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Modern Values in “Metropolis” By Fritz Lang

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After watching the film by Fritz Lang Metropolis, we identify modern values along with modernity presented within the film. In order to assess how it was shown within the film, we have to understand its concept. Modernity is a period in western society which has moved away from traditional/medieval social, economic, and political institutions and traditions, such as feudalism and agrarianism. It embraces the “new concept of classical liberalism”, also identified as fundamental rights. This “new concept” brings in empiricism, natural law, soon reason/rationality, egalitarianism, democracy, industrialization, and lastly capitalism. Modernity is overall a concept relmed upon political philosophy and ideology. Now that a clear understanding upon modernity has been established, we can delve into the values portrayed upon the film.

There are many key components of modernity that were reflected upon the film Metropolis. Class conflict/equality, liberalism, and the value of rebellion was the center of attention towards the film. It also questions humanism/faith in science, bourgeois values, Marxism and more. As we discuss the “new concept of classical liberalism”, we pull out one key purpose which was made to better the lifestyles of people, social equality. The equality between those who were wealthy and those who acquired the position of workers within this film was expressed quite differently. It reveals the dehumanizing effect towards humanity, especially in the case of these two different classes. Those who were workers were only known by their assigned numbers and performed the task of mass labor in order to keep the city of Metropolis running. While the workers are attaining to the importance of the city, the wealthy are given the best clothes, gardens, amazing schools, and are given the right to do whatever they want. The wealthy are initially benefiting from the extensive work performed by the workers and receive the luxuries that come with it. A source which voices claims upon inequality are The Federalists Papers No. 10 and No. 5 in which states”..an attachment to different leaders ambitiously contending for pre-eminence and power; or to persons of other descriptions whose fortunes have been interesting to the human passions, have, in turn, divided mankind into parties”. This quote better analyzes the divided means of two different parties and how a leader derives power from this movement. This issue between social equality fought against the concepts of classical liberalism, but was soon resolved towards the end of the film. As Joh Frederson (the master of Metropolis) and Grot (a worker) agreed to settle their differences.

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As modernity is based upon the fundamental rights that each individual should acquire along with the ideology of natural law, we see many comparisons towards this belief in the rebellion represented in the film. The workers of Metropolis had no more tolerance for Frederson’s obligations in labor, as the false Maria pushed them to believe, they rebelled. This Maria convinced the workers that they shall rebel proving that they are depicted to be “robots” rather than humans part of society itself. After the trap towards the workers revolting against Frederson was set into motion, the entire underground city was doomed. All workers destroyed the machines that ran the city putting them in great danger, but they were luckily saved and secured. This rebellion upholds the ideas of modernity because it represents the workers revolting for their freedom and rights as an individual in society. That they deserve more than what they’re getting considering they are the heart of Metropolis. Just as Thomas Hobbes works to explain in the Leviathan, natural rights among humans in the state of nature comes before civilization. He justifies that the state of nature should inquire “boundless liberty, no norms” and this was the initial basis upon the workers’ rebellion.

Industrialization pushed its way towards the concept of modernity as shown within the film itself. Industrialization became the drive towards the inequality between the wealthy and the workers as mentioned before. It creates a social inconsistency which further established the two roles of the wealthy high class and underground workers. Along with this, industrialization pushed towards the rise of capitalism as it defines money/profit more superior compared to basic morals. A source that better relinquishes the ideas upon money being of more value is Karl Marx’s The Communist Manifesto. This source defines the importance of money as it was stated to “monetize everything”. These ideas were even shown in the film, specifically within Joh Frederson. Frederson believed that money was the basis of society itself and that money can accumulate happiness for his son. But, his claims and beliefs were later revealed to be false after his son, Freder, worked farther from the ideas of money and more towards helping others.

One concept that was presented within Metropolis and did not follow the concepts of modernity was religion. As recently mentioned, modernity disregarded and moved away towards traditional factors regarding political institutions. But, an extensive amount of religion flourished within this film such as Maria representing a prophet that preached peace,Freder who was considered to be the “mediator”, and the deadly sins. Putting this into play, an example of religion regards the deadly sins in which indicated death was coming to Metropolis. This was shown within the destruction of the Underground City and all workers lives at stake. I believe that the flood which took place in result of the machines damage was significant as it worked to purify the earth and get rid of the evils that pondered the city. Religion was of great importance in the film and worked to explain certain actions that were portrayed, like the flood. But, as we view religion in comparison to the workers and the wealthy, we see great differences between their beliefs in church and religion. Those who were wealthy within this film were losing influences of traditional powers, like monarchy, aristocracy, and the church. As they never adapted towards the beliefs in religion, technological advancements, political theories, industrialization and such overruled the concept of tradition and belief in church.

In conclusion, there were various elements of modernity that contributed to the meaning of this film. We define how modernity created two different classes in which distinguished high and low status of the people. Great deals of modernity more likely created problems for the civilization of Metropolis itself, in the beginning of the film. But, as we reach further towards the end, we see the moral value in modernity and how it contributes to resolve matters and push for equality between all. It revealed exploitation of the Underground working class which resulted towards a rebellion in reason of oppression. It contained Marxist philosophy which was pointed towards a religious viewpoint. Lastly, it revealed the dehumanization of those who were working underground in comparison towards the wealthy. The problem of these issues were indeed modernity and new modern values which had developed, but the solution towards the issues were the diverse concepts in modernity which worked to create change among society itself. Overall, Metropolis held substantial and significant political and religious messages which were portrayed in the characters actions.

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