Nowadays, much attention is paid to studying various artistic works and searching for the disguised meanings in them which have the significant impact on viewers. Also, they can influence their perceptions of themselves, their lives, the surrounding environment, as well as social, economic and political aspects. One of such artistic works which had an enormous influence on the society in the first half of the 20th century is Metropolis. Notwithstanding the fact that this film was mute, the artists and the makers intended to convey numerous messages to the society. One of the most notable was the one concerning religion. It was visualized in the opposing images, behaviors, and actions of the real Marian and Machine-Man with her image also named Maria. These two personalities had a quite different effect on the representatives of the upper and lower social classes by inducing them to good and wrong doings. This work gives the general description and analysis of the acts and behaviors of various characters of the discussed movie. This is necessary for understanding that film Metropolis has a strong religious meaning with the human Maria playing the role of God and the robot Maria playing the role of Satan.
This essay will provide the reflection on one of the greatest films shot in the beginning of the 20th century – Metropolis. It is expressionist epic science-fiction film produced by Fritz Lang and introduced to the broad audience in 1927 (Metropolis 1927). Metropolis is a mute film where all the actors express their emotions not by words, but by the movements of their bodies and mimics. This futuristic urban dystopia has a strong religious meaning that will be discussed below.
One of the major heroes of this film is Maria – a young woman from the working class in the futuristic wealthy industrial city Metropolis whose citizens are divided into the wealthy class that lives above the ground and lower class of workers that operate the machines which ensure the functioning of the upper city. They live and work “deep below the Earth’s surface” (Lanf n.p.). Maria, being the representative of the working class, protects children, calls to peace and negotiation of the working and ruling classes, and appeals to the brotherhood of all the people irrespective of their social position and engagement. In the middle of the film, she is replaced by a Machine-Man who was given the Maria’s image. The producer (the Inventor) and the ruler of the Metropolis (Joh Fredersen) did it with the selfish aim to destroy the image of Maria among both societies. They also wanted to avoid arrangements and free expressions of common workers and cancel the expectations of the working class concerning the coming of a mediator who will stipulate the negotiation of the ruling and working classes. The Machine-Man Maria unleashes chaos in the upper city attracting numerous rich men by her body during her dance and sows discord that drove men to murder. Moreover, robot Maria stirred dissent among the working class, raised rebellion against machines, and proclaimed their destroying. The destroying of machines performed by the workers caused the flood of their city that would lead to the death of workers’ children. However, Maria, Freder, and Josaph saved them all. In the end of this silent film, Machine-Man was burned in the fire. The opposing images and actions of a real Maria and robot Maria reflect the contrary images of such religious figures as the God and Satan respectively.
In Metropolis, the real Maria is shown in the image of the survival. She is visualized in more than 2000-year catacombs located under the city of workers. Moreover, “the workers who march down into the subterranean catacombs where Maria Preaches her sermons of peace resemble early Christians” also were banned and persecuted and thus held their meetings under the ground (Brockmann 90). There are Christian roods placed behind her back. The light in catacombs comes from candles. Maria’s dress is closed and frugal unlike indecent dresses of the women of the upper world. This attributes Maria the image of the saint. However, the major attribute of this image is the support of children and adults from the working class. In catacombs, she persuades people to wait for the bright future. This is made through telling the legend about the Tower of Babylon that is similar to the shown Metropolis. In this legend, the wisest people of the city (in the film they are called Heads) decided to build “a tower whose top may reach unto the stars!” (Lanf n.p.). However, this task was too complicated for them, and they hired workers (in the film, they are given a name of Hands) for its accomplishment. They have no clear understanding about the bright idea and could not realize it. This misunderstanding caused the disaster: “One man’s hymns of praise became other men’s curses” (Lanf n.p.).
Thus, the workers killed the bright people and destroyed the tower. In the end of her negotiation, Maria stated that this catastrophe could be avoided with the help of the mediator who can bring the workers and the bright people to mutual understanding. She states that “the mediator between head and hands must be the heart!” (Lanf n.p.). This legend provides the understanding to the common workers of Metropolis that their sufferings can be stopped after the arrival of the person who will act as the mediator between lower and upper classes of Metropolis. Maria encouraged the workers to wait to the arrival of this person. She is sure that this person will come and bring the bright future. This public speech aimed to give the spiritual support to workers who suffered because of hard work for the prosperity of the upper class. This support is very similar to God’s redemption of humans. It is notable that in the Christian religion the process of redemption is also started from the call to sinners for helping them to find their righteous way that can bring them to the bright future (God’s Work of Redemption n.p.). This can be performed by the preacher that gives the people good news, like Jesus. In the discussed film this preacher was presented in the image of Maria in catacombs. For reaching the God’s blessings, common people should usually come against sufferings for their sins (God’s Work of Redemption n.p.). The sufferings of the lower class were presented by their hard work and their enormous fear that their actions caused flooding and killed their children. The additional emphasis should be made to the fact that in Christianity, “the redeemed sinner receives God’s grace through faith” (God’s Work of Redemption n.p.). In the Metropolis, it is reflected in the scene where the real Maria asked workers to believe and wait for coming of the mediator: “Wait for him! He will surely come!” (Lanf n.p.).
