29 his theme resounds with romantic allusions to Maria’s Theme as he assumes the man’s job. A scene shift to above ground at 1:49 is supported with dire repeating statements of the Dies Irae Theme as the spy covertly waits for a sighting of Freder. Freder’s sumptuous theme swells as worker 11811 resumes his post and Freder secretly escapes, promising to return. We conclude darkly on Joh’s and the Dies Irae Themes as the spy mark’s Freder’s escape and records his car’s license plate ID. In “The Car Ride” the waltz returns and carries his progress. At 0:57 pamphlets are drop and he obtains one that displays an event a Yoshihara’s, which is supported by a spirited Fox Trot. The dance tune carries his progress to the establishment and partying.

“In Rotwang’s House” reveals an ancient stone house oddity within the modern city where the inventor Rotwang resides. Strings sinestri, grim horns and drums evoke his theme, alluding to dark purpose. We shift to Joh’s visit to Rotwang’s house where he views a memorial display of Hel, his wife who died giving birth to Freder. A plaintive rendering of his theme carries the moment, the first suggestion of his humanity. But Hel was also Rotwang’s love and he angrily confronts Joh. The music swells becoming an impassioned tempest as Rotwang declares that he has given up his hand to recreate Hel. His declaration resounds with his theme, which swells to and impassioned climax as he takes Joh to his laboratory. In “The Machine Man” a shimmering ethereal radiance with harp and violin adornment supports Rotwang pulling a curtain to reveal the robotic Machine Man. A twinkling mysterioso supports its slow walk and extension of a hand shake to Joh, whose hesitant theme joins unable to process what he sees. At 1:44 Rotwang’s Theme resounds and becomes impassioned as he declares that Hel is his and boasts that he can in 24 hours complete the process to make her fully human again. We close with the two men’s theme’s in interplay as Joh solicits Rotwang’s help in deciphering the meanings of the plans found on his workers.

“Freder and the Machine” reveals Freder toiling at the circuit diverting station, struggling to keep up. Slowly a clock ticking motif commences as the clock moves towards shift end – his salvation. His father’s theme resounds informing us that his father is responsible for this inhumanity. The clock ticking motif crescendos with a horrific climax of Joh’s Theme to mark shift change! In “Rotwang and Fredersen” Rotwang works to decipher the meaning of the plans taken by the workers as Joh waits. He determines that they are maps of the ancient catacombs that lie underneath Metropolis. Joh demands to know what his workers are doing in the catacombs. Huppertz supports the scene with interplay of the two men’s themes, which join in unholy communion with the Dies Irae Theme. At 1:49 Joh and Rotwang descend into the catacombs from his house carried by subdued interplay of Joh’s and the Metropolis Themes. “In the Catacombs” offers a beautiful score highlight. Freder and the workers arrive in the large central cavern of the catacombs and find a luminous Maria standing in front of an altar with brightly lite crosses. As she preaches Freder falls to his knees, overcome. Huppertz supports the scene with sumptuous romantic rendering of Maria’s Theme emoted from Freder’s perspective.

“The Legend of the Tower of Babel” reveals Maria stating that she will explain the legend of the Tower of Babel as Joh and Rotwang arrive unnoticed, peering from a vantage point high up in the cavern. As the story of the tower is told we realize that it was conceived of as an edifice to both God and his handiwork man. A grand sparkling statement of the Metropolis Theme by horns brillante carries the revelation and crest with celebratory grandeur. At 0:53 the Worker’s Theme enters as workers were recruited and enslaved to build the monument, for which they did not understand. At 1:31 we return to the Metropolis Theme as the builder’s revel in their creation, yet the toil of the Worker’s Theme returns and crescendos in rage at 2:25 as their burden worsens and they gain no benefit from their work. In “Maria’s Sermon” she declares that “Heads and Hand” need a Mediator to reconcile the current inequity, and “The Mediator between Head and Hands must be the Heart!” Huppertz once again allows Maria’s Theme to unfold in sumptuous romantic form for a heartfelt exposition, which crests as Feder beats his chest knowing he is destined to be the Mediator. At 1:31 Joh’s Theme returns as he absorbs what he has heard. As the workers depart Freder remains gazing at Maria and we close with an angelic rendering of her theme.

