Straying from my comfort zone of analyzing characters, plot, and literary devices (such as symbolic objects/events), I’m going to talk more about the settings of Metropolis because I feel it warrants a bit of attention compared to doing so with literary text. You don’t get the same effect when someone describes a place compared to when a film shows you the place right in front of you to interpret.
At the very second of the film when the title comes into view (2:58), you are greeted with a magnificent panorama of the illustrious city of Metropolis…but then are immediately taken away from it to be shown the daily lives of workers, a stark “shift change” (3:59). I questioned why the film would do this; portray this picturesque, grand cityscape and then shift gears entirely to showcase the struggle of the working class (who are shown to reside below, via the use of elevators). It seemed as though a “tease” to the audience, or even moreover it’s a tease to the residence of the Working City.
They struggle throughout their entire life, being the (literal) foundation of Metropolis and never get to go to the surface with all the good they did for their sister city. This is evident with Maria bursting in with children saying that the residents of the upper-class are “brothers” to the children (10:41), and then immediately being escorted out. The people of Metropolis obviously strive to keep the residence of the Working City hidden away underground to not ruin the allure of their city. And yet, they need one another, because without the dream of living in Metropolis the working class would not have something to work towards, and without the hard work of the Working City the upper-class would not have their machines working to power their city. You can see this allure to Metropolis with Georgy, when Freder switches places with him (34:30); when he’s in the cab (35:35) he initially follows directions and is heading towards the apartment with Josaphat, but then is quickly tempted by the fun/excitement Metropolis has to offer and switches course.
Something that struck me throughout the film was that there were very little scenes that showed the Metropolis. A lot more shots were taken of the Working City, which also fosters the idea that this cinematographic decision was meant to illustrate Metropolis more as a “utopia” (in the etymology of the word, meaning “a place that doesn’t exist”). We in our lives right now are living in the “Working City” as we try to work out our day-to-day life, while always hoping to make it to “Metropolis”, a place where we can be comfortable/care-free. That’s what I took away from this, but I might be overthinking it or building it up more than it should.
Another direction that I take with the two settings is that Metropolis above is viewed as a “paradise” while the working class are still living the struggles of life…so in a way Metropolis can be viewed as heaven and the Working City is Earth in a Judaeo-Christian viewpoint. With the insurmountable amount of biblical undertones (and blatant references of Revelations with the “Whore of Babylon’), it’s probably no surprise that these two settings can be seen as such. I mean, the Eternal Gardens (7:30) look so much like the “Garden of Eden” or at least makes you feel like it is, so Metropolis must have some connection to heaven. Could also possibly be representations of Sodom and Gomorrah, but I don’t have enough information on those biblical cities to make a concrete answer.
One last little tid-bit that’s not necessarily related to setting. When Freder leaves Josaphat near the elevator right as Jon Fredersen’s assistant comes up the elevator (1:13:25), you see a working class man going up the elevator on the left side and an upper-class woman coming down on the right side (based on both their attires, I made this judgment on their class). I find it very fitting the rising of the working class and the fall of the upper-class happens through a simple, overextended camera shot. This happens midway through the film, so it’s just a masterstroke of cinematography to present that idea through visual representation/foreshadowing.