Metropolis – Destined for Failure?

Metropolis is a silent film created by Fritz Lang in 1927.  It takes place in a futuristic city where the rich people known as “The Club of the Sons” enjoy a comfortable lifestyle free from stress.  While they live a carefree life, they mostly disregard the workers, a group of people who are considered lower class and work ten hours a day on a twenty hour schedule.  In a series of events, Metropolis is nearly destroyed due to the poor relations found in this story, the most notable ones being class inequality and person vs machine.

Early on in the film, we can already see what the workers are like.  They march like an organized military squad but what’s even more notable is that they’re all hanging their heads as though they’re depressed and being forced into their jobs (4:56).  It’s almost as if they’re robots themselves. This is a stark difference from The Club of the Sons who are seen smiling, racing together on the track, and dancing at the Eternal Gardens (7:13-8:00).  It’s very similar to an interpretation of Heaven and Hell. Up in Metropolis, people are allowed to enjoy themselves and live peaceful lives while down in the worker’s city, they’re constantly forced to work even if they’re exhausted to the point of fainting.  It’s obviously unfair which fuels the workers hatred for the rich people. The only people who can see they must live in peace together are Freder and Maria, the protagonists of the story. While many think the city is a paradise, it’s also a symbol of scorn to the worker’s according to the Legend of Babel (55:00).  In the end, both classes suffer losses, the workers city is submerged in water while Metropolis is stuck in the dark without the Heart Machine. The story shows that one person’s utopia is another person’s dystopia. Every positive has a negative and people should be more cautious of it as it will make a difference.

The other relationship was person vs. machine.  There was early symbolism in the beginning that showed this when Freder first visited the workers city.  An explosion caused by a workers mistake created a hallucination in Freders mind where workers are being sacrificed to the machine (14:30).  When Machine Maria incites a rebellion, their anger isn’t directed at the upper-class but at the machines they constantly work with (1:43:07).  All of these show that workers are just slaves to the machines. By tirelessly working on ten hours straight and being injured in explosions from the machines, the workers have practically lost their humanity.  Machine Marias appearance only deepened their hatred for technology as the idea of people controlling machines slowly became twisted into the reverse (2:19:26). The difference between worker and machine is barely noticeable as both simply function the way they’re ordered to.  All of this can be blamed on Joh Fredersen but the machines, which have become an object of hatred in the workers eyes, had turned them into the exhausted, broken humans they were in the story.

Like most science fiction stories, this one explores the possibility of an imperfect situation that eventually crumbles due to its flaws.  In this case, it examined what would happen to a seemingly perfect city that concealed all the lower class underneath the ground. Lang wrote Metropolis as a warning to people, all actions have consequences.  Should the management have looked down upon the labor force? No, because that provoked rebellion.  Should the labor force have taken their anger out on the machines? Still no, because that led to both Metropolis and the workers city taking collateral damage.  Now they’re forced to work together again to build both cities back up from destruction. Overall, humanity should be more cautious of their actions as the result may or may not be good.

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