“Freder and Maria” reveals Freder calling out to Maria who comes to him carried by the Love Theme. When she asks if he is the Mediator, he answers yes, and a flute delicato carries their embrace and kiss. At 1:21 we segue into “Rotwang’s Plot” atop a sinister rendering of Joh’s Theme as he orders Rotwang to transform his robot into the likeness of Maria so he may sow discord and discredit her from the workers. At 1:54 Freder rises atop his theme to commit himself as Mediator. At 2:12 Rotwang asks Joh to leave and return to Metropolis, and says he will follow later. Joh’s Theme carries his departure and Rotwang’s Theme resounds when he declares that he will instead take Joh’s son Freder. At 2:59 we return to Freder and Maria who pledge to meet at the cathedral. The Love theme blossoms and supports their embrace, kiss and parting. Maria is left alone and her theme supports her preparation to leave. We close with drums and muted trumpets sinestri as Rotwang deliberately drops a stone to alert her that someone was watching. We close with menace upon his theme as she is frightened by his shadow as she departs. “The Chase” is a powerhouse of a cue, where Huppertz sows bone-chilling terror. Rotwang is stalking Maria empowered by a forceful rendering of his theme, which amplifies his menace. Juxtaposed is her flight music, which are rapid ascent phrases. At 0:32 he manages to extinguish her candle and proceeds to terrorize her by illuminating skeletons with his flashlight as xylophones chatter. At 1:14 she flees in terror for her life in the darkness with Rotwang in pursuit. His pursuit music intensifies as does her terror as she struggles to escape. At 2:06 she reaches his house and tries to open one door after another but they are all locked. His theme is now monstrous and climaxes with deafening power as he arrives home.

“In the Cathedral” reveals Freder entering the cathedral as monks are praying. Repeating phrases of the Dies Irae Theme portend doom as a monk reads from scripture a passage, which describes how a woman from Babylon will come to destroy. The theme builds to deafening intensity atop organ and full orchestra. At 1:22 we change scenes to Rotwang’s lab where he cries out to his robot that she must kill Fredersen and his son. His theme resounds with a vengeance. At 1:39 we return to the cathedral and the Dies Irae Theme as bells toll and Freder views statues of Death and the seven sins. We close on a tranquil rendering of his theme as he pulls a cap from his pocket which reads Georgy 11811. “The Thin Man and Georgy, a Worker” reveals Georgy leaving Yoshihara’s with a catchy sax infused strolling rhythm and getting into Freder’s chauffeured car. The spy grabs his arm with vice grip of pain and sets him down next him. Repeating phrases of the Dies Irae Theme portend doom. Georgy is wearing Freder’s clothes and the spy demand to know his whereabouts. He shakes a note from his hand which displays the secret address. At 0:46 we change scenes to the apartment where Freder and Josaphat are staying. At 1:13 the Love Theme enters as Freder thinks of Maria. We close on the dire notes of the Spy’s Theme when he is told that Georgy has not come home and we see the spy ordering worker 11811 to return to the depths, never to leave again.

“In Joseph’s Apartment” an impassioned rendering of Freder’s Theme supports Freder beseeching Josaphat that he must have men faithful to him to fulfill his destiny. The Love theme joins as he relates that he must return underground in search of Maria. As he departs on an elevator a second elevator brings up the spy carried by the Dies Irae Theme. He queries Josaphat regarding Freder’s whereabouts, and Josaphat pleads ignorance. An odd dancelike tune supports the interaction. When the spy grabs a cap indicating worker 11811 and then shows him the apartment’s address Josaphat’s deception is exposed. He offers Josaphat money to leave the depart, which he refuses and in a fury orders the spy out. The malevolent Spy’s Theme supports the conversation, swells powerfully, joining in unholy communion with the Dies Irae and Fredersen’s Theme as he reveals he is acting on Fredersen’s orders. Josaphat attempts to flee carried by Freder’s Theme but is overcome by the spy’s enormous strength with the Dies Irae and Spy’s Theme resounding during the struggle. Josaphat is then told that he will summon him in three hours. In “Maria and Rotwang – The Fight” an imprisoned Maria is confronted by Rowtang carried by a disarming woodwind rendering of his theme. An interlude of drums supports Freder’s wandering on Metropolis streets. Rotwang’s theme becomes menacing after he informs her that he must take her face for Machine Man. A struggle ensues with fight music contesting with his theme as she screams for help and struggles to escape. “Freder and Rotwang” reveals Freder outside of Rowtang’s house and hearing Maria’s screams. He breaks down the door and searches the house with a lurking Rotwang’s Theme supporting. A descent motif carries him down to the lab where an eerie soundscape envelops him. He is trapped by Rotwang and when he finds part of her torn dress, he becomes frantic, calling out to her supported by beleaguered expression of the Love Theme. We close with futility with interplay of Freder’s and Rotwang’s Theme.

