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Fritz Lang took a great risk to create Metropolis during the political turmoil in Germany that led to the rise of Nazism under Adolf Hitler. Although the movie is recognized for its long and complicated plot, it remains a very interesting film that effectively raises important questions that remain relevant to date. This paper seeks to analyze the various aspects of this movie in relation to the architecture and allocation of public spaces in the movie, conflicts or social issues raised, and its cinematic elements.
The tensions that exist between the worker and the elite have been there for centuries and Lang’s attempt to expound on this topic has been described as magical. Throughout the film, the workers are depicted as machines that the ruling simply exploit and overwork for their personal benefits. The movie sends a stern warning to ardent capitalist elites that workers are human beings and should be treated with dignity, lest they revolt. This movie, in my view, remains a masterpiece that depicts the true nature of the workers’ exploitation and is an old movie that comes to reality with the current employer-worker relationship.
Architectural and allocation of public spaces in the Movie
The general outlook of the city is that which has two different forms of life. For a movie set in 1927, the metropolis architectural plan is that in which the social amenities between the two social classes are separated. This is depicted by the fact that Freder is isolated from the harsh realities of the world outside. According to DeBartolo, “sheltered from the harsh realities of life, Freder may look like an adult, but he is really an innocent, overgrown child”. This statement may be translated that the location of public places for the poor is architecturally designed separately from those of the elites. A review of Metropolis reveals a city whose architectural landscape is characterized by rich neighborhoods located on the hillside and separate from the open fields separated from the comfort of the rich.
Conflicts or social issues
The city of Metropolis is driven by the elites who control most of the wealth and exploit the workers for their own benefit. The conflict of the class is one major theme in the film pitting the elites and their workers. In addition to this, this film seems to address the conflict between the haves and the have-nots and the role of technology in decreasing the standard of life it is actually meant to increase. The movie, therefore, depicts the social war between the workers and the Bourgeois of the city. This social structure is more like Marxism and is characterized by the feeling amongst the workers that they are alienated from the products they themselves lead in the manufacture. This seems to be the main theme of the movie (the worker vs. the Elite).
Analysis of Metropolis points to the fact that it is strongly symbolic of class. While there is the issue of the religious message that is deeply entrenched within its themes, dictatorship within this city remains rampant. According to DeBartolo, The Master of Metropolis is very much a dictator in Metropolis. He alone guides the city down its path. The workers are subjugated to slave roles in the running of the city. They live far underground, even below the factories in which they work. To me, this suggests that the workers are of no importance (portrayed symbolically by their position below the factories) than their families, their homes, and their lives.
In this movie, Lang has clearly demonstrated that our contemporary urban lives that are guided by the capitalist structure are composed of greedy and selfish men. Perhaps this is well illustrated by the ref in the analysis of this movie by stating that “Those who have the capacity to oppress others for their own gain will always do so, and the advancement of technology makes that easier”. This movie presents the true nature of contemporary urban life that is ruled by the very rich and exploits the very poor without due regard to their lives. In addition to the above, the use of technology as a means of production within factories has aggravated the exploitation of poor men. This points to our urban contemporary lives that comprise technology aimed at empowering the worker but in a true sense steals away their freedom and individuality. “The buried message is powerful: Science and industry will become the weapons of demagogues and this is certainly still applicable to our lives in the 21st century, perhaps more than ever with the world abuzz over human cloning and genetic manipulation” (Ebert, 2001).
The cinematic elements of sound and light in this movie effectively depict an early 21st-century movie. From the very start, you feel that the sounds are uniquely old that depict historical themes. The best cinematic element in this movie that has made it achieve its aim is characterization. Freder’s discovery of the blanket truth on the lives of the workers, his relation with his father, and his love affair with Maria depicts the true nature of the epic war between the proletariat and the thinkers. The shots are sharp that gives a clear view of movie stages and with a combination of various moods. Laced with a slow pace that makes it one of the longest movies I have watched, I consider the movie a masterpiece.
- DeBartolo, John. 50 Years of Looking at the Movies. The Silent Majority. 1998.
- Ebert, Roger. Metropolis. Chicago Sun-Times. January 1999.