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Metropolis

June 26, 2017

As people found their faith in religion shattered, along with their faith in humankind, there was a growing trend for looking beyond the confines of earth and out further afield. While some in the 1920s were looking backwards, to simpler times and pagan beliefs that seemed more innocent and carefree

than the current world they were living in, others were becoming convinced there was life on Mars. This was hardly surprising considering the curiosity shown to the planets beyond earth and the possibilities they held. Mars has always been the centre of attention when it comes to extra-terrestrial life. Visible from earth to the naked eye, until-the 1960s it was thought it could have the potential to support life, with what appeared to be oceans covering parts of its surface.

….. If Mars was not going to save the world at least films about space could be viewed as pure escapism, a modern retelling of the classic adventure story of a journey into the unknown. The pinnacle of this trend was the flawed masterpiece of German expressionist Fritz Lang, Metropolis (1927). The iconic image from the film is the feminine robot that can be seen on the movie posters. Creepy, yet attractive, the machine is meant to be a recreation of the character Joh’s dead wife. Conjuring up the notion of the dangers of wishing the dead back to life, Joh is consumed by his desire to reinvent his wife Hel, to the detriment of his workers. Metropolis is dominated by the skyscrapers where the elite live and work while the ordinary men toil in underground caverns, exposed to danger at every turn and driven to exhaustion.

In many ways Metropolis expresses the growing discontent in Germany towards the rich and influential minority who dominated the lives of the poor majority. A similar disaffection had occurred in England, though to a lesser extreme, when the ordinary soldier in the trenches realised how insignificant he was in the eyes of the commanding officers. In Britain this began the overhaul of the class system and the way the army was run. DEAR RAYMOND: THE STORY OF SPIRITUALITY AND THE FIRST WORLD WAR – SOPHIE JACKSON

In the futuristic year of 2026, in the city of Metropolis, wealthy industrialists reign from high-rise tower complexes, while underground-dwelling workers toil to operate the underground machines that power the city. Joh Fredersen is the city’s master. His son Freder idles away his time in a pleasure garden, but is interrupted by the arrival of a young woman named Maria, who has brought a group of workers’ children to witness the lifestyle of the rich. Maria and the children are ushered away, but Freder, fascinated, goes to the machine rooms to find her. Witnessing the explosion of a huge machine that kills and injures several workers, he hurries to tell Fredersen about the accident. Grot, foreman of the Heart Machine, brings to Fredersen secret maps found on the dead workers. Freder secretly rebels against Fredersen by deciding to help the workers, after seeing his father’s cold indifference towards the harsh conditions they face.

Fredersen takes the maps to the inventor Rotwang to learn their meaning. Rotwang had been in love with a woman named Hel, who left him to marry Fredersen and later died giving birth to Freder. Rotwang shows Fredersen a robot he has built to “resurrect” Hel. The maps show a network of catacombs beneath Metropolis, and the two men go to investigate. They eavesdrop on a gathering of workers, including Freder. Maria addresses them, prophesying the arrival of a mediator who can bring the working and ruling classes together. Freder believes that he could fill the role and declares his love for Maria. Fredersen orders Rotwang to give Maria’s likeness to the robot so that it can ruin her reputation among the workers, unaware that Rotwang plans to use the robot to kill Freder and bring down Metropolis. Rotwang kidnaps Maria, transfers her likeness to the robot and sends her to Fredersen. Freder finds the two embracing and, believing it is the real Maria, falls into a prolonged delirium. Intercut with his hallucinations, the false Maria unleashes chaos throughout Metropolis, driving men to murder and stirring dissent amongst the workers.

Freder recovers and returns to the catacombs. Finding the false Maria urging the workers to rise up and destroy the machines, Freder accuses her of not being the real Maria. The workers follow the false Maria from their city to the machine rooms, leaving their children behind. They destroy the Heart Machine, which causes the workers’ city below to flood. The real Maria, having escaped from Rotwang’s house, rescues the children with the help of Freder. Grot berates the celebrating workers for abandoning their children in the flooded city. Believing their children to be dead, the hysterical workers capture the false Maria and burn her at the stake. A horrified Freder watches, not understanding the deception until the fire reveals her to be a robot. Rotwang chases the real Maria to the roof of the cathedral, pursued by Freder, and the two men fight as Fredersen and the workers watch from the street. Rotwang falls to his death. Freder fulfills his role as mediator by linking the hands of Fredersen and Grot to bring them together.

The film drew heavily on biblical sources for several of its key set-pieces. During her first talk to the workers, Maria uses the story of the Tower of Babel to highlight the discord between the intellectuals and the workers. Additionally, a delusional Freder imagines the false-Maria as the Whore of Babylon, riding on the back of a many-headed dragon.

The name of the Yoshiwara club alludes to the famous red-light district of Tokyo.

Much of the plot line of Metropolis stems from the First World War and the culture of the Weimar Republic in Germany. Lang explores the themes of industrialization and mass production in his film; two developments that played a large role in the war. Other post-World War I themes that Lang includes in Metropolis include the Weimar view of American modernity, fascism, and communism.

Maria: HEAD and HANDS need a mediator. THE MEDIATOR BETWEEN HEAD AND HANDS MUST BE THE HEART!

Maria: Today I will tell you the legend of THE TOWER OF BABEL… “Come, let us build us a tower whose top may reach unto the stars! And the top of the tower we will write the words: Great is the world and its Creator! And great is Man!” But the minds that had conceived the Tower of Babel could not build it. The task was too great. So they hired hands for wages. But the hands that built the Tower of Babel knew nothing of the dream of the brain that had conceived it. BABEL. BABEL. BABEL. BABEL. One man’s hymns of praise became other men’s curses. People spoke the same language, but could not understand each other…

 

The Machine Man: [disguised as Maria] Women and men, let no one miss today – ! Death to the machines – !

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