“In the Laboratory – Transformation” offers a score highlight, which features a wondrous rendering of Rotwang’s Theme. We see Rotwang’s diabolical plan with a sedated Maria in a chamber hooked up to Machine Man by electrical cables. As he powers up the machines an innocuous rendering of his theme supports. As the transformation unfolds Huppertz joins a twinkling ambience and Rotwang’s Theme assumes a dance-like expression. As the transformation comes to fruition, his theme becomes yearning, and we close with false Maria opening her eyes and the real Maria unconscious. In “Freder and Rotwang” the cellar door opens and Freder escapes to confront Rotwang, supported by interplay of their themes. A beleaguered Love Theme joins when he demands to see Maria. We close darkly atop a menacing Rotwang’s Theme as he informs Freder that ‘Maria’ is with his father. “Fredersen and the False Maria” reveals the two meeting in his office. As he reads a note from Rotwang, fragments of his theme, Fredersen’s Theme and the dream-like Maria’s Theme entwine. We close with menacing statements of Fredersen’s Theme as he orders her into the depths to destroy Maria’s movement with the workers. In “Freder’s Delirium” Freder walks into his father’s office, finds him holding ‘Maria’, and suffers a psychotic break. Huppertz unleashes a spinning torrent, which supports the spinning images on the screen. Woven within the tempest are dire strains of his father’s theme.

“In Rotwang’s Salon” there is an album-film discontinuity. Freder lies in a coma attended by the doctor, his father and the spy. His father caresses him and then departs. In the film a grim soundscape is created with strains of Rotwang’s Theme and Fredersen’s Theme. The album however provides an incongruous dance like ambiance with harp and wood percussion. “The Dance” offers a stunning score highlight. It reveals Freder waking and finding a ticket on the nightstand for ‘Maria’s’ dance recital. His beleaguered theme ushers in an ethereal dance supported by harp as we change scenes to the recital hall, with only men in attendance. As she rises from the stage in a barely clad sensual outfit, she begins a danza erotica, which begins to arouse the leering male audience. At 1:17 we shift to Freder’s bed where he hallucinates a monk portending doom for a woman from Babylon displayed in the bible with the same outfit as ‘Maria’s’. The Dies Irae Theme resounds with the revelation. We shift back and forth from the dance whose mounting eroticism is swelling the audience ‘s lust and Freder’s bedroom where he is plagued by the monk’s prophecy and the dire Dies Irae Theme. We climax with the Danza Erotica and Dies Irae Themes joined in a stunning exposition! In “The Death” the male statues supporting her stage transform into the grotesque statues of the Seven Sins. When the men all race to the stage carried by lust and reach to touch her, the biblical imagery is recreated. Xylophone joins with the Dies Irae Theme to support the madness. As Death come alive and begins to play a piccolo, the Dies Irae Theme resounds, carrying the frightening specter into Freder’s bed chamber, where he recoils in terror as it wields its scythe portending death.

“Freder and Josephat” Josaphat has escaped the underground and rejoins Freder in his apartment and they embrace supported by dramatic music. At 0:13 we segue into Fredersen’s office atop the Dies Irae Theme, and strains of the Spy Theme as he and the spy discuss the mediator and brewing rebellion. At 1:18 we return to Freder’s apartment atop a plaintive woodwind rendering of his theme as he and Josaphat discuss the recent strange events. “Josephat’s Narration” offers a remarkable cue. Josaphat discusses the infamous dance with Freder and the Danza Erotica and Dies Irae Theme reprise images of the event. The music intensifies and joins with Rotwang’s Theme becoming discordant as Josaphat describes that the Eternal Gardens have been abandoned for Yoshihara’s where ‘Maria’ dances nightly causing men to lose their senses to lust, killing each other so as to possess her. At 1:22 Fredersen’s Theme resounds as Josaphat relates that the dancer’s name is Maria. Freder inquires if it is the same Maria who inspires the workers as Maria’s Theme graces us with sumptuous expression. A stinger at 1:51 supports the shift change steam siren blast. We return on Maria’s Theme as he relates that many seek her out. Freder’s Theme joins with the Love Theme, which blossoms when Freder states his desire as Mediator to join her. We close darkly on the horn declared B Phrase of Fredersen’s Theme as he orders the spy to not interfere with the worker’s reaction tonight.

