Thursday, 1 October 2015

Space Oddities | Film Review | Metropolis

Fig 1. Original Movie poster for Metropolis
Fritz Lang's Metropolis (1927) is a monumental film, that many films have potentially been based upon or have taken some ideas from and manipulated into their own. Nonetheless Metropolis is clearly a film that is ridden with all sorts of different imagery, including images of politics, economics and the one that sticks out the most is religious imagery.

Fig 2- A view of the higher/rich part of Metropolis

First of all the clearest vision of religious imagery is through the city of "Metropolis" and how the higher levels can be depicted as the heavens above. David Michael Wharton backs up the point nicely by saying "The sun-swept homes of the rich represent heaven, edenic pleasure gardens granting panoramic views of the city below" (David Micheal Wharton-2013) We as an audience can tell that "Metropolis" is a city that is overruled by a mass of power, this can be foretold by the use of obscure and disproportionate architecture, (which can be seen in Fig 2) which once again gives a massive image of heaven and the power that is held there. The depths below is the place in which all of the workers slave away their lives in order to keep the "higher" part of Metropolis functioning in the way that the rich are used to. Much like many other depictions of rich vs poor, the workers are place at the bottom of the city, into the place that receives no light and is generally a that is shunned and forgotten about by the higher class of residents. 
It can be argued that the workers are almost like slaves to the machines, as it can be seen within Metropolis when the evil Maria exclaims "Who is the living food for the machines in Metropolis?! Who lubricates the machine joints with their own blood?! Who feeds the machines with their own flesh?!". This proves that the working are sacrificing their own lives into the well being of the machines. 

This is where the characters come in and it can be seen that their roles can be linked to people within christian theology, the first being Jon Fredersen who is essentially the overseer of "Metropolis" he can easily be linked to god and the way god is depicted within the Old Testament, who is certainly wrathful and is quick to punish anyone who is disobedient to his orders. The second character who can clearly be linked to a large biblical character is Freder , the son of Jon Frederson. Bearing in mind it has already been discussed that Jon is a depiction of god, therefore it can be argued that Freder is a re-imagined version of Jesus Christ. The "good" version of Maria can be seen as John the Baptist, this idea comes from the scene where Maria is in the catacombs giving speeches on how a mediator is going to appear and bridge the gap between the head and hands by being the "heart". This relates to John the Baptist because it is much like when he supposedly gave a speech announcing the coming of Jesus and how he was going to be the savior who would rescue man.

Fig 3- The scene where Rotwang's Machine man is converted into "evil" Maria

Rotwang is a character within "Metropolis" that would be looked at as a "mad scientist" but it can be argued that his role is darker than that. This is because he is responsible for the summoning of the "evil" Maria that is supposed to be the polar opposite of the "good" Maria in the sense that all the "evil" Maria wants is to evoke fear and anger into the workers of Metropolis, whereas "good" Maria inspires the workers into thinking that everything can be peaceful between ALL residents of Metropolis. The way Rotwang breathes life into "evil" Maria is very sinister as it can be believed that it is done by conducting ceremonial/black magic, as the writer known as "The Vigilant Citizen" backs up this point by announcing "Notice the inverted pentagram right above the Machine-Man’s head. If the upright pentagram represents healing, mathematical perfection and the five elements, the inverted pentagram stands for the corruption of those principles and black magic." (The Vigilant Citizen -2010) the pentagram above the machine man (which can also be seen in Fig 3) This suggests that some sort of sacrifice has to be made, which can be proved with the fact that Rotwang admits he lost his hand in the process, which coincidentally was a "sacrifice" that he didn't regret.

Now onto the "evil" Maria in more depth. "evil" Maria can be thought to represent a variety of biblical characters ranging from The Whore of Babylon to the Horseman of the Apocalypse, but each representing a character who would bring destruction and despair with their appearance. This theory can be backed up by the fact that Freder has images rushing through his head of the seven deadly sins personified into statues, which in return suggests that there is some serious dangers upcoming but Freder is still unaware that this Maria is bringing masses of doom along side her. The reason "evil" Maria can be seen as a depiction of the Whore of Babylon or A Horseman of the Apocalyspe is because in the movie she seduces the upper-class to basically hypnotize them and convinces the workers to attack and destroy the machines located beneath Metropolis. But obviously because the workers are somewhat under her spell they are unaware that the destruction of the machines brings cataclysmic events much like an apocalypse. This is where Freder comes in a the bridge to the gap as at this point he is the only person who can bring in an intervention and fix all of it.

Fig 4 - The moment where Freder bridges the gap between "Head" and "Hands"

Towards the end of the movie we as an audience are presented with the scene of Jon refusing to agree with Grut the leader of the workers. This is where the meaning of the "heart" is the mediator between the head and hands. Much like Jesus was the person who helped form a bond as such between god and man. Therefore it kind of re-enforces that Freder represents Jesus as he is the person who makes peace between Jon and Grut. (This exchange can be seen in Fig 4)

Ultimately, it is for sure that Fritz Ling din't set out to purposefully make a film that was only formed with religious imagery. But on the other hand it is very clear that it does play on rather a lot of Christian theology and there is plenty of proof to prove this theory somewhat correct.


Image Sources
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