Netflix Instant Classic: Giorgio Moroder Presents Metropolis

Genre: Silent, Rock Opera, 1980s

What’s it about? A rich kid finds out the super-city his father presides over owes its existence to the exploitation of an underclass of workers. Trouble ensues when a mad scientist sends a robot woman to lead a rebellion.

Who’s in it? The pertinent figure here is three-time Academy Award-winning composer Giorgio Moroder. It’s he who spent three years restoring this German film, a large portion of which was lost. It also features music from such 80s luminaries as Pat Benatar, Billy Squier, Freddie Mercury, Bonnie Tyler, and Adam Ant.

You’ll like it if… You’ve been waiting for someone to mash H.G. Wells’s Time Machine up with George Orwell’s 1984 and lay a rad 80s soundtrack over it.

Time. This movie is all about time – the past, present, and future.

It was originally made in 1926, it’s set in the year 2026, and it was updated and restored in 1984.

That’s right. This is a silent film set to a modern soundtrack (modern in the 80s that is).

So how does that translate exactly?

Amazingly well.

One way I’d describe it is to say it’s a lot like watching the Wizard of Oz while playing Dark Side of the Moon.

Old-timey visuals – visuals whose ambition and imagination far exceeded the technical capabilities of their day – are mashed up with a modern soundtrack that is far more appropriate to the content than it has any right to be.

Another way to describe it would be as a rock opera of sorts, along the lines of The Who’s Tommy, or Pink Floyd’s The Wall.

Basically it’s like a 1980s music video that transcended its purpose as a promotional tool to establish itself as art its own right. (They were a rarity but they existed.)

However, that has far more to do with the movie itself, rather than the score. After watching this version of Metropolis I looked the original up on Youtube.

The original score lends the film far more gravitas. That is, it’s tempting to call Giorgio Moroder’s Metropolis campy, but I think that goes a bit too far.

Suffice to say, there are a few parts where the music doesn’t quite fit the film’s aesthetic. Still, I found such disconnects more amusing than distracting.

It’s also more entertaining. No doubt, the original Metropolis is a masterpiece. But it’s also nearly a century old, so it’s a bit of an adjustment for the modern viewer. If the modern score is campy, the original is tedious and archaic.

The music notwithstanding, the acting, though silent, is remarkable and the story is timeless.

It’s a good movie.

So if you’re in the mood for something different, give it a shot. You have to be open-minded though… or high.

2 thoughts on “Netflix Instant Classic: Giorgio Moroder Presents Metropolis”

  1. Watched the original on tcm on Saturday night, with the original score. The silent movie held my interest, some parts are dated. Still a timeless story.

    1. Hi Bernadette! Thanks for reading and taking the time to comment!

      You’re right. I certainly didn’t mean to disparage the original – just to say that a silent movie from 1927 might not appeal to younger/mainstream audiences. So the 1986 version with the modern music is a decent compromise.

      Regardless of which version a person chooses to watch, though, it really is a terrific movie. I was pretty blown away by the scale of the visuals and the underlying themes of the plot. It was definitely ahead of its time.

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