“The False Maria” reveals Rotwang advising Maria that her imposter will elicit the workers to use of force, so the Master can respond with force. Muted trumpets of doom sound and at 0:20 Maria’s Theme on oboe and his theme join to affirm the intended plot. At 0:43 we change scenes to the catacombs where we see Rotwang’s envisioning his plan being executed as ‘Maria’ seduces the men and incites rebellion within the hearts. A discordant and intensifying martial rendering of Rotwang’s Theme supports the imposter’s actions. We close with horrific horns of doom as Rotwang discloses to her that the imposter does act on Fredersen’s orders, but his! “The Incitement of the Workers” offers a powerful cue with fine thematic interplay. It reveals Rotwang’s plan being set into motion as ‘Maria’ incites the workers to violence. A martial rendering of Maria’s and Rotwang’s Theme supports the incitement. As Freder arrives his horn declared theme joins followed by trumpet declared Le Marseillaise and snare drums of war as the workers anger and fervor intensify. At 1:14 dire statements of the Rebellion Theme counter Freder’s shouts that this is a false Maria. She scoffs, supported by her now malignant theme as the men declare that Fredersen’s son must be killed. Her martial theme dominates as Freder fights against the odds, with the music building to a climax on wailing horns a 2:33 as Georgy is stabbed and mortally wounded. At 2:38 trumpets of war resound with Le Marseillaise as the men declare “Death to the machines” as they carry Maria on their shoulders as an emblem of war propelled by the Rebellion Theme. At 2:58 atop horns of doom and Rotwang’s Theme we change scenes to Rotwang’s house where he gloats of his coming victory over Fredersen. Yet Fredersen has been listening outside and storms in carried by his theme as the two men fight. Fredersen wins and Maria manages to escape. At 3:31 we change scenes atop plaintive horns and woodwinds to the catacombs where Georgy dies in Freder’s arms. We conclude at 4:02 with galloping escape music as Maria escapes, and a diminuendo of unease as Freder and Josaphat head for the underground city.

In “The Workers’ Revolt” we have an exciting action cue, in which the score excels. ‘Maria’ and the workers have assembled in the underground city square and martial trumpets and snare drums launch Le Marseillaise, which joins in a rousing call to arms, A trumpet rich martial rendering the Rebellion Theme and Maria’s Theme propel the men. She leads the men into the elevator complex empowered by snare drums and trumpets of the Rebellion Theme. As they storm the elevators the Rebellion and Maria’s Theme create a powerful kinetic synergy. At 2:47 snare drums usher in their entry into the main machine control building where the Rebellion, Maria’s and Le Marseillaise theme join in common cause, propelling the men up the stairs. At 3:50 she orders them to the great Heart Machine carried by an accelerando furioso. Grot, who oversees the machine sees a “Danger” alarm flashing and shuts the massive gates, which close with two thundering gong strikes. The Rebellion Theme closes the scene and we flow seamlessly into “Fredersen and Grot” where we see Fredersen contacting Grot and ordering him to reopen the gate to allow the workers access. Trilling woodwinds and a muted percussive rhythm carry the scene with dire statements of his theme when he repeatedly orders Grot to open the gate. In “Grot and the Workers” dire horns resound the Le Marseillaise and Rebellion Themes as the workers charge the Heart Machine. We demur at 0:48 as Grot tries to reason with the mob, stating that if they destroy the Heart Machine the entire underground city will flood, but it is to no avail as a crazed ‘Maria’ exhorts them upwards. We return atop the trumpets of the Rebellion and Le Marseillaise Themes as the mob pummels Grot. We conclude with trilling woodwinds and Maria’s Theme as the true Maria descends into the underground city.

