The Visualisation of Dystopian Elements in Fritz Lang's "Metropolis"

Essay, 2012

5 Pages, Grade: 1,0


The visualization of dystopian elements in the preludeon the introduction to the atmosphere in “Metropolis”

The futuristic film “Metropolis” was Fritz Lang's reaction to his trip to New York in 1924. Both being shocked and brimming over with enthusiasm for the city's skyscrapers, cars as well as the rapid development of machines, inventions and thus the whole human life, he was able to realize the dangers that lie therein. It is the aim of this essay to examine how exactly Lang tried to present his fears and speculations to the spectators in order to initiate them in the set of problems depicted in the film

The first thing we see is that in the mega- city Metropolis are living two different classes of society, and the lives of the people could not be more discrete:

First of all, the workers in the underground and their depressing living quarters are shown. Everyone is dressed in grey, dark colours prevail and create a melancholy, sad atmosphere. The uncomfortable environment is dull and suffocating. The men move in a way that resembles a convict's last march to the scaffold, with the music always emphasizing the mood of a scene

They all look to the ground and seem to be tired and hopeless, almost resembling a mass of prisoners. No individuals can be figured out because there is an absolute uniformity and anonymity. Like slaves, they are treated as inferior people having to obey their ruthless masters who force them to live and work under miserable conditions

In contrast to this claustrophobic subterranean world, the great city is shown with its numerous skyscrapers and impressive architecture. The carefree ruling class enjoys their live to the full and the sun shines brightly. We see young men doing sports in the open, embodying the direct opposite of the workers previously shown

These men are very active and vivacious in their bright, glistening upper world where they

profit from industrialization and technical achievements. Thus, the audience is not only made aware of the social gap between the rich and the working class, but the first also recognizes the spatial separation which becomes all the more clear with Freder and the women in the beautiful garden

Surrounded by an artificial ambience with a fountain and flowers, they play tag and hide- andseek. Everyone is happily dancing around and they are obviously enjoying themselves. Their ostentatious self- display is ridiculed by the women's skimpy, flamboyant clothing and exaggerated heavy make- up. To sum up, the upper class advertises affluence and luxury which were only made possible due to the lower working class

When Maria and the children suddenly appear on the scene, it is clear that she is the very opposite of the rich women, being discretely dressed and putting her arms lovingly around the boys and girls who always stay by her side. Freder is immediately taken by her beauty and amiableness, but Maria is sent away. She has stepped over a boundary by entering this sparkling world to which she does not belong. Considered as a disturbing, less precious human being, she is forced to return to the underworld

The next remarkable scene is Freder's journey downwards when he discovers all those gigantic, complex machines and the workers running them. The latter's task is almost unbearable, as the men's movements resemble those of mere robots because they cannot identify with the work they have to do. It has become senseless, with this alienation being emphasized by a man who has to move the watch hands of a clock according to where the lights are flashing up

What is more, one monstrous machine explodes and many workers got injured and killed. Everything is covered with vapour and dense smoke, and finally the machine is like an ogre that eats up the men. Here Fritz Lang points out the terrible treatment of those men, given the fact that the really dangerous work has to be done by the poor who have no safety at their workplace

After having witnessed this disastrous accident, Freder returns to his father in order to question him about the grievances in the underworld. Joh Fredersen who founded and rules Metropolis personifies the unreachable authority of the city, residing in the masterpiece of architectural design: the Tower of Babel. This awe- inspiring, large building differs enormously from the monotonous block of buildings where the poor people live, so the immediate juxtaposition of two distinct environments underlines the inequalities within the society one more time

After the conversation with his son, Joh Fredersen commissions a spy to follow Freder wherever he goes. This behaviour shows his distrust as well as his growing perturbation about some mysterious maps making him be afraid of a clandestine underground conspiracy

In his excitement and anger, Fredersen fires Josaphat. The audience understands that the rich are intangible and soulless people who neither care about the poor workers nor about those who come from the same class, with Fredersen showing absolutely no emotions when he remains in his office whereas Josaphat in black despair attempts to commit suicide. This stirring scene is very captivating because we commiserate with Josaphat who sees no way out of his situation and already draws his pistol

Fortunately, Freder intervenes, prevents this act of desperation and resolves to descend again to the underground. There he meets the worker Georgy 11811 who almost collapses during his work at the machine because he is already so exhausted by moving to and fro the clock's heavy watch hands

For one thing, this scene illustrates again the degrading, mechanistic work the poor have to do. It is an inconceivably hard life of exploitation without any joy or distractions

For another, Georgy's 'name' alludes to the uniformity which has already been shown at the beginning. The workers are reduced to robots, and the most simple sign of a proper identity, one's own name, is refused to them. Instead, a meaningless number replaces the men's individuality. They become exchangeable, so this is the reason why Freder, after having decided to help Georgy 11811, is able to take his place by changing their clothes in order to


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The Visualisation of Dystopian Elements in Fritz Lang's "Metropolis"
University of Stuttgart
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fritz, lang, metropolis
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Manü Mohr (Author), 2012, The Visualisation of Dystopian Elements in Fritz Lang's "Metropolis", Munich, GRIN Verlag,


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