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The image of the savior is also shown during the flooding of the worker’s city caused by the destruction of machines. This flooding endangered the lives of the workers’ children who stayed at homes when their parents came to destroy machines. However, Maria, Freder, and Josaph saved all of them by finding the way upstairs to the upper city. Thus, Maria helped the people to survive the danger. This behavior is very close to God’s favor to humans when they really need it. This is shown in numerous religious readings. For example, in Psalm 91:14-16, it is said: “Because he loves me,” says the LORD, “I will rescue him; I will protect him, for he acknowledges my name”. In the Psalm 145:18-20, there are words: “The LORD is near to all who call on him, to all who call on him in truth. He fulfills the desires of those who fear him; he hears their cry and saves them” (Knowing Jesus n.p.). Thus, in the scenes of flooding and saving people, Maria acts as a savior who helps people in the times of the enormous threat to their lives.
The above two situations show that Maria has the great mission in the world of workers – she leads poor people to get out from the sufferings. In the first one, the poor workers were relieved from the sufferings of their hard work; in the second scene, sinless children of poor workers were lead from the flooding. It is notable that this mission is very similar to the Jesus’ mission in the human world. He showed the way to happiness and brightness to the lost people who suffered: “I was sent only to the lost sheep of the house of Israel” (Matthew 15:24) (Knowing Jesus n.p.).
In contrast to real Maria, the Machine-Man in the image of Maria brought numerous sufferings to people through unleashing chaos in both upper and lower cities. As it was already mentioned above, she was created with the only aim – to break the image of the real Maria and reduce her influence on the workers of the lower city. She raised the revolution against the machines for destroying them: “Let the machines starve, you fools! Let them die!”, “Kill them – the machines” (Lanf n.p.). These proclamations bring the image of a serpent in Eden.
Similar to Satan who lures Eva in the Eden by proposing her the forbidden fruit, robot Maria baits the common workers to destroy the machines. It is notable that this proclamation starts from the disturbance of the faith that, as it was mentioned above, serves as the background of receiving the God’s redemption. Robot tried to destroy the workers’ belief in the arrival of the mediator who will negotiate with the representatives of the upper world. Thus, from Maria’s speech, workers should not rely on the arrival of this person (i.e. the God’s will) and take their lives in their own hands through raising the revolution against the machines and the upper world. The Machine-Man made the following statement: “You know that I have always spoken of peace…but your mediator has not come” (Lanf n.p.). She showed that God did not give His blessing though sending the mediator. Consequently, the proclamations of the real Maria to peaceful waiting of the mediator become senseless. Thus, the existing peace should be broken: “You have waited long enough! Your time has come!” (Lanf n.p.). By these words, the Machine-Man lures the people to break the machines and destroy the existing order. The serpent had a similar aim when he asked Eva to eat the forbidden apple in Eden. Both of them (the robot Maria and the Evil in the form of serpent) were successful in their actions that led to the misunderstanding between the habitants (workers in Metropolis and Adam and Eva in Heaven) and the creator (Joh Fredersen in the film and God in Christianity). The significant sufferings reflected in flooding could lead to the death of workers’ children (in Metropolis) and driving out from the Heaven (in Christianity).
The creators of the Metropolis showed the two opposite figures in their film – the real Maria and the robot Maria. Their behavior, actions, and proclamations are contrary to each other. When the real Maria is dressed in the closed dress and showed as the assiduous and frugal personality who even does not kiss with Freder in catacombs, the robot Maria is shown as the callet who dances almost naked before the dozens of rich men in the upper city. The behavior of the real Maria encouraged people to strive for peaceful living without struggle and fight. On the other hand, the mesmerizing dances of the robot Maria cause fights between men which lead to deaths and even suicides. When the real Maria brings faith and belief in the bright future after the coming of the mediator, the robot Maria destroyed this belief through the notification that workers waited for the long time but mediator did not come and they should rebel against the machines. The real Maria proclaimed the maintenance of the existing order, when Machine-Man stipulated its destruction and even murder of Freder: “Kill him, the dog, in his white silken fur!!!” (Lanf n.p.). The major distinct feature between these two figures is that the real personality proposes peace when the robot forces battle. This opposition clearly visualizes the existing contrast between God and Satan when the first (Maria) stands for life, peace and truth and the second supports lie, ruins, and demolition.
