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FILM

Lost cut of Metropolis premiering at Berlinale

The original lost cut of Fritz Lang’s legendary 1927 silent film “Metropolis” – found last year in a Buenos Aires archive – will premiere at the Berlinale in February following its restoration, the film festival's organisers said on Thursday.

Lost cut of Metropolis premiering at Berlinale
Photo: Friedrich-Wilhelm-Murnau Foundation

Some 83 years after its original debut, the classic movie will be shown at a gala presentation on February 12 at the Friedrichstadtspalast accompanied by a live performance of the original score by the Rundfunk-Sinfonieorchester Berlin.

“Just about no other German film has inspired and influenced film history as greatly as Fritz Lang’s Metropolis,” Berlinale Director Dieter Kosslick said in a statement. “We are especially pleased and honoured to be able to present the reconstructed original cut of this legendary and seminal film classic at the festival’s 60th anniversary.”

Filmed at Berlin’s now famous Babelsberg studios, the seminal science fiction flick was the most expensive movie produced in Germany at the time. But it was not well received at first by German audiences. A radically shorter version was subsequently edited for a 1927 release, after which historians believed the original version to have been lost.

The shorter version of the film was restored in 2001 and became the first movie to be recognised as a UNESCO World Documentary Heritage. But the original 16mm version was found last year at the film museum Museo del Cine in Buenos Aires.

This version, some 30 minutes longer, has now been painstakingly restored by Wiesbaden-based film preservation institute the Friedrich-Wilhelm-Murnau Foundation.

“The unwavering desire and unflagging efforts to restore what was believed to be Fritz Lang’s lost original cut of Metropolis epitomise the Murnau Foundation’s commitment to save and preserve our rich film heritage and make it accessible to the public,” Supervisory Board Chairman of the Murnau Foundation Eberhard Junkersdorf said in a statement. “With the restoration and re-screening of Metropolis a dream has been fulfilled.”

Parallel to the Berlinale premiere, the new “Metropolis” will also play at the Alte Oper in Frankfurt with music performed by the Staatsorchester Braunschweig.

Transit Film GmbH (Munich) will later be responsible for distributing the new version of the film.

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CULTURE

German town resurrects 400-year-old biblical play tradition

Walk around the German Alpine village of Oberammergau, and the chances are you'll run into Jesus or one of his 12 disciples.

German town resurrects 400-year-old biblical play tradition

Of the 5,500 people living there, 1,400 — aged from three months to 85 — are participating this year in the once-a-decade staging of an elaborate “Passion Play” depicting the death and resurrection of Jesus Christ.

Dating back to 1634, the tradition has persisted through four centuries of wars, religious turmoil and pandemics — including the most recent Covid-19 crisis which caused the show to be postponed by two years.

“I think we’re a bit stubborn,” says Frederic Mayet, 42, when asked how the village has managed to hold on to the tradition.

Mayet, who is playing Jesus for the second time this year, says the Passion Play has become a big part of the town’s identity.

Oberammergau Passion Plays

Posters for the 42nd Oberammergau Passion Play – which was originally scheduled to take place in 2020. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Angelika Warmth

The only prerequisite for taking part in the five-hour show, whether as an actor, chorister or backstage assistant, is that you were born in Oberammergau or have lived here for at least 20 years.

“I remember that we talked about it in kindergarten. I didn’t really know what it was about, but of course I wanted to take part,” says Cengiz Gorur, 22, who is playing Judas.

READ ALSO: REVEALED: The best events and festivals in Germany this July

‘Hidden talent’ 

The tradition, which dates back to the Thirty Years’ War, was born from a belief that staging the play would help keep the town safe from disease.

Legend has it that, after the first performance, the plague disappeared from the town.

In the picturesque Alpine village, Jesus and his disciples are everywhere — from paintings on the the facades of old houses to carved wooden figures in shop windows.

You also can’t help feeling that there is a higher-than-average quota of men with long hair and beards wandering the streets.

Religious figurines Oberammergau

Religious figurines adorn a shop window in Oberammergau. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Angelika Warmuth

An intricate image of Jesus graces the stage of the open-air Passion Play theatre, where the latest edition of the show is being held from mid-May to October 2nd.

“What has always fascinated me is the quality of the relationship between all the participants, young and old. It’s a beautiful community, a sort of ‘Passion’ family,” says Walter Lang, 83.

He’s just sad that his wife, who died in February, will not be among the participants this year.

“My parents met at a Passion Play, and I also met my future wife at one,” says Andreas Rödl, village mayor and choir member.

Gorur, who has Turkish roots, was spotted in 2016 by Christian Stückl, the head of the Munich People’s Theatre who will direct the play for the fourth time this year.

“I didn’t really know what to do with my life. I probably would have ended up selling cars, the typical story,” he laughs.

Now, he’s due to start studying drama in Munich this autumn.

“I’ve discovered my hidden talent,” he says.

READ ALSO: Nine of the best day trips from Munich with the €9 ticket

Violence, poverty and sickness

Stückl “has done a lot for the reputation of the show, which he has revolutionised” over the past 40 years, according to Barbara Schuster, 35, a human resources manager who is playing Mary Magdalene.

“Going to the Passion Play used to be like going to mass. Now it’s a real theatrical show,” she says.

In the 1980s, Stückl cut all the parts of the text that accused the Jews of being responsible for the crucifixion of Jesus, freeing the play from anti-Semitic connotations.

“Hitler had used the Passion Play for his propaganda,” Schuster points out.

Stückl

Christian Stückl, the director of the Oberammergau Passion Play, holds a press conference announcing the cancellation of the play in 2020. Photo: picture alliance/dpa | Angelika Warmuth

The play’s themes of violence, poverty and sickness are reflected in today’s world through the war in Ukraine and the Covid-19 pandemic, say Mayet, the actor playing Jesus.

“Apparently we have the same problems as 2,000 years ago,” he says.

For 83-year-old Lang, who is playing a peasant this year, the “Hallelujah” after Christ has risen for the final time in October will be a particularly moving moment.

“Because we don’t know if we’ll be there again next time,” he says, his eyes filling with tears.

By Isabelle Le Page

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