Good Example Of Organic Nature Vs. Mechanistic Technology In Metropolis Essay
Fritz I’s 1927 film Metropolis is an early example of a dystopic science film that portrays the dehumanizing and socioeconomically problematic issues involving rapid industrialization and technological progress. After the Renaissance and the Enlightenment, the Industrial Revolution continued to erode traditional value systems and worldviews. After the death and destruction of World War 1, where millions died from technological and mechanistic forces, societies were starting to question if rationalism, technological progress were positive forces, or the beginning of the nightmarish world seen in Metropolis, which influenced later literature science fiction films like Orwell’s 1984. In the film, there are two worlds, and two separate societies. This dichotomy can be represented as organic nature (humanity, love, individualism living things); vs. mechanistic elements (technology, bureaucracy, conformity, city, alienation).
In Metropolis there are two worlds, the dark subterranean world, where the workers robotically operate machinery that provides the power for the surface world. Above ground, the wealthy elite conduct business in skyscrapers and live in beautiful pleasure gardens. The dehumanization of the workers is clear, they wait in long lines, looking identically miserable, alienated and disconnected. Some of the jobs are absurd in their mundane and meaningless repetitiveness. Like Sisyphus rolling a rock up a hill forever , one worker seems to be twisting the arms of a large clock back and forth, although it appears to be disconnected from anything. The two worlds are inhabited by two different classes of people, who do not interact. When Maria brings her children to see the idle rich, she is quickly removed. Freder is intrigued. He obviously had little exposure to workers, and explores the underground out of curiosity. Mechanistic technology has divided the world and population into two groups, those who operate the machines, and those who benefit from the “progress”.
The workers feel like any group of people experiencing industrialization. They feel exploited and nostalgic for the farm and nature. Their world is dark and dreary, devoid of any nature or light; while the elite do get to experience the benefits of nature in their pleasure gardens. There is nothing organic or natural about the world of the workers, it is all concrete and steel. Freder is shocked at the conditions the workers endure, and it is clear the elite are blissfully ignorant of the suffering of the workers, who are confined below ground. This is dystopic Marxist narrative. The workers are proletariats who have been forced off the land, and forced to work for the elite, with technology that enslaves them instead of making their lives free. The natural world, which could offer solace, is also cut off to them. Love, freedom and kindness is in the realm of organic nature, while bureaucracy, enforced conformity, and dehumanizing work are all elements of technology.
In the film, the bureaucracy is oppressive, never helpful or service oriented. Bureaucracy is a way to quickly and efficiently utilize individuals, making cogs into machines. For the workers, there seems to be a great deal of waiting in line, would be something strange to farmers and people living in villages; there are no long lines in nature. The underground workplace, the city, the workers tenements and the bureaucracy show some collectivist elements, mixed with some totalitarian influences.. The futuristic cityscape looks like a modern skyline, but must have been strange and alienating to many people in the early twentieth century. The workers in the film are also seen as objects by the rich, like technology to be exploited.
In Metropolis, Lang is clearly encouraging viewers to question if technology can be abused, and used to exploit and manipulate society. The film seems to be warning. He is firmly on the side of nature, and organically formed society. It is an interesting film not only because it provides insights into the worldviews, anxieties and zeitgeist of the post World War 1 generation, but it precedes and influences so much other work about technology and class warfare. The rich exploit and look down at the workers, who despise the rich, and ultimately rebel against them. Communism, neo-luddism, techno-shock, societal inequality and other very modern themes are explored, and still resonate in society today.