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When the Machine-Man appeared in the lower world, the workers believed that it is the real Maria. They listened to her words and thought that the mediator would not come at all because he did not come for the long time. Thus, they followed her advice and destroyed the mechanisms which protected them from flooding and provided the electricity for the upper world. However, when they have realized their failure and that the flooding could kill their children, they clearly understood that Maria was not the saint – she was a witch. They cried ,“Find the witch, this is all her fault! Strike her dead!” (Lanf n.p.). It should be also noted that Freder (the son of the creator and the future mediator) also noticed that the robot was not a true idea. He recognized it after listening to the public speech of the Machine-Man and her proclamations to destruction of the existing order: “Maria speaks of peace, not killing! This is not Maria” (Lanf n.p.). Thus, people finally understood that the Machine-Man was not the real Maria, especially during the final scenes when the robot was burned and Freder fought with the Inventor for the real Maria. Consequently, the image of the real person as the saint was restored. This reflects Satan’s failure in rebelling against the God.
The overall plot of the film Metropolis represents the battle between the real Maria and the robot Maria that reflects different reactions of people to various situations and influences. The final scenes of the film, where people clearly recognize that there are two Marias and understood that the real Maria is not a witch, showed that good things may hold the people’s trust and respect despite the influence of the Machine-Man. This situation reflects the victory of the people’s faith in God even when Satan blamed them. In the end of the film, people believed in God’s will and the existence of the mediator who will join the Hands and the Heads. One of the major heroes Freder joined the Hands of the representative of the foreman of the Heart Machine (the representative of the working class) and his father Joh Fredersen (the representative of the minded upper class).
The significant merit of this film is a clear depiction of the opposing impact of the God and Satan on people and their actions. The real Maria (the reflection of God) proclaimed faith, brotherhood, and peace, when the robot Maria (the reflection of Satan) provoked lust, murders, and destruction. It is notable that only God and the good actions could make workers really free and bring brightness to their lives. In Metropolis, only mediation can improve their working conditions when the destruction of mechanisms and the existing order lead to possible death of people and deenergizing of the upper city.
Also, the emphasis should be made on distinguishing between the real Maria and the robot Maria by Freder after he understood that the saint human who proclaimed peace could not call for the destruction and murder. This visualizes some form of the enlightenment and people’s ability to discern the good from evil that leads to the failure of Satan, return to God and obtaining His blessing.
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In conclusion, the current paper described and analyzed the film Metropolis making the emphasis on the scenes and characters which have the strong religious meaning. In the majority of cases, it is expressed by the image, actions, and behaviors of the real Maria and the Machine-Man with her image also called Maria. The human Maria is given the image of a savior who persuades workers to weight for the improvement of their working conditions and the brightest future. It would be started after the coming of the mediator who will unite the Hands and Heads, i.e. the working and the ruling classes. Maria asked the workers to wait for this coming and hold their peaceful existence. She supported them in their sufferings by sermons. Maria also helped children during the flooding in the final part of the film. Her overall behavior is rather similar to the behavior of Jesus who led poor and suffering people to the better life. In contrast to human Maria, the robot Maria did not help people and even proclaimed the destruction and murder and broke the faith of common workers in the coming of mediator. She insisted on the destruction of the Head Machine and ruining of the existing order, like the serpent lured Eva in the Eden to try the forbidden fruit (i.e. also perform forbidden actions which may make the creator angry).
The behavior of the Machine-Man is opposing to the behavior to Maria as she raised the anger, thirst to murder and destruction, and even lust. This opposition clearly showed the differences between God and Satan as the first proclaims the good actions, brotherhood, peace, and understanding of each other, and the second stands for wrongdoings, chaos, and deaths. Like Satan, the robot Maria tried to ruin the image of the human Maria (i.e. the God), but she was unsuccessful as people recognized that she is false Maria and perceived her as the witch. This failure also reflects the Satan’s misfortune to ruin God’s image and people’s faith into Him. All the described scenes evidence that the Metropolis has a strong religious meaning depicting the contrast between God and Satan in the images of human Maria and the robot Maria.