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Biblical Allusions In Metropolis

Using special effects very advanced at the time, Fritz Lang’s 1927 German film Metropolis amazed audiences with its futuristic-styled machines and concepts. Despite these innovative approaches to …. FIX THIS some of the most prevalent themes of the movie could be considered ancient.
Throughout the course of the film, Lang constructs the plot around various Bible passages, filling the movie with religious allusions. Allusions that may not have agreed with Germany’s beliefs at the time.
From the moment the blandly-dressed workers board an elevator that takes them to their subterranean workplace, to the eccentrically-garbed young people found frolicking in the Eternal Gardens, audiences can see distinct class separations. But what audiences don’t realize until later in the film is that these classes are separated by much more than an elevator ride. Compared to the harsh environment of the underground, the upper city of Metropolis is heavenly. The Eternal Gardens allude to the Garden of Eden, where luxury and sin both dwelled under God’s supervision. In charge of this garden and the rest of the ethereal city is Joh Fredersen. Joh displays the worst kind of pride when he plays god, telling his son, that the workers beneath the city are “where they belong.” Joh’s son, Freder, rejects his father’s belief and rushes underground to investigate, and to find the woman that inspired his rebellion. A woman who appeared to him in the garden surrounded by children and a halo of light around her head. This woman, Maria, is made to represent an angelic figure who viewers later learn has been preaching the Gospel to the workers and giving them hope for a brighter future.
Although inferred biblical allusions enrich the film’s story, even more obvious ones assist in propelling the plot. One of these is the New Tower of Babel, the heart of upper Metropolis. This structure alludes to—and even resembles structurally— the Tower of Babel from Genesis chapter 10. Under God’s watch, his people assembled and started building a city, Babel. In this city was a tower that they believed could reach the heavens. God feared that through their unity, the people could accomplish anything they wished and eventually overrule him. In order to prevent this rebellion, God scattered the citizens of Babel, making them all speak different languages so that they could never find their way back to the city. Once Joh learns of Maria’s preaching, he fears the workers plan to rebel against him and he sets out to squelch their spirits, acting as God did towards the people of Babel. He uses an evil robot doppelganger for Maria who leads the workers to the destruction of their own city. Lang incorporates a passage from Revelation 17:3-6 which introduces the Whore of Babylon. The robot Maria becomes an obvious symbol for this Biblical femme fatale when her seductions entrance the workers into rebellion.
Caught in the midst of the action, Freder has been proclaimed the “Mediator.” Maria tells Freder his destiny of creating peace between the heavenly paradise of the city and the earthly underground. In this new role, Freder represents a Christ figure. Son of a godly figure and disguised as a worker, Freder becomes the common ground that unites the two very different worlds.
In addition to the many other religious symbols in the film, these allusions played a large role in the story. At the time, though, Christianity was not the dominate religion of the film’s country, Germany. Around the time Metropolis was released, various Nazi religions were established and Christianity was often rejected. According to anthropology Professor Karla Poewe, “the rejection of Christianity was due to the fact that it is universal, and they wanted something local… They wanted something with a historical-genetic-racial link to them.” The fact that the movie was still able to thrive outside of Germany speaks highly of its artistic quality and the impact it still has on films in the years since.

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5 responses to “Biblical Allusions In Metropolis

  1. While watching the film I noticed the various references to the Bible but I had not seen the reference of a type of heaven and hell that seperates the 2 social classes. I also did not see Joh as being a God figure but i understand the approach you take. Is Metropolis just a whole remake of a section in the Bible? If it is, I think its an interesting way of going about reproducing a story that is hundreds of years old.

  2. Metropolis definitely has several religious meanings. While the religious message in Metropolis might have angered some of the officials in the Nazi and Communist parties because of their views on religion, most ordinary Germans still followed the beliefs of Christianity. I think that the film was tailored to the masses in Germany and not to the elite who had forsaken Christianity.

  3. abaucom

    I also agree that there are many strong connections between Metropolis and religion. I particularly liked the way you noted Freder as the son of a god like figure dressed like a worker. This very strong connection is a huge part of the story line in my opinion.

  4. Larry Whyte ⋅

    For me it was running theme that in order for the Head and Hands to work together a mediator is needed, and only the heart will do. this concept strikes very close to the reason for Jesus coming to earth, to reconcile the hands (man) that were designed to give Glory, Praise and Honor to the Head (God). nothing the Head (Joh Fredersen) does can be compared to the unyielding love of God toward Man.

  5. thrushjz ⋅

    Interesting commentary, Freder is definitely a Christ like figure and is even called the “Mediator” which is straight out of the bible, There is one God, and one mediator between God and man, the man Christ Jesus 1 Tim. 2:5. Freder is the Christ figure that gives hope to the workers below who have no hope. Maria or “Mary” could be an allusion to Mary the Mother of Jesus who preaches to the hopeless workers enslaved by Joh Fredersen that the Mediator is coming, and she does so from an underground Pulpit backed by numerous crosses, a clear depiction of Christianity. The only problem with that is Freder and Maria fall in love which cancels out Maria being Mary but rather a saintly preacher to the hopeless.
    The Machine man could be the image of the beast in Revelation and the scripture of the whore of Babylon is used. The star on the wall above the Robot is satanic and would correspond with the image of the beast the Machine man, who then transforms into an evil twin of Maria. It’s like a commentary on the church represented by Maria the good, being infiltrated by the evil of man and the devil in order to fool all of the workers into destroying all of Metropolis. Joh Fredersen to me is not a god like figure but rather the opposite, he has no godly attributes other than being the head of Metropolis even to the point of using the evil Maria to destroy the workers and cause division. His only saving grace is that he cares for and loves his son Freder.
    The evil Maria (false church and false Christ figure) becomes a beautiful dancing seductress and rises on the biblical seven headed beast seducing all men rich or poor causing them to hate and tear at each others throats and fulfill every lustful desire and selfish pleasure. The false Maria turns all the workers into a raging mob which then nearly destroys Metropolis, saying “Let’s all watch as the world turns to the devil” only to be saved by Freder the Christ like Mediator and the true Maria.

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