The second last night of the BigPond Adelaide Film Festival reached a culmination with a colossal masterpiece of German expressionism. In full length, re-mastered with a live performance of the electronic re-score by The New Pollutants, Fritz Lang’s silent film Metropolis (1927) was the highlight of the series ‘Silent Cinema in the 21st Century’ and one of the main attractions of the festival.
This early science fiction film is set in an urban metropolis in 2026. Imaginative sets and visual effects paint clashes of reality and the apparent division between the urban ruling class occupying luxurious high-rise buildings and the underworld of the working people. Metropolis embodies a humanitarian message, urging people to use kindness and love when negotiating their rational thinking and desire for action.
Made during the rise of fascism in Europe, it is not surprising that the film was lost for a long time. This Australian premiere featured additional footage comprising of more than a fifth of the film that was discovered in Buenos Aires in mid 2008 and restored in Germany.
The screening was accompanied by modern electronic music especially composed for the film by the The New Pollutants. The experimental electronica and hip hop inflections of the score bring to light the ultramodern look of the picture and locate it into the twenty first century. Dance beats emphasise the mass scenes. Musical events incorporated organically as sound effects add intensity to the narrative.
The synthetic soundscape gathers warmth by the means of charged motifs and sustained notes produced by cello and voice. Performed by Astrid Pill (vocals) and Zoe Barry (cello, vocals), the solos give voice to the emotional state of the mute characters and underpin the compassionate message of the score. Astrid Pill’s purity of tone matches the quality of the characters that drive change in the film, Freder and Maria. Zoe Barry’s rich sound embellishes the texture often amplified by overdubbed motifs.
The twenty three pieces of the score boost the power of the picture and create an immensely intense experience for the audience. Unlike most film music, this score stands independently efficient as a separate musical composition due to the continuity of the music.
The dazzling Art Deco Piccadilly Cinema in North Adelaide was full and festive. An eager audience welcomed the performers and left stunned by the cathartic effect produced by the synergy between film and live music.
2011 BigPond Adelaide Film Festival
Metropolis (Fritz Lang)
with live performance by ‘The New Pollutants’, Astrid Pill (vocals) and Zoe Barry (cello)
Venue: Piccadilly Cinema
Date: 5 March 2011