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Photographs - Production Stills and Screen Shots


Fritz Lang's Metropolis - the most expensive German film of the time - was subject to a great deal of scrutiny and promotional activity during its period of development and production between 1925-6. As a result, there are literally hundreds of surviving photographic shots of the whole process, taken by photographers such as Horst von Harbou and Hans Taussig, on behalf of UFA and media companies. These detailed black and white images record not only aspects of the film's production - i.e. how things were done, such as trick photography and individual sets - but also chronicle the various scenes shot during that period. Some of these scenes were not included in the director's original cut of the film made at the end of 1926, whilst others were subsequently cut or edited out. A selection of distinct photographs are reproduced below. They include various production stills and scene shots, along with associated commentary.

Fritz Lang Directing

A vivid example of Fritz Lang's 'hand-on' directing technique can be seen in the following two images, originally reproduced in H.H. Wollenberg's Fifty Years of German Film (Falcon Press, London, 1948). Lang pushed his actors and technicians to the limit, both physically psychologically, and stars such as Brigitte Helm said she would never work for him again as a result.

In the top photograph Lang is seen grabbing Brigitte Helm's face and explaining to her and actor Heinrich George precisely what he wants them to do. The result is seen in the bottom image, with a wild-eyed Grot grabbing the Evil Maria and pointing her towards the cathedral and funeral pyre upon which she will shortly burn. Brigitte Helm later (1933) stated that Metropolis was the worst experience of her life, though the precise reasons for this are unclear. Whilst Lang's directorial technique may have made the process both physically and mentally difficult for the young, inexperienced actress, the results on the screen are of high quality, and Helm's acting on the film was critically acclaimed. Thea von Harbou's published account of the extended shooting of the funeral pyre scene depicted in these photographs indicates the extreme deprivations and strains experienced by all those involved.

Apocalypse - The Revelations of Saint John

The above image comes from a segment of the original film which is extant only in part. It shows Freder Fredersen sitting in his apartment recovering from the illness / mental collapse brought on by seeing the evil Maria in the arms of his father. He is reading a copy of Die Offenbarung Saints Johannis [The Apocalypse, or Revelations of Saint John]. This is the last book of the New Testament section of the Bible. A reading of Revelations will help him to understand the earlier statements made by the monk Desertus, and heard by Freder during a visit to the cathedral of Metropolis (this is now a lost scene). The sermon referred to

....a woman seated on a scarlet-coloured animal, that was rising up and had seven heads and ten horns. And the woman was arrayed with purple and scarlet, and had a golden cup in her hand. And on her forehead was written a name, a secret: The Grand Babylon, the mother of all abominations on Earth. And I saw the woman drink of the holy blood.
These statements also reappeared in the form of a vision seen by Freder during his hallucinogenic dream, where they took the form of the Evil Maria performing in Yoshiwara before a group of the leading men of Metropolis. Therein she was seen semi-naked astride a seven-headed beast, resting upon a huge glass bowl, held aloft by Negro slaves.

In her hand is held aloft the chalice of abominations. The quote uttered by Desertus, repeated in Freder's dream, and seen in the original film as part of two intertitle card sequences, is actually a quote from Rovelations. This, therefore, explains the significance of Freder's reading of the book in the abovementioned photograph. The black slaves holding aloft the glass bowl and seven-headed beast with Whore of Babylon astride, eventually transforms into the figures of the Seven Deadly Sins. Freder had previously seen these figures in the special alcove within the cathedral of Metropolis. At that time they were accompanied by the figure of Death.

The image of the hands of the men of Yoshiwara reaching upwards for the naked evil Maria is reminiscent of an earlier scene in which the workers of the Tower of Babel raised their hands in defiance and tore down its walls. This image is also prepatory to that of the children of the workers of Metropolis in reaching out for Maria - their saviour - as she stands upon the gong monument and the waters rise around them. These images of mass outstretched hands bear an uncomfortable similarity to images from the 1930s showing masses of Germans raising their hands towards Adolf Hitler in the Nazi salute.

