Silent Film 'Metropolis' To Be Scored By Local Band
On Sunday, Alamo Drafthouse in Kalamazoo will show the silent film Metropolis scored by local band Forget the Times. This is the second live score the group has composed this year after The Cabinet Of Dr. Caligari in September.
The production of the 1920’s movie Metropolis, written by husband and wife Fritz Lang and Thea von Harbou, is a fascinating story in itself. It’s set in a futuristic city where the rich party in high rise apartments, while the poor work day and night underground powering the city. But this order is upset when a member of the elite follows a beautiful worker down to the horrors below.
After its premiere, Metropolis was edited by several distribution companies to about a fourth of its original run time. And until the 1980s, most of the extra tape had been lost. As of 2010, the film has now been restored to almost all of its original length.
“Yeah, two and a half hours. I don’t know about the rest of everybody but that’s the longest I’ve ever played music in front of people in one sitting,” remarks Sean Hartmann, the guitarist and band leader for Forget the Times.
Hartmann says more classical scores of the film had the same feel throughout. But he says he wanted the audience to hear a strong shift between the underworld and the upper class parts of the city.
“We were going for sort of a mechanical kind of theme for the workers in the underworld. When it starts off they’re all marching in step and everything and they operate all this giant machinery," bassist Russ Wagner explains. "And then for the upper crust it is more free, more waltzy, airy."
Wagner says Forget the Times is an entirely improvised band, but they're working on some more composed parts for the film.
Josh Miller plays guitar and some effects for the band. He says there will also be some sound effects, but don’t expect wood blocks or bells at the showing. They’re more abstract.
“We’re not using things that would normally make those sounds. And it doesn’t necessarily sound like it would in real life," he says.
Many of those effects will be produced by Brad Miller, the only member of the ensemble who is technically not part of Forget the Times. He heads the experimental rock band Brown Company.
Brad Miller says while Metropolis was filmed during the rise of Nazi Germany—an issue that lead to the two writer’s divorce—the film is still relatable today.
“The theme and the division between the haves and the have-nots is really probably the most compelling storyline," he says. "So if that was Nazis versus Jews or even looking where we’re at today with the one percent, the 99. Or even the recent social phenomenons and rioting and people trying to make their voice heard by organizing. It’s definitely a theme throughout the film.”
Brad Miller and Forget the Times will do a live score of the silent film Metropolis Sunday night at 7 p.m. at Alamo Drafthouse Kalamazoo. If you decide to go, you might want to buy your tickets soon. The band’s showing of Dr. Caligari in September was sold out.