By Chrystal Hooi
“Metropolis” is considered one of the most iconic and classic films in the film industry, and also Fritz Lang’s last silent film. Set in the 21st century, “Metropolis” is a city that is home to a Utopian society and home to Freder Fredersen.
Fritz Lang has a unique visual style, especially in his silent films, with characteristic shots from high places, extreme upward-slanting low angles, and emphasis on size and structure.
The film opens with workers that are situated deep below the ground in the ‘depths’. Stills of the workers dressed in uniforms, walking in sync with their heads down in submission and resignation represents a flock of sheep being herded during the shift change, also displaying the lack of life in their routine.
In another scene, Freder, witnesses an explosion in the Worker’s City and hallucinates, seeing the machine as Moloch, an ancient Semitic deity honoured by human sacrifices. He sees the workers being fed to the deity as human sacrifices.
Joh Frederson, who is the creator and ruler of Metropolis, is shown in his office overlooking the city, doing his work with his subordinates. The scene where he stands in front of the desk while holding a compass reminds the viewers that he is the architect and brain of the city.
Later, Freder meets a worker suffering from his inhumane job and decides to swap identities with him.
Freder is prophesied as the ‘mediator’, the one that becomes the ‘heart between the head and the hands’, referring the heads as the thinkers and the hands as the workers. He later saves the children of the workers from Rotwang and his clone machine.
Joh Fredersen approached Rotwang, an inventor, for advice upon knowing that the workers are planning a rebellion. Rotwang, who is also a mad scientist, presents his latest creation, the Machine-Man, which he believes is the ‘Man of the Future’. Fredersen then suggests Rotwang to use Maria, an influencial and charismatic woman that is highly admired by the workers as well as Freder, and also the one that prophesied the ‘mediator’.
Maria was then captured and cloned by the Machine-Man and was sent to Yoshiwara, a man’s club, to perform erotic dances. One of the stills captured Maria portrayed as Babylon, the Great Harlot from the Apocalypse.
The machine Maria instigated the workers into destroying the main machine, giving Joh Fredersen a reason to accuse and take action against them. Eventually, it led to the destruction of the Worker’s City where their children were in danger, but was saved by the real Maria, Freder and their ally, Josaphat.
The workers eventually found out that they were deceived by a machine and captured machine Maria, burning her at a stake.
In conclusion, the film closes with a quote, “The mediator between head and hands must be the heart!” meaning that the rulers, should keep the masses in check by capturing their hearts.
Fritz Lang’s vision of German Expressionism made a significant impact on Film Noir, all the way to American Cinema, and to recent films through aspects like the use of high contrast lighting to portray a tone of abstraction and anguish.
List of References:
IMDb. 1927. Metropolis (1927). [online] Available at: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt0017136/ [Accessed: 23 Jun 2013].
Nytimes.com. n.d.. Fritz Lang. [online] Available at: http://www.nytimes.com/books/first/m/mcgilligan-lang.html [Accessed: 23 Jun 2013].
The Vigilant Citizen. 2010. The Occult Symbolism of Movie “Metropolis” and It’s Importance in Pop Culture. [online] Available at: http://vigilantcitizen.com/musicbusiness/the-occult-symbolism-of-movie-metropolis-and-its-importance-in-pop-culture/ [Accessed: 23 Jun 2013].
Film Education. n.d.. Metropolis – Further Study. [online] Available at: http://www.filmeducation.org/metropolis/pdf/Metropolis_Further_study.pdf [Accessed: 10 Jul 2013].
About the author:
Chrystal is a girl just trying to get things done in her life, one crisis at a time.