Missing Scene - Black Maria's Leg Bracelet

A scene in the film which apparently has not survived the censor's cut is the one wherein the Evil Maria, dressed in black, runs up onto the stage at Yoshiwara, opens the seam of her dress and reveals a jewel-encrusted bracelet high upon her thigh. She seductively removes the bracelet and throws it into the seething crowd before her, resulting in a violent fight between two young men in the audience.

Missing Scene - Fight Between Josaphat and Slim

A major narrative strand of Metropolis which is no longer extant concerns the 'detective' work of Joh Fredersen's manservant Slim, and his attempts not only to find the missing Freder, but also to turn Josaphat away from assisting the wayward son in locating Maria and helping the workers. At one point Slim enters Josaphat's apartment and finds there the cap of the worker Georgy 11811 - a cap which he knows Freder had borrowed. There is a struggle (see picture) in which Josaphat attempts to retrieve the cap from Slim. He is unsuccessful, and subsequently falls to the floor. Thereafter Slim bribes Josaphat to leave Metropolis. This image is taken from Thea von Harbou's Metropolis (Gallimard, Paris, 1928, 96p), a French-language novelisation of the film. It is a reproduction of an original UFA still.

The L'Estrange Fawcett Production Shots

In 1927 a book was published by the oddly named L'Estrange Fawcett, entitled Film: Facts and Forecasts (Geoffrey Bles, London, 277p). The book featured an introduction by Charlie Chaplain and discussed specific films and filmmaking of the time, including aspects of the production of Metropolis. Five illustrations from the work are reproduced below, along with original captions:

1. 'Forced Labour Scene in Metropolis' (UFA, facing page 46). Depicts the rear view of the large stone block which the workers of Babel were forced to pull, and the final image as seen on the screen.

2. 'Fritz Lang Directing Scene in Metropolis' (UFA, facing page 54). View from above of the filming of Freder and the Pleasure Girls in the Eternal Gardens, at the moment in which Freder first sees Maria and the group of workers children.

3. 'Shooting a Scene in Metropolis - Note flood of mercury-vapour lighting.' (UFA, facing page 46). Rear view of the scene in which the evil Maria in black dress calls on the men in Yoshiwara to come forward towards her. This is just prior to her monuting the stage and throwing her thigh bracelet into the audience.

4. 'Moving Camera used for filming Metropolis' (UFA, facing page 86). Shot from above of cinematographer Karl Freund seated on a mobile camera filming Freder as he is thrown to the ground by the explosion of the Moloch machine.

5. 'Fritz Lang Directing the Flood Scene in Metropolis - Note lamps on operating platforms.' (UFA, facing page 198).

In this rear view from above we see part of the filming of the flood scene, with the children of the workers raising their hands towards Maria on the monument.

Last updated: 30 March 2000.

Science and Invention, June 1927 - Metropolis Special Effects

The following images are from a two-page spread entitled 'Metropolis - A Move Based on Science' piblushed in the June 1927 edition of Hugo Gernsbeck's Science and Invention magazine. The spread includes details of how some of the special effects in the film were obtained. These include the famous robot-transformation scene with the rings; the destruction of the large electric-dynamo 'Heart' machine; and the flooding of buildings in the underground workers city.

A detailed shot of the robot-transformation scene filming is illustrated below:

Production Stills

During 2000 a set of high quality stills were offered for sale on eBay. No information was given on their origin. Eight of these images are repoduced below.

Site last updated: 30 January 2011.

Metropolis Bibliography - Introduction Metropolis Bibliography - Books, Articles and Manuscripts Metropolis Bibliography - Internet Web Sites Metropolis Bibliography - Artwork, Posters and Photographs Metropolis Bibliography - Music Metropolis Bibliography - Film Metropolis Bibliography - Videos, Quicktime, DVD Metropolis Bibliography - Reviews 1927 Metropolis Bibliography - Australia 1928 Metropolis Bibliography - Posters