Final Paper: Metropolis (a 1927 German film) 14210568
Many people are used to the image as a way to receive information, through the film is the story. Film is not just the life of entertainment, as a media form, is presented in conjunction with a lot of culture produced by an art type images. The film “Metropolis” is a significant German silent science-fiction film released in 1927 by Fritz Lang. It able to represent and portray the culture, political and social ideologies in Germany during that time. Since the remarkable work of “Metropolis”, it is regarded as one of timeless classics that withstand the test of time.
The film “Metropolis” explicitly demonstrated different aspects of European culture since the Enlightenment, including the working class culture, totalitarian culture and the worship of technology.
First of all, the relation between the working class and the bourgeoisie is revealed. In the film, the city was vertically separated into two spaces clearly, implying the differences of lifestyle between the working class and the capitalists, by sharply contrast of spatial distribution and configuration. The film opens by showing the city of the workers which is below the ground. Workers who wearing monotonous uniforms have to work day and night as a machine in the factories where are completely dark. Conversely, there is an entirely subversive life on the ground. It is the world of the bourgeoisie which is a thriving metropolis. It is a magnificent, gigantic city with gleaming skyscrapers linked by aerial highways, suspension bridges, and bustling street. People live in comfort and plenty, with huge stadiums and pleasure gardens. These effusive and energetic images show the life of the bourgeoisie are full of technology and possibilities. Also, the presence of the sentence “As deep as lay the workers’ city below the earth, so high above it towered the complex named the ‘Club of the Sons,’ with its lecture halls” in the film also revealed the mirroring yet opposite environments in which the labor and the capitalists live in. Such high distinction emphasizes the social relationship of bourgeoisie and proletarians, and the rulers and the exploited.
Working people are seen as a labor force, and usually regarded as passive victims of laissez faire as well as the capitalism (Thompson, p.3). For the purpose of working for the chosen elite Joh Federsen, the ruler of Metropolis, they are the masses of nameless workers who have to labor in an industrial complex to accomplish repetitive and dull tasks, and just served as a cog in a machine or a tool or production without emotional expression and communication, in order to sustain Metropolis. It seems that the film “Metropolis” portrays the working class culture which workers are always in alienation, and squeezed and exploited by the rulers, in particular their labor forces, by comparing the lives of workers to capitalists. Besides, the pictures drawn in the movie indicates that the workers has class-consciousness (Thompson, p.1). For instance, Freder is not accepted by the workers when he attempting to integrate into the working class since the workers recognize him as Joh Fredersen’s son.
Apart from the working class culture, totalitarian cultures are also demonstrated in “Metropolis”. Totalitarian movement and government are characterized by aiming at total domination and resting on mass support (Arendt, p.351). Totalitarian regimes seek to hold the total authority over the society and dominate all aspects of public and private life wherever possible. In the film, Metropolis is ruled by wealthy industrialists (capitalists), led by Joh Fredersen, a king in a suit, also the commander-in-chief. Joh Fredersen is the “head” of the city, is to give commands to the machine systems (i.e. the workers), in order to keep the city runs. He is the leader of the “elites” who holding most of the resources and managing the working class. However, underground-dwelling workers have to toil constantly to operate the machines, and they have no choice. The workers were only the “hand” of the city, just like robots, “one command, one action”. They are not be respected and cared by the ruler; instead, they are just considered as the means of production. For example, when Freder told his father about the industrial accident that resulted in death of workers, Joh Fredersen first seen to be no response and tried to ignore him, and later he said the workers should belong to the depth where it was not they belonged to. It seems that no actions should be taken since Fredersen think those workers are just the tool operating the machine system. On the other hand, the workers did not have complaints and actions against the commander, even still continued to work as before as nothing was happened. It reveals that the working class is living worthless, and is dominated to work for serving the capitalists. Metropolis is obviously a totalitarian regime as the working class is managed by Fredersen, and they have been isolated and ignored.
Furthermore, the worship of technology and science and its relation with the bourgeoisie are also reflected in the movie. “Capitalism is the first mode of production in world history to institutionalize self-sustaining economic growth.” (Habermas, p. 247) It leads to an extremely fast rate of economic growth, which can increase living conditions and lead to a more prosperous country, therefore, legitimacy of the state can also be provided. And technology and science is the dominating force in the capitalist society. Metropolis is obviously a kind of capitalist society. In the film, there are lots of tall skyscrapers touching one another with roadway fingers and buzzed about by airplanes and blimps, in particular the Tower of Babel, and thus it is technology-driven. In order to enhancing the economic growth, the leader of Metropolis as well as the capitalists will emphasize work as an important force; technology plays a major part of the society in sustaining the city. Therefore, no longer is work part of the subsystem of the society, work becomes the driving force in the society. For example, when the grievances of the workers broken out, with strike, revolt and revolution, the Metropolis has to face the suffering from the attack of underground water. It seems that there will be the collapse of the society when the action of work, the dominating force in the capitalist society and is prompted by the bourgeoisie who are profit-seeking, is not functioning. The machine system used to sustain the city is fail as the strike of the workers. On the other hand, Fredersen also cannot build, control or monitor the city without technological power and the work-flow of information supported by technology.He has to depend on technology for his control of Metropolis. It seems that technology and science become the ideology of Metropolis, the capitalist society, to maintain the city operates.
For the movie “Metropolis”, the scene showing the two clocks vertically strike me most. The bottom clock counts off the time in ten hour increments for the workers, while the upper clock uses a 24-hour system, for managers, engineers and administrators. I think these two clock is about the interpretation of time, reflecting the two social classes which is the working class and the capitalists, also implying work is the driven force of the society. This scene is fully illustrated the working class culture. The clock emphasizes the control of time over the workers. Just as a machine is always under the control of an external influence, the worker is controlled by the system of Metropolis. They just know they should work day by day, and denied the rhythms of daylight and night. Unlike the capitalists on the ground, their lives is work, no other things. For them, time is not important and even meaningless. The exploitation of the workers, and as the passive victims of capitalism are the significant characteristics of the working class culture.
To conclude, different aspects of European culture since the Enlightenment are demonstrated by the film “Metropolis”. Not only that, the movie also represent and reveal the current working condition of labors in the certain extent. In some workplace, especially in the developing countries with cheap labors, workers are much easier in alienation, only working relationship and exploitation but no meaningful communication and mutual care between them and the capitalists. Same as the film portrayed, no one will leave their sphere. No one thinks about how the other half lives. No one is curious. The interaction becomes less important, and many of the social and cultural attributes of society fall apart. This is an unhealthy social phenomenon that should be aware and addressed.
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