Scholars and critics have been divided on the representations and implications of the social, economic, technological, and political imaginary in Lang’s Metropolis. On the one hand, Eggebrecht, in Germany, condemned the film’s “mythical” description of the “unshakeable dialectic of the class struggle”…
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This essay analyses Lang’s creation of two opposing worlds in Metropolis through the director’s theatrical and painterly treatment of the Metropolis’ society and camera movement and editing. The managers’ and workers’ worlds generally collided, because of conflicting interests that intersected prevailing class, technology, and gender issues, although the film’s ending suggested some form of resolution through “mediation.”
Lang used stylised architecture, which has a “layered structure” that captures the class, age, and gender divisions in society. Each of the film’s shot progresses to another in a more vertical fashion than horizontal, which delineates the vertically-structured, capitalist social class system. The skyscrapers and its vertical divisions underscore the linkages among different sectors of society. The bottom layers serve to buttress the upper layers. More so, these layered buildings delineate the sharp division between the managerial and working class. The New Tower of Babel “dominates the skyline” and stands for the vertical social class structure (Lunning 2008, p.130). It serves as the “control” centre or the brain of the whole metropolis, while other infrastructures radiate from it (Lunning 2008, p.130). Its internal mechanisms also plunge further below towards the roots, where the workers live and work. The working class are further divided by gender and age, where the young workers are more visible than the older ones. The female aspect of labour is invisible in this film. Rotwang symbolises the dualism between the old and young and the female and male, as he lives in his old and cavernous laboratory. This laboratory represents his old age, which is tempered, or rather worsened, by his brilliance. His prosthetic hand represents the decay of humanity and the rise of technology and it is the same hand that “lights” Maria with an artificial light source (Roth 1978, p.344). The loss of his hand signifies the “castration” of the male because of his pursuit of the robot version of Hel, his loved one, and the “castration” of his humanity, because he became obsessed in producing technology to fill in the missing human connection in his life (Roth 1978, p.344). He is also old and he needed technology to sustain his life’s ambitions, unlike the young Maria and Freder who use their energy to achieve their missions in life. His laboratory is a labyrinth of his mind, the conscious logic. Still, Lang showed that no matter how genius Rotwang seems, his emotionality clouded his rationality, which resulted to his doom. The Metropolis is also geographically defined with a clear division between the upper and lower ground, as the urban space further allocated spaces “for living, working, and recreation” (Lunning 2008, p.130). The subterranean portion of the city houses the workers and their offspring, while the beautiful, panoramic, and technology-driven upper segment supports the managers and their brethren. Stoicea (2006) talked about the
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