In “The Heart Machine” ‘Maria’ turns off the Heart Machine empowered by powerful statements of the Rebellion Theme. She then escapes up a ladder, abandoning the workers. This initiates a ferocious accelerating crescendo as the workers celebrate, as the Heart Machine destabilizes, and is destroyed in an explosion. After a pause a horrified Maria witnesses one elevator after another crashing to the ground, each supported by deafening orchestral blasts. As Grot warned the loss of the Heart Machine results in the underground city flooding. In “The Flooding” Maria see the first sign of the oncoming flood. She sounds the city alarm and all the children who were left behind exit the buildings and come to her on the platform as flood waters rise, geysers erupt and buildings begin to crumble. Against this backdrop Huppertz created a dire set piece with Maria’s Theme full of pathos and a rising desperation as the children seek escape. “Fredersen and his City” offers a very emotional score highlight. We see him sitting content in his office overlooking his resplendent city supported by the proud magnificence of the Metropolis Theme. At 0:28 discord strikes as the city suffers a catastrophic blackout. A muted Rebellion and Le Marseillaise Themes sound as the spy informs him the Freder is with the workers, which leads Fredersen to collapse in despair atop a beleaguered statement of his theme.

In “Freder and Josaphat” they are making an attempt to reach the workers by climbing down. An energetic, albeit desperate rendering of Freder’s Theme carries their progress. At 1:13 he sees Maria and her theme carries him to her where the embrace and kiss, launching the Love Theme at 1:22 to celebrate the joyous reunion. Yet the moment is short lived as we flow into “The Flight” as Josaphat shouts that they have to flee to the air shafts as the reservoirs have burst. Orchestral shrieks initiate energetic writing where Huppertz uses the repeating descent line of the Flood Theme to mirror the torrents of water descending from above to flood the city. As they flee up the stairs at 0:41 Huppertz introduces his lyrical Escape Theme, which sows a mounting desperation that carries their ascent. Yet a locked gate bars their escape and at 1:32 the Flood Theme returns with a desperate ostinato as Freder and Josaphat climb support girders to reach the locked gate. At 2:22 the Flood Theme supports their efforts to force the gate open. At 2:49 organ blasts support shots of massive waterfalls dumping from above with the Escape Theme supporting shots of Maria and the children stranded below in the rising waters. The two themes join in interplay to raise tension and desperation. At 3:40 they manage to break through and a desperate accelerando carries the children upwards to safety. At 3:57 Freder rescues Maria supported with a thankful rendering of her theme. We conclude with shattering orchestral blasts as we see the city below destroyed.

“The Rescue of the Children” reveals Maria, Freder and Josaphat embracing the children with Maria’s Theme carried by strings tenero supporting the heartfelt moment. Freder orders everyone to come with him to the “Club of the Sons”. We demur and as Maria askes, why are the lights are off. At 0:42 Le Marseillaise Themes supports a scene change to workers dancing in celebration amidst the ruins of the Heart Machine, supported by the Rebellion Theme. At 1:04 we change scenes to Fredersen’s Office atop a resounding Dies Irae Theme as he demands from the spy his son’s whereabouts. The spy answers that tomorrow many will ask where are their sons, which causes Fredersen unbearable distress as we close with a powerful pathos born on cresting statements of the Dies Irae Theme. As Grot looks on in distress in “The Knowledge of the Workers”, festive statements of the Rebellion Theme support the workers continuing to partake in a celebratory dance, oblivious to the unfolding disaster. He finally manages to get their attention and calls out – “Where are your Children? Then he states the city is flooded because you destroyed the machines. What unfolds is a terrible crescendo of pain that joins with the Escape Theme as they realize their worst fears. We climax at 0:57 atop repeating orchestral cries of pain as they all weep for their lost children. When he asks, “Who told you to attack the machines? They answer – “It was the Witch!” The imposter’s twisted variant of Maria’s Theme carries the realization.

“Yoshiwara and the Masses” reveals ‘Maria’ leading a festive celebration at the club supported by Fox Trot dance music. When she declares “Let’s all watch as the world goes to the devil” they carry her out to view the city, darkened from the blackout. Yet they carry on the celebration oblivious to the disaster. At 0:48 we change scenes to the Heart Machine ruins where Grot calls for them to find and kill the witch! A ferocious Rebellion Theme carries their departure. At 1:11 we return to Maria and the children carried by a tender rendering of her theme. We conclude ferociously as the worker mob runs the city streets searching for the witch. “Rotwang and his “Hel” offers a very complex cue in that there are constant scene changes. Rotwang wakes and walks to his shrine to his beloved Hel carried by plaintive strings romantico. At 0:37 we return upon the Fox Trot to the Yoshihara crowd who are continuing their merriment in the streets. At 0:47 we see Rotwang leaving his house supported by his theme. We close at 0:54 and are carried by Maria’s Theme as we see her caring for the children.

