Sunday, September 8, 2013

Metropolis Critique

     Metropolis is a movie about the struggle for power and recognition in a city divided by wealth and status.  It can be seen as posing the question of whether or not a society can survive by exploiting it's own people.  Ultimately, the answer is no, and the theme transitions accordingly to address the moral ramifications of achieving equality through peace and violence.  Despite being made almost ninety years ago in a time of prosperity in Germany, the film has many themes which are relevant in today's world.
     The world in which the film is set in, despite being futuristic, is largely believable.  The disconnect between the government types and workers, or "head and hands," can be compared to societies involved in slavery, in which the lives of the workers are unimportant to those who benefit from their work.  This is evident in the beginning when Frederson learns of the explosions and deaths in the worker city and shows little sympathy for the loss, as he is only concerned with having ultimate control over the city and those who work for him.  Frederson is an interesting antagonist, as he is responsible for the riots and the floods, but also displays a limited amount of morality when he realized his decisions put his son in danger.
     A phrase used in the movie, "The mediator between head and hands must be the heart," can be seen as summing up the plot of the movie.  Freder, the mediator, seeks to peacefully unite the two parties because he is emotionally involved in both.  Being the son of "the head," and in love with the leader of "the hands," his motivations to avoid violent revolts run deep.  The phrase can also be seen as meaning something else entirely.  The "heart" could be a symbol of man's free will and choice.  Frederson and Rotwang originally want to use robots to become workers, indistinguishable from normal humans, and devoid of a literal heart.  The phrase, which is the last image of the movie, can be seen as the main message of Metropolis: man's free will and ability to think is the most important aspect of life, and leads to a balanced world.
     Seeing the movie in 2013, it can be looked at as almost prophetical, with the most obvious connection being to the world war 2 era.  The city appears wholesome and flourishing, but soon turns to turmoil after the evil leader uses violence to control the population.  Later, after the conflict, the two sides were, at first, still unwilling to come to an agreement, which can be reminiscent of east and west Germany.  Metropolis was a movie that was ahead of it's time, both in production and special effects, and in subject matter and themes.  Seeing the movie in today's world makes one realize how the basic struggles in life never really change over time, as people want a world in which they can make a difference.