An interpretation of “The Machine Stops” and “Metropolis”

All though both of these works are of science-fiction genre, they have very little in common. “The Machine Stops”, is presented in a cautionary fashion, it presents, at first, a future society that is leaps and bounds different from our modern say society. Later, the story goes on to have the characters talk about the past and how they have “evolved” compared to us. The major themes involve individuality, technology, and perceptions. “Metropolis”, on the other hand, is presented in a much different manner. Although it also is a cautionary tale, it focuses on a matter that is more personal, rather than something that can connect to everyone. “Metropolis” was clearly made by and for god fearing men; religious symbolism plagues every scene of this film, making it, at times, sound extremely preachy. In this, however, lie the similarities between these two works; they are both cautionary and use religious symbolism/parallels to convey their message.  One, however, uses religion in a more insulting manner, while the other favors it.

Let me start with “Metropolis”, as I have the most to say about it. This movie represents machinery/technology in not only a negative way, but in a down right evil way. To begin with, the intro quote “The mediator between brain and hands must be the heart”. Now this could have been used in various intelligent ways to caution mankind of how over zealous it has become with technology, and how man should always listen to their conscious in the pursuit of advancing technology, as the ethics of technology are just as important as the need for advancements in those fields. Instead this movie uses the quote to present a messiah/eve like figure to connect to the quote; ending the movie in a terrible and cheesy way. Let me elaborate, one of the first scenes where the religious symbols comes into play is in the garden scene of the prelude. The garden in this scene is shown in a innocently ignorant fashion; here Freder can be seen blissfully enjoying his time in this garden, at this point Freder is ignorant to what goes on under the city of Metropolis. In comes Maria, Maria at this point can be seen as a parallel to Eve. In religious texts it is Eve that convinces Adam to taste of the forbidden fruit, and in the movie it is because of Maria that Freder comes to know the horrors of what lies under Metropolis in the depths. The parallels of Maria to the virign mary/eve, and of Freder to christ/adam to not only end there but let me get back to that later. In a later scene when we are introduced to Rogart and the Machine-man, behind the Machine-man, on the wall there is a inverted pentegram (talk about subtlety), additionally, a pentagram can be seen on the front door of the building that Rogart works in. Inverted pentagrams symbolize the rejection of the holy trinity from the christian mythos; therefore, the message that Fritz Lang is trying to convey is that machines are evil and the work of the devil. In the scene after this, we see Maria preaching in front of a collection of crosses (again, your subtlety is art, Fritz Lang); therefore, she is represented as a force of good fighting against the evil that is the Machine-man. The scene in the catacombs also has a scene where Maria refers to Freder as the mediator, further proving that the movie paints him as a messiah-like figure, such as christ. In a later scene Rogart gives the Machine-man the appearance of Maria to trick the laborers of the city to revolt and destroy the machines. Additionally, in another scene a priest reads an excerpt from a bible that represents women simply as man’s desire; therefore, Fritz Lang chose the Machine-man to take the shape of a woman to further emphasize the machine man as evil; the addition of the female form attaches the idea of the seven deadly sins to the Machine-man. This is also supported by the club seen in which men gawk at the Machine-man and become violent, thus causing the statues of the seven deadly sins, seen throughout the film (again with that subtlety, how do you do it Mr.Lang?), to replace the men that are holding the Machine-man up on a pedestal; at this point Machines/technology have become synonymous with sin. In the scene where the Machine-man convinces the workers of the city to revolt, it uses quotes such as, “Who is the living food for the machines in metropolis?” and “Who lubricates the machine joints with their own blood?”.These quote are use to represent that all men serve evil, thus paving the way for next scene. The city begins to flood during the films climax, this is a parallel to the great flood from the bible, but on a much smaller scale and no one dies (aw shucks). There is not much to this scene other than Lang creating a slight parallel with this seen with the water as symbol for washing away the evil of man through the destruction of the machines, as well as the goodness of Freder and Maria being further emphasized. Lastly the movie ends with Freder bringing peace, again messiah-like imagery. I could go on but I’m short on time as I’m doing this with a couple minutes left until the deadline. Side note, that soundtrack was AMAZING!

Moving on to the “Machine Stops”. I thought this story was actually really funny and it reminded me a lot about Wall-E. I think this would serve better as a black comedy. Now over all I liked this story a lot more than “Metropolis” as it felt purely like a cautionary tale, with no religious agenda. It perfectly paints a picture of our over reliance on technology, and man-kinds further over-dependency on technology. Although things like Skype are great for getting in touch with people who you do not have easy access to, it is a dangerous precedence in a society that is growing ever lazier. One of the only things this short story shares in common with the “Metropolis” is the fact that they use religion to convey a point. In the “Machine Stops” religion is used to paint a picture of just how over reliant on machines man has become. At one point Vashti becomes insulted when Kuno says she is basically praising the machine as god, but Vashti responds by saying religion is foolish and a thing of the past. Despite Vashti’s response to religion she has parallels to religious people such as her constant need to seek guidance from The book of Machine(pg6), they way she holds the book reverently(pg4), and how she has a mini ritual where she repeats things in threes before opening the book(pg5). This blind faith the people of this society have in The Book of Machine, however, uses religion in a negative light; their inability to have their own thoughts and relying on the machine as God, has led to the down fall of their society, and the deaths of all who inhabit it (brutal). Again I could go deeper, but last minute!!!! I’ll do this ahead of time next time (maybe).

1 thought on “An interpretation of “The Machine Stops” and “Metropolis”

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *