Metropolis is a story about the people whose backs wealth and success is built upon. It clearly illustrates the dichotomy between those that do, and those that benefit by the sweat of others.

The thinkers of Metropolis enjoy a luxurious lifestyle, but their success comes at the price of treating the workers like slaves and deprives them of their individuality. The story features Freder Fredersen (Gustav Froehlich), the son of Joh Fredersen (Alfred Abel), who is responsible for the fabled city of Metropolis. Like Siddartha, he wanders from his privileged background into the bowels of the city, where he witnesses the suffering of the workers and experiences it as he takes their place. He then runs into Maria (Brigitte Helm), a messiah for the workers. But unknown to him, his father's mercenaries, aided by the evil genius Rotwang (Rudolf Klein-Rogge), are tracking him and make plans to replace the messiah with a robot to subvert the workers' movement.

Director Fritz Lang's vision was visionary, and way ahead of its time. Even back in the 1920s, he was able to foresee the excesses of capitalism. Though I suspect Lang's biases were socialistic in nature, the movie is still instructive. The final message in the film is a positive one, that there is more to life than success or slaving away to benefit someone else.

The images evoked in the film is what makes it so powerful. In particular, there's a scene involving the senseless feeding of workers to the god "Moloch", which is a metaphor for the insignificance of the individual worker. The activities the workers perform are also pointless, illustrating the meaningless nature of Metropolis.

There's a strong tendency to credit single people for the achievements of millions. Throughout history, people have made leaps by standing on the shoulders of giants that are made up of large numbers of people, yet the credit overwhelmingly goes to individuals. In my view, this is a very narrow-minded perspective. Metropolis illustrates that it's worth paying attention to what's going on beneath the surface.

Movie ramblings || Ram Samudrala ||