Thursday, 2 October 2014

Metropolis- Film Review (Got a bit carried away with this one)

Set in a futuristic city, Metropolis was visionary for it's age. The German film was released in 1927 and illustrated a world that was centuries beyond reality but still shared similar traits. The story circles around a man called Freder, son of the almost heartless master Jon Fredersen. Freder becomes fascinated by the workers who labor away under the city, from meeting a beautiful woman called Maria, who took mercy on them. Despite the workers slaving to his father's command, Freder attempts to help them and goes undercover into the underground world where they work and dwell. Here he sees and falls in love with Maria when she is telling a story to the workers, and preaches about the importance of peace. She shares Freder's affectionate feelings when they meet and agrees to meet him again. But she is taken by Rotwang, a scientist who is ordered by Jon to create a robot in her image. The robot Maria is built and manipulates the workers into turning against the city by destroying the machines that work it. The story comes to a climax in which the city floods and Freder helps the worker's children escape the disaster along with the real Maria. Rotwang is killed and the robot he created was burnt at the stake. Maria then tells Freder that he can bring peace between his father and the workers that slave to him.
Metropolis Workers
Concentration Camp Prisoners
This film consists of politics, humanity, religion, futurism and social status. The first image shown was of the workers being herded into the work stations like sheep. All were dressed identically in worker's uniform, and to me it strongly resembled the concentration camps of the holocaust. I find it darkly ironic that this German film attempts to portray the future, and it already had done just in the first scene. By imitating the conditions of a concentration camp, it unintentionally showed the real future that was only a few years away.

Rotwang's Maria
What stuck out most for me was the religious context in this picture. Maria is in my opinion the representation of an angel, who helped the poor workers and preached about peace. She was kind and innocent with unearthly beauty that had Freder falling for her at first sight. When her robot twin was created she was to symbolize a demon of Lucifer. In the transformation scene in Rotwang's lab there is a five point star symbol on the wall behind. It is not explained in the film why that is there but it plays a huge symbolic role in the film. The five point star that has one point facing down and two points facing up is a symbol of Satanism, or Devil worship. This Satanic star hints the idea that Rotwang himself is a Devil worshiper, which I think is unusual for a scientist, as the majority of scientists are with held of any religious or spiritual belief. I was given the idea that Rotwang had used Satanism to create his robot Maria. He may of done a deal with the Devil to have his creation brought to life, and in return the robot Maria became a host to Lucifer, that's my opinion of what happened in the story anyway.
Virgin Mary
As for the real Maria, she had a aura about her that resembled the virgin Mary. She was peaceful and kind and her look added to that effect as well. Her costume hung from her like robes, and in her second scene when she preaches to the workers, she puts on the stance of the Virgin Mary, just from the way she stands and holds her self. Also her clothes drape over her similar to the depictions of the Holy Mother, and candles were positioned behind her. The film makers achieved setting an image for Maria that fashioned her in the way of the most important female holy figure in Christianity. The two Marias illustrate the contrast between angel and demon. They are both technically the same woman but one is a servant to God, and the other is ruled by the Devil.

The contrast can be seen here. Maria has innocent children reaching for her in their time of desperate need, and robot Maria has the rich men of Metropolis reaching for her in sexual desire and want. Both scenes resemble each other strongly and both have extremely different meanings behind them. This is why I love the visual symbolism in this film.
Above: Maria and Freder saving the children.
Below: Rotwang's Maria performing for the rich men of Metropolis.


 Metropolis has been described as a political film, but I feel that religion and morality influence the story more. The tale is set out like a game between God and the Devil, where there are two sides fighting for the fate of this futuristic city. To me it's portrayal of God and the Devil competing over the future world, and their armies are in human form, the war is acted through the people. Metropolis was an incredible film for me. It illustrated a new dimension to good and evil.  


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