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Messianic Themes in Metropolis

Page history last edited by Ian Stephens 11 years, 2 months ago

"There can be no understanding between the hands and the brain unless the heart acts as mediator". Lang's intention for the epigram in Metropolis was to set up our expectations that some great conflict would be resolved by a savior figure or messiah. The basic idea of a messiah is a person who leads others to salvation, or saves people from a terrible state of being (2). Lang uses a few characters as messiahs, Freder and Maria, and he even has an Antichrist figure in the robot Hel. Lang doesn't use his "mediator" in the purely religious sense of salvation unto heaven, but as a socio-economic salvation between the upper and lower classes. Lang's "mediator" is a representation of a lost middle-class in Wiemar Germany. Lang's Messianic theme is a part of ideology in film and more specifically class in film; please follow the links for more information.


Son of the Creator, Freder

Freder is the son of Joh Frederson, Metropolis's chief designer or "the brain." This fact allows Lang to use Freder as an allusion to Christ in that Freder is the son of this city's God. Freder seems like the typical rich kid stuck in adolescence until he looks into the eyes of Maria, who is leading children to the "Club of the Sons," and he begins his trail towards manhood. Freder then goes on a quest to discover his "brothers" which takes him to the M-Machine where he has a 'vision' or hallucination of a metaphorical pagan god, Moloch, eating workers marching as if they were just another part in the machine. Lang depicts Freder as a messiah because he is directed by his heart. Case in point, he is the only one of the upper classes to truly see the workers' suffering. Freder eventually follows his heart and lives as the workers do by performing, as Ferr tells us, "the time wasting chore of moving giant clock hands - by hand - in a sinister evocation of Leonardo da Vinci's 'Vitruvian Man'" (1). In the secret meeting held by Maria, Freder feels inspired by what the "mediator" must do and as the light, or divine inspiration, shines on him, the audience knows what his fate will be. But Freder's mission is complicated because of the Antichrist-like actions of Hel.




Ave Maria

Maria is the other character of Lang's "Mediators." Maria tells the audience about the major conflict between "the brain and the hands." We see her as the peaceful leader of the workers' rebellion, but, as many religious figures, the symbol of Maria (her body) was transformed by those in power (Fredersen and Rotwang) into something evil (the robot Hel). As with the mythos of Jesus and the Antichrist, Maria and Hel cannot perform their actions while the other is there, hence the scene of the witch burning where Maria and Hel seem the most passive. Lang uses Maria to depict the "mediator"  that the laborers so desperately want, but as the Virgin Mary isn't, Christ-Maria can't be the "mediator". But that doesn't stop Lang from depicting Maria in a Christlike way. Take the scene when Maria tells the story of the Tower of Babel; she is in front of an altar, many wooden crosses in the background, with her arms outstretched and eyes gazing upward in a classic pose taken by Christ in religious paintings. Even her shawl draped over her shoulders gives the illusion that she is actually on a cross.



Antichrist: Hel on Earth

The Antichrist is supposed to be the "adversary of Christ while resembling him in a deceptive manner," and Hel is that in spades (4). She is not only pragmatic and a wonderful orator like Maria, but she is also the exact physical copy of her. Lang uses Hel's status as the Antichrist as a metaphor for the excessive rationality in machines and their destruction of the heart. In the picture below Hel is being depicted as the Whore of Babylon. The Whore of Babylon was, in chapters 17 and 18 in the Book of Revelations, said to be a woman "arrayed in purple and scarlet...decked with gold and precious stones and pearls, having a golden cup in her hand full of abominations andfilthiness of her fornication"(6) Lang places Hel's base of operations directly in the pleasure district and she is seen throughout the pleasure district in glamorous costumes and outfits that could be imagined with all the finery expressed in the Biblical verse. 



Another verse describes the Whore as "drunken with the blood of the saint,  and with the blood of the martyrs of Jesus"(6). Hel seems to be drunk with her power, or with her knowledge of destroying the children of the workers, when she is being carried to the stake to be burned. We can see Hel bask in her glory as the destroyer of the new Babylon, even while the workers are clamoring to burn her, some even trying to tear her apart. In the clip below we can see that Hel has lost all sense of propriety and deception. She tells the revilers at her base, "Lets watch the world go to the devil".



Hel has surpassed all her maker Rotwang's desires of bringing Frederson to his knees, she actually enjoys the distruction she's brings to Metropolis, infact she is never happer that at the point where she is captured by the workers and dragged to the stake. Hel's deception over the people of Metropolis is complete enough that she can fool even Freder into believing that his Maria had been captured. Oddly, Hel does not provoke an epic war with Maria, unlike her anti-christ counterpart is supposed to do. Hel almost gives her self over to her enemies. It is almost as if she wants to to end her life and become the mindless robot she once was.


Works Cited

1. Kerr, John Finlay. "The Cultural Architect of Metroplois" Screen Edcutation. Winter 2008, Issue 50 p. 105-110 Ebscohost.com

2. "Metropolis" Wikipedia.com. October 11, 2009. Web. October 12, 2009.

3. "Savior" Wikipedia.com. October 11, 2009. Web. October 12, 2009.

4. "Antichrist" Wikipedia.com. October 12, 2009. Web. October 13, 2009.

5. jhuppert5@aol.com "Metropolis" leninimports.com. 2009 Web. October 13, 2009.

6. "Whore of Babylon" Wikipedia.com. October 29, 2009. Web. October 29, 2009.

Comments (1)

Sean Desilets said

at 3:35 pm on Oct 16, 2009

* Jeez. I'm not used to having no criticism for something. This page is excellent.
* Some mechanical cleanup is in order.
* I suppose it would be possible to talk about the question of using religious symbolism to convey what Air thinks are secular goals.

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