“The Clash of the Masses” offers a score highlight, with one of its finest action cues. We open with the angry mob marching through the streets carried by the Rebellion Theme. At 0:33 they spot Maria and mistake her for the witch and her theme transforms from the mob’s perspective, into a marcia di vendetta. As she runs for her life trilling woodwinds, racing strings and her theme rendered as flight music carries her escape. The angry mob pursue her carried by the relentless power of the Rebellion Theme. We shift at 2:06 to “Maria’ and the Yoshihara crowd dancing in the streets carried by the Fox Trot. At 2:14 we return to the chase with trilling woodwinds and racing strings carrying Maria’s flight. At 2:22 Maria’s Theme resounds as the mob and the Yoshihara revelers collide, bringing the two Maria’s together. We close ferociously as ‘Maria’ is captured, and Maria escapes to the cathedral. In “The Pyre” ‘Maria’ is taken to the stake to be burned alive. Huppertz drives the action with strings furioso and the Rebellion Theme as they bring her to the stake and Freder races to rescue her, believing her to be Maria. A comic Maria’s Theme enters at 0:32 as she mockingly laughs at the crowd as she is tied to the stake. The Rebellion Theme resounds at 1:08 as the fire is lit and the mob dances and cheers. The theme joins with churning strings to stoke the crowd’s fury. As Freder arrives he is recognized, captured and brought forward to witness the burning. At 1:51 repeating statements of a desperate Maria’s Theme sounds as a restrained Freder cries out for her. At 2:07 we demur and change scenes to the cathedral where we see a terrified Maria hiding in the shadows. We return to the fire with a beleaguered Maria’s Theme as Freder cries out to her. We close in the cathedral with a menacing Rotwang’s Theme as he mistakes Maria for his beloved Hel.

“Flight in the Cathedral – the Bell” flight music carries her escape and his pursuit atop his theme. Ethereal twinkling accents join as the film shifts to and fro from the chase to ‘Maria’ being consumed by the fire. A desperate ascent takes her to the bell tower where Rotwang catches her at 0:37 supported by his theme. She escapes by jumping and catching the bell rope and her weight triggers a tolling bell. The crowd hears the tolling bells and Maria’s Theme resounds as ‘Maria’ is consumed by the fire. At 1:09 we reprise the shimmering glockenspiel auras of Rotwang’s Theme first heard in his lab when he created ‘Maria”, which now supports her transformation back to Machine Man as the fires burn away her flesh. We close on Maria’s Theme as Freder spots her fleeing from Rotwang aloft on the cathedral balcony. In “Flight on the roof of the Cathedral – Rotwang’s Death” horns dramatico resound as Freder sets off to rescue Maria. As Rotwang ensnares her his sinister theme supports the capture. As Freder arrives Rotwang casts Maria aside and the men begin fighting supported by their contesting themes. As Joh arrives at 1:21 Rotwang’s Theme gains ascendency and Joh falls to his knees fearful for Freder. Fredersen’s Theme resounds as the hostile crowd recognizes him and begins moving towards him as Rotwang’s Theme continues its expression. At 2:06 Josaphat informs Grot that Maria saved the children. An angelic rendering of Maria’s Theme supports the happy moment and the crowd’s joy. At 2:25 Rotwang’s sinister theme returns as a terrified Joh looks upwards and Rotwang pummels Freder, stunning him, which allows him time to grab Maria and begin climbing a roof ladder. Pizzicato stings and an ascent motif carry them all up to the cathedral’s roof. He drops Maria who hangs on for dear life and fights Freder as Maria’s and Rotwang’s Themes support. A descent motif carries the men’s sliding fall along the roof, where the battle resumes in earnest on the balcony. Freder kicks him backwards and Rotwang falls to his death, with one last gasp of his theme. We close darkly as Joh is relieved and races into the cathedral to find his son.

