The reconstruction, restoration and re-release of classic films is now becoming a regular occurrence (happily enough), but the reissue of Fritz Lang’s visionary 1927 science fiction film is something altogether more special. This new version includes 25 minutes of footage (a full sixth of the new cut’s entire length) previously thought lost to the world and not seen by any audience other than the first German ones 83 years ago. Truly, this is the Holy Grail of film finds.
The new as-the-director-intended cut doesn’t significantly alter the meaning or the impact of the film that has long been widely recognised as a modernist masterpiece (even before the previous major though incomplete reconstruction in 2001), but the full restoration of Lang’s vision enhances the overall viewing experience no end. And the film’s vision of a dystopian future, with its towering futuristic cityscapes and grim subterranean factories filled with the working masses (not to mention the iconic female robot), are a reminder that this is the grandfather of sci-fi films, the influence of which can be seen in contemporary genre classics from Star Wars to Blade Runner.
The dual format DVD and Blu-ray release comes with a wealth of extras including a new symphony orchestra recording of the original score, full-length audio commentary by film historians, a booklet of archival interviews with Lang, a 1927 review by filmmaker Luis Buñuel, restoration notes, and a new documentary about the film and its troubled history. The latter, culminating with the revelatory discovery of the missing 25 minutes of film in a forgotten archive in Buenos Aires, is utterly engrossing.
(PG) 150min (Eureka/Masters of Cinema)