Metropolis is a 1927 film made in Germany, and considered to be the world’s first important science fiction film. It is set in a future where thousands of nameless workers toil in underground factories to help the wealthy minority live in peace on the surface.
The film follows the exploits of Freder, the son of a wealthy industrialist, and Maria, the daughter of a worker. Freder learns compassion for the workers when he goes down to their level, literally and figuratively, and witnesses an explosion that is caused by the carelessness of fatigued, overworked men. This sets in motion his desire to connect the working class and the upper class, which he does through persistence, and the odd arrival of a robot that stirs up a workers revolution through sexual tension, that harms both the wealthy and upper classes. The movie ends with Freder convincing his father and a worker to shake.
The scene I find most fascinating is at the beginning. The movie describes the workers as a horde of similarly dressed workers walking in and out for their shifts, and their hazardous and undesirable working conditions. Simultaneously, the children of the wealthy are frolicking and embracing around a fountain, on the surface level of the city. While this is admittedly a pessimistic science fiction view of the future, and partially similar of Orwell’s 1984, it raises a question about Weimar Germany. While everyone has heard of the culture revolution, including Bauhaus architecture and jazz music, and the economic upturn under Stresemann after 1925, I don’t fully understand how this could have been a reality for a vast majority of a post-War nation. While the issue of capital may have been largely solved through American loans, the utilization of these resources would have required daily shifts from the majority of the population, evoking a similar image to that of the opening scene in the movie. I don’t understand how Weimar Germany can be simultaneously known for baskets of paper money during the hyper inflation of 1923, and the supposed cultural freedom. My question is, how did the average German worker, or peasant, living anywhere but in a large city, live? Did they have access to such luxuries? Did they have time to participate in such luxuries? Were their daily lives that different than under the monarchy?
Also, on a minor note, there was a clock at the start of the movie that only had 10 hours, instead of 12. Does anyone know why?