Wednesday, 2 October 2013

Metropolis Film Review

Fig 1: Poster for Metropolis

The film "Metropolis" is a black and white German film from 1927 and is hailed as the grandfather of science fiction with, the producer, Fritz Lang's vision still inspiring and invigorating audiences today. It is a classic example of a pioneering work as well as highlighting and projecting the class divisions of its time, 1927, onto the far off future.
The film itself is bursting with original ideas along with time old concepts and ideology, with biblical stories and ideology firmly rooted throughout its entirety as well as a Marxist perspective embedded within it. "A visionary science-fiction spectacle; a still relevant dramatization of 'class warfare'; a pulp nightmare of Freudian-Marxist-Christian symbolism and Expressionist-Futurist-Old Testament imagery; and a source of inspiration for Nazis and Utopians alike." (Beifuss 2012) The quotation above gives a very diverse list of elements that can be referenced from Lang's film, a Freudian perspective can be take when it comes to the films feature character the Machine-man and its sexually geared design scheme, a blend of high/future technology and eroticism.
Fig 2: The false Maria is sits on pedestal support by the seven deadly sins.
The abundance of references towards Christian mythology and biblical stories are essential to the core design of the film, with its storyline taking key influence from the story of the Tower of Babel, and man's vanity and pride in challenging God. Among the influences Lang takes from biblical or religion as a whole is the search or reverment of a "messianic figure who can find a middle way between the head and the heart, the bosses and the workers: he will be the Mediator, or the "Mittler" " (Bradshaw 2010) This character would bring peace and prosperity to all, as is the trend with such figures mention through religious texts. Although, this specific reference to the bible holds a much more, but completely unintended, contextual reference to the political climate at the time of its creation. Adolf Hitler, who was said to have enjoyed this particular film, would have perhaps appeared as real-life example of the mediator character, an all too chilling thought years after the war.
The theme of challenging God, the creator, in conjunction with a science fiction setting not only builds upon how powerful god is, when the creation is finally crushed by God' power, but on the humanity's vices which are better know as the seven deadly sins. This religious concept of having seven sins that are guaranteed to not only kill you but send you to a spiritual plane of eternal damnation is ever present throughout Metropolis, such as Joh Fredersen's pride in himself and his city, Rotwang's envy towards Fredersen, the rich sons lustfully chasing after skimpily clothed women in the garden, the wrath of the proletariat as they burn the robot Maria, etc. A scene which echoes this theme of challenging God is when Rotwang first shows Joh Fredersen the Machine-man, the presence of a pentacle in the background hints towards this theme and is commonly associated with satanic worship and black magic which are elements of supposedly ungodly worship and shows how removed from sanctioned practices Rotwang's work is, Fredersen's fearful reaction also links to this theme when he sees this seemingly ungodly construct begin to move and his slight movement away from it when it offers its hand.
Fig 3: Rotwang shows Fredersen the Machine-man.
The way in which Lang envisioned the future through Metropolis holds true even now, the concept of the mega-city and one built upon the blood and flesh of the proletariat is reflected around the world; Tokyo, Dubai, London, New York, each of these capitals are placed within the mega-city category and are themselves built, maintained and expand by the working class while the upper class or bourgeoisie administrate and control them. They are the breeding grounds of capitalist ideology and Lang creates his city with such similarity it is hard to imagine that it was conceived and created 86 years ago. This is why "Metropolis retains its power to overwhelm, trouble and move..." (Scott 2002) can connect so closely to a modern audience because of its close relation and near similarities to modern life and its connection " the deep anxieties of modern life as if by a high-voltage cable." (Scott 2002) and that "high-voltage cable" is what really shocks audiences, Lang's understanding and, like Maria, prophetic imagination has and continues to fuel many universes created since.
List of Illustrations:
Fig 2: False Maria on Seven Sin Pedestal scene from Metropolis (1927)
          Directed by Fritz Lang, At:
Fig 3: Rotwang show Fredersen the Machine-man scene from Metropolis (1927)
Beifuss, John (2012) (Online Review) (Accessed 01/10/13)
Bradshaw, Peter (2010) (Online Review) (Accessed 01/10/13)


  1. Once again, Kyle, a really thoughtful and thorough review - well done :)
    Just a couple of niggley points really - make sure that you italicise your quotes, and you only need the authors surname in the text, along with the date, so (Scott, 2002) for example....unless it is from a book, then you have the page number too, as Phil has already explained. You also need the date you accessed the websites, in your bibliography, so (Accessed on 2.10.13) at the end.

    Keep up the good work! :D

    1. Thank you, I'll get these put in right now :)