Summary

Metropolis is the story of two cities.  The utopic "Metropolis" rises high in the sky and the dystopic "Lower City" extends to the underground.  Freder, the son of the leader of Metropolis, is prophesied to become a mediator for the two cities.  He has visions of factory machines eating men and of a doomsday clock.  Maria is the woman who explains the prophecy and with whom Freder later falls in love.  Things go awry when the leader of Metropolis, Freder's father, plots with the inventor Rotwang to create a false version of Maria.  She hastens the doomsday clock by leading a rebellion of the lower people which ends up flooding the lower city.  Fortunately, Freder finds the real Maria and together they save the city.  The ending is a cooperation between the leaders of the two cities.



Socio-Historical Context

1:  At the time this movie was made, industry was in full tilt in Europe and America.  The proles in the lower city work in large shifts that rotate 24 hours a day.  In one scene all the men are working together in an almost meditative state in front of a giant machine.  In fact the workers move so precisely that they seem part of the rotation.  The machine overheats and explodes.  Freder sees a vision of men being eaten by a demonic head on top of the machine.  The scene suggests that the machines we have made to work for us are now working us.  And we are being consumed by our own creations.
 

Main underground machine

Freder's apocalyptic hallucination 

2:  In a sermon by Maria, she tells an alternate story of the tower of Babel.  Although it is a biblical story, it parallels what was going on with the great pace of industry in the 1920's.  She tells how a small upper class of "planners" led the huge "worker" class to build a great tower.  The tower was the largest construction ever built, but when the workers learned that it was strictly for the upper class to enjoy, they tore it down.  Above the fallen tower were the words,  "Great is the world and Its creator and great is man".  This phrase gives men the permission to create just like God.


Fritz Lang's vision of the future



Connections to the Book of Revelation 1:  Impending apocalypse is a theme in this film.  As tension builds between the two cities Freder has a vision of a doomsday clock.  He pulls the clock arms but nothing he can do can stop the imminent end.  The vision is fulfilled later when the lower city starts to flood because the power plant is destroyed.
 

Doomsday clock

Freder struggles

2:  Another theme from revelation is the whore of Babylon.  Freder falls into fever and sees images of the false Maria dancing in a whorehouse.  She rises up on the statue of a stone beast with seven heads.  This connects to the passages in Revelation that speak of a false messiah who looks and speaks like the true one.


Maria as the "Whore of Babylon"


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