“Reconciliation” reveals Freder and Maria embracing and kissing supported by the heartfelt affirmation of the Love Theme. The theme is sustained as Joh, Freder and Maria exit the cathedral and are met by Grot leading the workers up the stairs. As Grot stretches out his hand to Joh in friendship, yet Joh hesitates. A warm rendering of Maria’s Theme fills the moment, and she walks to Freder and counsels “Head and hands want to join together, buy they do not have the heart to do it… Oh Mediator, show them the way to each other…” As Freder counsels his father, he takes his hand, and then asks Grot for his. We flow from Maria’s Theme into a resplendent rendering of the Metropolis Theme, which crests gloriously in a flourish as Freder brings their two hands together with the screen displaying; “The Mediator between Head and Hands must be the Heart.”

I wish to praise Stefan Land, Michael Sawall and Pan Classics for this outstanding restoration and rerecording of Gottfried Huppertz’s masterpiece, “Metropolis”. I also wish to commend Frank Strobel for his superb score reconstruction efforts and conducting. The audio quality is exceptional and the album provides a peerless listening experience. Huppertz’s conception and execution of the score was superb and achieved an inspired confluence with the film’s setting, set designs, and narrative, which helped Lang achieve his vision. For his soundscape, Huppertz had to speak to a dystopian dichotomous society where an elite class lived above ground in splendor, while the worker class dwelled below ground in hopeless servitude operating the machines. He composed an amazing sixteen themes, which fleshed out the characters, the emotional drivers, and joined in dynamic interplay. In silent films the lack of dialogue imposes a greater burden on the composer to inform the audience and flesh out the character emotional dynamics, both overt and covert. In my judgment Huppertz succeeded on all counts, demonstrating mastery of his craft. I consider this score a masterpiece of the late Silent Film Era and essential for one’s collection. I highly recommend you purchase this outstanding two CD album for your collection.

For those of you unfamiliar with the score, I have embedded a Youtube link to a wonderful 14-minute concert suite: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7hwRQl9w6XQ

Buy the Metropolis soundtrack from the Movie Music UK Store

Track Listing:

  • The Metropolis Theme (1.01)
  • Machines (3.31)
  • The Stadium (0.50)
  • The Eternal Gardens (2.22)
  • Maria with Children (3.38)
  • Machine Hall with Moloch (5.19)
  • Fredersen’s Office 7.07)
  • Grot’s Ideas – the Thin Man (6.40)
  • Freder in the Machine Hall (3.19)
  • The Car Ride (2.0)
  • In Rotwang’s House (3.31)
  • The Machine Man (3.48)
  • Freder and the Machine (2.38)
  • Rotwang and Fredersen (2.37)
  • In the Catacombs (1.50)
  • The Legend of the Tower of Babel (2.47)
  • Maria’s Sermon (2.43)
  • Freder and Maria – Rotwang’s Plot (5.30)
  • The Chase (2.42)
  • In the Cathedral (3.28)
  • The Thin Man and Georgy, a Worker (2.17)
  • In Joseph’s Apartment (5.44)
  • Maria and Rotwang – The Fight (2.17)
  • Freder and Rotwang (2.17)
  • In the Laboratory – Transformation (2.53)
  • Freder and Rotwang (1.12)
  • Fredersen and the False Maria (1.15)
  • Freder’s Delirium (1.42)
  • In Rotwang’s Salon (1.03)
  • The Dance (2.17)
  • The Death (1.12)
  • Freder and Josephat (1.46)
  • Josephat’s Narration (2.57)
  • The False Maria (2.31)
  • The Incitement of the Workers (4.23)
  • The Workers’ Revolt (4.37)
  • Fredersen and Grot (1.27)
  • Grot and the Workers (1.39)
  • The Heart Machine (1.44)
  • The Flooding (3.14)
  • Fredersen and his City (1.00)
  • Freder and Josephat (1.39)
  • The Flight (4.22)
  • The Rescue of the Children (1.31)
  • The Knowledge of the Workers (1.25)
  • Yoshiwara and the Masses (1.47)
  • Rotwang and his “Hel” (1.10)
  • The Clash of the Masses (3.03)
  • The Pyre (2.42)
  • Flight in the Cathedral – the Bell (1.38)
  • Flight on the roof of the Cathedral – Rotwang’s Death (4.15)
  • Reconciliation (3.02)

Running Time: 144 minutes 03 seconds

Pan Classics PC-10365 (1927/2018)

Music composed by Gottfried Huppertz. Conducted by Frank Strobel. Performed by Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin. Original orchestrations by Gottfried Huppertz. Recorded and mixed by Henri Theon. Score produced by Gottfried Huppertz. Album produced by Stefan Land and Michael Sawall

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