Metropolis

In Metropolis, a truly powerful scene is Freder’s first visit to the underground factory. Searching for Maria, the scene opens to a long shot of Freder gazing at the enormous machines. By using the long shot, Lang conveys a sense that the factory is ultimately an impressive yet intimidating sight through Freder’s reactions. Paying closer attention to the scene, the workers seem to be working in an almost synchronized manner. The audience can interpret this synchronization as depicting the life of a factory worker as a continuous, never ending routine. As the scene progresses, however, it shows an older factory worker struggling to continue his work to the point in which he seems to be collapsing from mere exhaustion. While the worker struggles, the movie cuts to show a meter that continues to rise at a fast pace. As it rises, the worker’s look of fear seems heightened; he knows the dire consequences of the meter if he does not continue his work.

At this point, Lang uses parallel montage by cutting to the synchronized workers and the rising meter. Alongside the dramatic soundtrack, suspense, discomfort and chaos accompany the rise of the meter. The suspense reaches its climax when the meter hits a certain point that causes an explosion throughout the factory. In reaction to the explosion, Freder is thrown back, seeming to have hit his head and begins to hallucinate. Through the use of effects, the factory is suddenly transformed into what seems to be a Mayan temple in the form of a beast. It then seems as if the workers themselves are being sacrificed into the mouth of the temple. This moment serves as a metaphor to the savagery that exists within the factory itself. This is the true message that Lang is trying to convey in this scene.

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2 thoughts on “Metropolis

  1. As you mentioned, the parallel montage was widely used throughout the scene of the underground factory. I agree that it added to the suspense and discomfort associated with the workers’ jobs. The poor workers were forced to move as if they were machines themselves, which dehumanized them so that as the rising meter brought them closer to their deaths, the people that killed them for failing basically treated them as broken parts of a machine.
    In addition to the montage of worker and the rising meter, I associated the parallel montage with the contrast between the underground factory and the aboveground Metropolis. While the workers were down below, defeated, the many cars and planes shown in the city above seemed to move about without the knowledge of the slave-like labor simultaneously taking place in order to make the beautiful city successful. The director effectively used montage effects to portray irony and uneasiness within the city of Metropolis, especially when showing the underground factory.

  2. This was indeed a powerful scene. The shot of the machine was at an angle that it showed superiority to Freder standing below. When the machine would change shape and became the “Mayan temple” it made it as if the men were sacrifices for the machine, which they were. The shot showed such symbolism that would seem difficult in such an early time, but the film was almost like a book with biblical allusions from beginning to end. The work was so laboring quoted by Freder saying, “When does ten hours end?”. All this still being contradicted by what goes on in the surface of Metropolis. In my blog post, this contradiction allowed me to see that it was indeed a science fiction film. The limited sound requires montage to convey the meaning that sound would have otherwise. The music in the background speeds up the message; relaxing when the occasion is, and when there is an issue, the music would speed up. The lack of dialogue was really not the problem I thought it was going be, making the film very enjoyable.

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