Friday, 12 February 2010

András Pető

What is missing in modern medicine?

Best news today for cineastes must be that surviving footage of Fritz Lang's Metropolis, found in an appalling condition in the Argentine, has been restored, reconstituted, and integrated back into the full film and musical score.

The make-up, the acting, the costumes, the script, the effects, even the sets – are as far from modern cinematic conventions (any of them) as is Greek drama or No theatre. Indeed, when I first saw the opening sequences of Metropolis, I just broke into chuckles. There is, however, something amazingly gripping about the whole thing, something universal. And something very much of its place and its time.

When I first saw it, only a few years ago, I remember thinking, before it was far through, I wonder whether András Pető saw this, or at least heard of it, or knew the book.. Of course we know so little about András Pető the man that we do not even know whether he went to the pictures. We don't even know for sure where he was physically, never mind in his thinking, when this film came out...

But we do know that Metropolis caused quite a stir in the German-speaking lands and that it connected with important strands of thinking at the time (as presumably did András Pető too).

I felt happy, therefore, to picture András Pető sitting there puffing away in some smoke-filled, cinema, much more at one with what was being said on the screen than I could ever be, in a different era and in a different world.

So towards the end of the film I particularly enjoyed thinking of him grinning in satisfaction at the following lines:

Head and hands want to join together but they don’t have the heart to do it… Oh, mediator, show them the way to each other.

Head and hands need a mediator. The mediator: between the head and the hands must be the heart.

Phew, close, isn't it! Well, it is if you have struggled to make sense of what András Pető finally committed to paper, some forty years later.

Please, do me the favour of not reading the above as saying that András Pető took ideas from Fritz Lang – or from Thea von Harbon who wrote the book on which the film was based. There is already more than enough simplistic accounting for András Pető's thinking by saying that it stemmed from the writings of this person or that who was also around at the time.

What you can do, if you like, is look at the film as recounting the ills and evils of a mechanistic (mechanical even) understanding of our humanity, and let it remind you that the cognitive and the bodily cannot tell the whole story. If you try to tell the story that way, to reduce it ,the you are on the way to the dystopian machine society portrayed in Metropolis.

What on Earth might this have to do with András Pető, disability, therapy and Conductive Education? Come on, work it out.

Metropolis, directed by Fritz Lang, screenplay by Thea von Harbon, 1927

The reconstitution of Metropolis is a major cultural event in the German-speaking lands.

The complete film is being streamed LIVE on the Internet as I write, projected on to the Brandenburger Tor.

My little computer cannot cope with this. Maybe Youtube will soon be showing the lost bits.

The new cut will be released on DVD later this year.


Bärnklau, O. (1964) Unfug der Krankenheit – Triumph der Heilkunst, Hannau/Main, Verlag Karl Schustek:

Connolly, K. (2010) Metropolis, mother of sci-fi movies, reborn in Berlin: Fritz Lang's futuristic 1927 masterpiece to be shown in full for first time after lost scenes are restored, Guardian, 11 February

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