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Intertextual Perspectives In Fritz Lang’s "Metropolis" And George Orwell’s "1984"

In a modernistic time, we assume human liberties and basic rights are uninhibited and that social structure are built to create order and peace. Fritz Lang’s Metropolis outlines the futility of revolts and the usage of force to solve an issue that lies within system as well as the need to compose oneself and to tackle the problem at its roots. Whilst George Orwell’s 1984, focuses on the prevention of a totalitarian and fascist system from taking over as well as its invasion on human liberties. Although their context and implementation of perspectives are vastly different, both Lang and Orwell explore the faults that lie within social constructs as they persuade their contextual audience to become aware of the issues that it produces.

In an era of capitalistic machine age, Fritz Lang’s Metropolis reflects the manipulation and control of the upper echelon, through the employment of social constructs. In the opening scenes of Lang’s Metropolis, the clock and the siren symbolised the system of surveillance and the systematic flow within the city, where as soon as the clock strikes ten, the proletarians would be organised for a shift change. This scene contrasts with Lang’s contextual background during the Weimar republic where revolts, anxiety and dissatisfaction plagued Germany. Following this scene, we could see the workers moving synchronously together, staring at the ground as they trudge within the tunnel. This full shot reflects the loss of their sentience and unique individuality as they learn to discipline themselves and behave in expected ways. Although Metropolis reflects a whole different realm compared to the contextual time of the Weimer republic, Lang outlines the importance of human emotions yet he also emphasises the need for law and order. The exclamatory language “Kill them – the machines -!!” reflects how the proletarians are blinded by social constructs as it is embedded into their life. By creating a reversal of his environment, Lang attempts to persuade and connect with his audience to clarify that issues created by the system cannot be solved via force but must be tackled via social constructs.

Similar to Lang’s Metropolis, Orwell’s dystopian film 1984 reflects the transience of happiness and freedom within its characters to provoke fear within the contextual audience’s inner machinations. The juxtaposition “If you loved someone, you loved him, and when you had nothing else to give, you still gave him love” highlights the passion of Winston that he once had, as his collision with a totalitarian regime strips away his humanity. The repetition of “love”, being a universal emotion, enables the audience to connect with Winston as they experience his perspective. Orwell’s experience and outlook of the Spanish Civil War, is recreated through the nightmarish atrocities committed by The Party and their regime as they establish absolute control and authority over the masses. The hyperbole “every sound you made was overheard, and, except in darkness, every movement was scrutinised” induces a sense of permanent visibility and control by the totalitarian government. This establishment of supervision restricts action as well as deteriorates one’s mental fortitude, privacy sans freedom is but an illusion. The metaphysical paradox “until they become conscious they will never rebel, and until after they have rebelled they cannot become conscious” underscores the futility of rebellion as the control of the totalitarian government reaches far beyond one’s sense of belief and values, transcending towards a state of pure control. The lack of self-conscience and awareness within the characters of 1984 provokes the contextual audience of the time, however by revealing the futility of rebellion it also evokes a sense of fear and paranoia.

Although Metropolis and 1984 are different in their contexts and proposition, they both depict a similar perception as the conclusion of both texts reveal the futility of revolutions and revolts. In the final scene of Metropolis where the agreement between the ‘head and the hands’ depicted through the three shot, echoes the dichotomy of the classes, as Grot wears a tattered costume whilst Frederson wears a suit. The denouement leading back to the beginning, a never-ending cycle. A key point about Michel Foucault’s approach to power is that it transcends politics and sees power as an everyday, socialised and embodied phenomenon. This notion is further emphasised in 1984, as it depicts the power of a system and its influence on the human condition. The foreshadowing “Nothing was your own except the few cubic centimetres in your skull” reflects the unique individuality of oneself however when Winston succumbs to the system depicted through the irony “He loved Big Brother” the control and influence of the system is emphasised as it takes complete control. The systems of government policies within both Lang’s Metropolis and Orwell’s 1984 serves as a reminder to all audiences to be aware of their basic rights and liberties and to rebuke any infringements that aim to destroy it before it takes control over their lives.

Fritz Lang’s Metropolis and George Orwell’s 1984, both accentuate the system’s power of controlling one’s lifestyle, and its gradual invasion towards people’s rights and liberties. If apathy within the human condition is permitted to run rampant, the political system and construct is able to gain power and control over the masses. Both Lang and Orwell solicits their audience to be aware and to revise their sentiments to their current social construct and political system.

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