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Marks gives Metropolis new life with musical score

Metropolis

Directed by Fritz Lang.

Written by Thea Von Harbou.

Starring Brigitte Helm, Alfred Abel, and Gustav Frlich.

LSC Classics Friday.

By Raul Gonzalez

The year is 2026. The future we have all dreamed about is here. Unfortunately, dreams will come true only for the sons of the chosen few, the masters of the city of Metropolis. In the Underground, days and even years may pass, but the workers will never see the sunlight. This is Fritz Lang's Metropolis, a sometimes apocalyptic and sometimes melodramatic view of the essential conflict all societies face: the struggle between those who rule and those who work for the benefit of the state.

However, in the midst of this oppressive world, we see hope emerging, personified as a woman named Maria. In a biblical sense, she nearly serves as the mediator between a very expressionist type of Messiah and the workers. Ironically, this Messiah is the son of the ruler of the city, a situation which provides us with an old-fashioned but effective melodrama, and later ties the whole film together, giving it a rather unusual happy ending.

Metropolis is one of the major landmarks of world cinema for its well known (and extensively quoted) scenes, such as the transformation of a robot into a clone of Maria as a part of the plan of the master of Metropolis to gain control over the workers. But it also has one of the most interesting musical scores specially composed for a silent film. Long thought lost, the music was meticulously reconstructed from fragments found in various warehouses by MIT Professor of Music Martin Marks. This Friday, Professor Marks will accompany Metropolis with a piano adaptation of the full orchestral score. This makes tonight's show one of the most special in the history of the LSC Classics Series, since this will be one of the few times we will have a chance to see a silent film in conditions close to those its director initially intended.

It can be amusing, but also instructive, to look back and see someone's vision of a future we now inhabit. Lang's futuristic city looks splendidly ultra-modern, until you notice the biplanes and dirigibles floating through its aerospace. But many of the questions raised in this parable have as much relevance today as when they were first asked. Perhaps now we can even come up with more realistic answers.

If you still have some energy left after this very special engagement, Luc Besson's latest feature, The Professional, will be playing at 10 p.m. in 26-100. A $3 classics double-bill ticket will get you into both movies. If you don't choose The Professional, you can still use the other half of the ticket tomorrow night for Quiz Show, or on Sunday for the more nightmarish futurist vision, Stanley Kubrick's A Clockwork Orange.