At a meeting in Buenos Aires on Wednesday, the city’s culture minister Hernán Lombardi said the country would hand the some 9,000 metres of film over to the Friedrich-Wilhelm-Murnau Institute. The German film preservation experts have agreed to finance the restoration and transfer it to a digital medium.
The institute, which owns the rights to the groundbreaking science fiction film, said it is optimistic that the badly damaged 82-year-old film can be restored after an initial test attempt in February.
“We will use the most modern means available to restore this masterpiece together with our partners for a film festival and cinema audience, as well as for television and DVD,” institute leader Helmut Poßmann said in a statement.
In July 2008, Paula Félix-Didier, head of film museum Museo del Cine in Buenos Aires, discovered an uncut version of the 1927 science fiction film when she looked into reports that a tape in the archive was unusually long. She travelled to Berlin with a copy of the film and met with experts who say they are certain it is the missing original-length version of Lang’s masterpiece that reveals key plot scenes and an expansion of minor roles, weekly Die Zeit, reported at the time.
In 1927, Fritz Lang presented the film in Berlin after producing it in the city’s Babelsberg Studios. At that time it was the most expensive film ever produced in Germany, but it was not well received by its German audience. A radically shorter version was subsequently edited in the US, after which historians believed the original version to have been lost.
According to Die Zeit‘s reconstruction of events, Buenos Aires film distributor Adolfo Z. Wilson brought a copy of the original version to Argentina in 1928. Film critic Peña Rodríguez later attained the film, which he sold in the 1960’s to Argentina’s national art fund. In 1992 copy then went to the Museo del Cine – where discoverer Félix-Didier took leadership in January 2008.
An initial version of this article wrongly labelled Hernán Lombardi as Argentina’s culture minister rather than the city of Buenos Aires.