For this week’s film, I watched Metropolis, a film directed by Fritz Lang. This German expressionist film examines the differences between the wealthy and working classes through a science fiction-based, futuristic plot. The film’s main plot is that a wealthy city ruler’s son, Freder, begins to notice the great differences between the wealthy and poor. Freder soon believes that he can be the prophesized “mediator” who can deliver the working class from their slave-like labor. This film clearly has many elements of Marxism, and it uses a lot of interesting religious symbolism as well.
From the opening scenes, Marxist overtones dominate the story. Workers are shown marching into the factory. They look depressed and overworked: their heads are down, their shoulders are slumped, and they march in a robotic fashion. This is reflective of the “oppressed, slave-like” condition of this poor class of workers.
In contrast, the film then shows scenes of the “Clubs of Sons,” which is a wealthy elite class enjoying recreation and the outdoors. It is at this point that Master Freder notices a young woman with a saintly appearance, surrounded by poor and starving children. This event sets Master Freder on his journey of finding this woman, whose name is Maria.
As Freder enters the factory, he is horrified by the working conditions. After a brief explosion, he visualizes the giant face of Moloch, and the factory workers then begin walking into his fiery mouth. This religious symbolism comes from the Bible, and the connotations were clear—the elite wealthy were essentially “sacrificing” these poor workers’ health and livelihood in the pursuit (worship) of materialism and wealth.
This is not the only religious symbolism in the film, either. The wealthy city is referred to as Babylon, and capitalists are clearly connected with this Babylonian system. Maria is always portrayed in a saintly way, and she “preaches” to the poor. A “whore” of a woman rides a beast in this film as well—a clear reference to the whore mentioned in the book of Revelation. It is interesting that this film used such imagery, for Karl Marx often said that religion was the “opiate of the masses” and that it was a means for the wealthy “rulers” to oppress the poorer classes.
Eventually, a scientists/inventor by the name of Rotwang creates a robotic version of Maria, and this robot temporarily holds Freder back from assuming his mediator role. Drawing from Marxist philosophy, the “ruler” tells Rotwang to make this robot in the image of Maria so that he could use the robot as a tool to keep the poor in oppression. However, in the end, Master Freder fulfills his role of mediatior, and he successfully bridges the “head and the hands.”
As a side note, I was surprised by the level of special effects in this film, especially considering it was from 1927. The scene in which Maria is infused into the robot seemed to be advanced for a film from this period. However, atheism, communism, and marxism are all a bunch of absurd hogwash, so that kinda ruined the film for me.