4. Metropolis (1927)

Directed by Fritz Lang

Written by Thea van Harbnou 

Produced by Erich Pommer

Starring: Alfred Abel, Brigitte Helm, Gustav Frohlick, Rudolph Klein-Rogge 

Country: Germany

Running Time: 153 minutes

Release Date: January 10, 1927

Why You Should see it? 

Metropolis is a silent era dystopia (the first one) and the first serious sci-fi movie. This movie is a must seen movie for any sci-fi connoiseur. Metropolis features special effects and set design that still impress movie goers, Metropolis is a really timeless  classic by a master German expressionist, the movie is an achievement of modernism in visual arts.  This movie is based in a novel by Thea von Harbor, Fritz Lang’s wife; and had inspire endless sci-fiction writers like George Lucas (C3PO is inspired in Lang’s robots) and even Phillip K.  Dick.

The movie es full of christian symbolism and better said is a great piece of German expressionism, actually endowed with parallels with Stalin’s Soviet Union, better said Metropolis is an alphabet soup of ideologies (fascism, communism, Christianity, physiology and fable everything is there) . Metropolis is not a powerful dystopia better said it is a fairy tale dystopia of a capitalist world. I believe that the workers of Metropolis actually resemble with the life of any sweatshop workers, proving that modern life is the real dystopia. And of course Metropolis display the presence of my favorite archetype: the virgin/whore.

PLOT

n the futuristic mega-city Metropolis, society is divided into two classes. The “managers”(they live in luxurious skyscrapers) and the workers (they live and toil underground). The city was founded and built by the autocratic Joh Fredersen. Fredersen’s son, Freder, lives a life of luxury as do all the sons of the manager class. One day, as Freder is cavorting in the Eternal Gardens, he sees a beautiful girl who has with her a group of workers’ children. She is quickly shooed away, but Freder becomes infatuated with her and follows her down to the workers’ underworld. There, he sees the horrors of the workers’ lives. He is appalled when an enormous machine, the M-Machine, violently explodes, killing dozens of workers. In the smoke, Freder envisages the M-Machine as Moloch, a monstrous deity to which the hapless workers are sacrificed.

Freder returns to the New Tower of Babel, a massive skyscraper owned by his father. There, he confronts his father about the workers’ plight and the accident at the M-Machine. Grot, foreman of the Heart Machine, arrives to inform Fredersen of several mysterious maps which have been found in workers’ pockets. Because he has not heard both of these bits of news from Josaphat, his clerk, Fredersen fires him, and also orders a spy  to tail his son. Outside Fredersen’s office, Freder thwarts Josaphat’s suicide and persuades him to help with his quest to help the workers. After instructing Josaphat to wait for him at his apartment, Freder descends to the workers’ underworld again and meets a worker named Georgy, #11811. Freder persuades Georgy to exchange clothes with him, go to Freder’s apartment, and let Freder work at the machine. However, Georgy finds wads of money in the pockets of Freder’s clothing and goes instead to Yoshiwara, the city’s red-light district, to pursue a girl in an adjacent automobile. While Georgy enjoys a night of wild parties, Freder becomes delirious working at the machine, having never worked a day in his life, and begins having visions of being crucified on the factory clock.

Fredersen, wondering about the papers found, decides to consult the scientist Rotwang, his old collaborator, who lives in an old house contained in the lower levels of the city. The two were once friends but became rivals over the love of a woman, Hel, who eventually chose Fredersen. Hel died giving birth to Freder, leaving both Rotwang and Fredersen heartbroken and loathing each other. Rotwang’s love for Hel and his hatred of Fredersen remain as strong as ever. After Frederson notices Rotwang now has a mechanical hand, Rotwang introduces Fredersen to a Machine-Man he has constructed, to which he intends to give the image of Hel. When Fredersen, seeks Rotwang’s counsel about the papers. Rotwang explains that they are maps to the 2,000-year old catacombs that are deep under the lowest levels of the workers’ city. The two enter the catacombs and reach the workers’ meeting-place. From a gap in the rocks, they observe the beautiful Maria preaching to the workersabout theTower of Babel and about how they must wait for the coming Mediator. Her theme is that the heart must be mediator between the head  and the hands.

At the end of the sermon, the disguised Freder reveals his true identity to Maria and tells her that he must be the Mediator she has been waiting for. Fredersen, who has turned away in thought, sees none of this; Rotwang, however, sees everything. Fredersen instructs Rotwang to give the machine-man the image of Maria in order to sow discord between her and the workers. Rotwang acquiesces but has ulterior motives, intending to use the machine-man to ruin Fredersen’s life. While Fredersen returns to his office, Rotwang chases Maria through a tunnel up into his house, capturing her. Freder, hearing her screams, attempts to rescue her, but he is imprisoned in the house.

Rotwang transforms the machine-man into a double of Maria. He then commands it to destroy Fredersen, his city, and his son. Downstairs, a door opens, allowing Freder to ascend a staircase. He encounters Rotwang, who tells him that Maria is not here; rather, she is with Fredersen. When Freder arrives at his father’s office, he sees the machine  embracing his father. Freder suffers a mental breakdown and collapses. During his convalescence that night, he hallucinates vividly about passages from the Book of Revelation and death’s descent upon the city.

Rotwang demonstrates the machine-man’s abilities to Fredersen by dressing it up as an erotic dancer at the Yoshiwara, where it drives the sons of the owners into homicidal fits of sexual jealousy. The body count is enormous; meanwhile, the machine-man also visits the workers’ city and encourages the workers to rebel. Freder arrives and tells the workers that this Maria is a fraud. The workers instead recognize him as Fredersen’s son and attempt to kill him. In the fight, Georgy tries to defend Freder but is accidentally stabbed. The workers storm the M-Machine and destroy the Heart Machine, the city’s power generator. This results in a complete hydraulic breakdown. Maria, after Frederson confronts Rotwang about the events of the night, escapes and makes her way to the workers city. The city’s reservoirs overflow and inundate the workers’ city to the brim, threatening to drown the children of the workers. However, the children are saved by Maria, Freder, and Josaphat in a heroic rescue.

The workers, realizing what they have done, and believing that they have killed their children, blame Maria. Under Grot’s leadership, they dash to the upper city to pursue the real Maria. They run into the reveling crowds from the Yoshiwara and meet the owners’ sons, led by the machine Maria. In the ensuing confusion, Maria escapes and the machine-man is tied to a stake and burned. The flames burn off the likeness of Maria and reveal the machine-man’s true form to the crowd.

Meanwhile, Rotwang, who has broken down completely and believes her to be Hel, corners Maria in a cathedral. Freder climbs up to the roof and battles Rotwang as Fredersen watches in horror. Rotwang falls to his death, and Freder and Maria return to the street. Freder takes his first step as mediator, overcoming the mutual reluctance of Grot and Fredersen to join hands, thus beginning a period of unity and reform.

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