Gottfried Huppertz's metropolis: the acme of 'cinema music'

Audissino, Emilio (2016) Gottfried Huppertz's metropolis: the acme of 'cinema music'. In: Today's sounds for yesterday's films: making music for silent cinema. Palgrave, Basingstoke UK, pp. 45-63. ISBN 9781137466358

Full text not available from this repository.


The chapter concerns Gottfried Huppertz’s original score by highlighting two of its merits. First, the lushly orchestrated, leitmotiv-driven, and tightly synchronised score can be seen as the major and last achievement of ‘cinema music,’ following Peter Larsen’s distinction (Larsen 2005: 26) between the music composed for silent films and played live (cinema music) and the music composed for the sound films and interlocked with the visuals on the film strip (film music). In its musical richness and narrative precision, Huppertz’s score seems even to prefigure the typical Hollywood score that would emerge in the following decade. Secondly, Huppertz’s score is one of the few original scores for a silent film that has survived in its entirety to the present day – notoriously, Honegger’s full score to Abel Gance’s Napoleon is lost. More importantly, the fact that Huppertz’s score has survived – and that it was composed so as to be so closely adherent to the film narrative – has been a fundamental recovery aid for the film itself, which up to 2008 had been considered to be irreparably lost in its full and original form.

The chapteris divided into three sections. The first one provides some background information on the complex restoration and reconstruction process that has finally brought Metropolis very close to the original 1927 Berlin version. In particular, I concentrate on how the music helped the reconstruction.
Then, I move on and give a short biographical background of Gottfried Huppertz, after which I analyse the structure of the score, its main leitmotivs and how they operate within the film.
Finally, the third section surveys the recent multimedia screenings of Metropolis, with the film accompanied live by a symphony orchestra, and how the film with its original music is perceived today. Among the questions being raised: With such a high-quality musical score, can these shows be defined films with live musical accompaniment, or concerts with visual accompaniment? (In 2011 Metropolis was projected at ‘Teatro alla Scala’ in Milan, with the official in-house orchestra playing.) After years of familiarity with Moroder’s version – or other versions with spurious musical accompaniments – how has Huppertz’s score modified the perception, reception, and interpretation of Metropolis? Huppertz’s score was rather ambitious and even up-to-date at the time in terms of musical language, blending late-romantic idiom, medieval modes, Wagnerian instrumentation and harmonies with 1920s avant-garde idioms. Today, the score sounds somewhat old-fashioned and Hollywood-ish – because we have been exposed to the Hollywood music of the Golden Age before being exposed to Huppertz’s music; and most people have experienced Metropolis with the Moroder compilation, which sounds like pop/art music and has given Metropolis the spurious aura of an art film with an experimental, anti-Hollywood scoring.

Item Type: Book Section
Subjects: Film and television
Depositing User: Emilio Audissino
Date Deposited: 16 Feb 2016 11:29
Last Modified: 11 Nov 2016 11:39

Actions (login required)

View Item View Item