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Essay: Fritz Lang’s “Metropolis” and George Orwell’s “Nineteen Eighty-Four”

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  • Fritz Lang’s “Metropolis” and George Orwell’s “Nineteen Eighty-Four”
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Both texts reveal that resistance and rebellion are futile; the system will always win in the end, at the expense of the individual. Discuss this with reference to both texts.

When distribution of power in a society is too unevenly spread, or when one group abuses their power too greatly to the detriment of others, then the oppressed often find a way to rebel, often leading to the intrinsic deterioration of personal liberty.

Good Morning Mr Nowland and Boys,

Fritz Lang’s expressionistic German film “Metropolis” explores futile aspirations of rebellion, whilst commenting on the disintegration of personal freedom through the distinction of social classes and the Freders realisation of the working life. Similarly George Orwell’s “Nineteen Eighty-Four” explores the potential for rebellion against a totalitarian regime through seemingly normal actions, at the expense of the individual.

Both texts envision a dystopian future, as the composers make parallel political commentary that can be directly linked to the tumultuous context of the time, at which the pieces were composed. Thus both Lang and Orwell explore the impact of political suppression whereby the system inherently always wins.

The suppression of the proletariat and the segregation of social classes within Lang’s Metropolis act as the foundation for rebellion and resistance. Lang’s depiction of a divided social class draws parallels to its time, produced shortly after the German Revolution and the implementation of the Weimar Republic. The opening scenes are vital in establishing the divide between the ruling and working class. Lang utilises expressionist imagery to portray the ‘sons club’ and ‘eternal gardens’ highlighting the same class distinction that prompted the need for resistance and rebellion.

Furthermore the contrast of light and shade juxtaposes the separation within the two classes, the workers are depicted in black uniform, trudging in synchronised manner presented as homogenous beings rather than individuals. Moreover the montages of gears and heavy machinery illustrates that the lifestyle of the lower class revolves around working. Whereas the sons of the elite run freely in leisure activities beneath towering walls and statues reflected in light shades symbolic of their lifestyle. This opening scene establishes the clear social divide, which acts as a catalyst for the rebellion and resistance, ultimately leading to the degradation of the individual amidst the unbeatable system.

Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four explores a more complex scenario of an oppressive regime that maintains power through propaganda, fear and subtle behavioural controls. Written 20 years after Metropolis, the world had already seen the extremes of Hitler’s Nazi Party and Stalin’s Russian Regime, Orwell creates a dystopian society drawing parallels to the context of his time warning against the nature of totalitarianism.

Orwell presents Winston’s rebellion as ironic as it is associated with a ‘normal life’. A key motif of his rebellion is the repetition of “two plus two equals four”, which the audience recognises as a factual statement, however it highlights the party’s innate control mechanisms they have to hold and maintain power over the population, hence proving the system will always win. The ironic nature of Winston’s rebellion stands as Orwell’s warning to society of any system of authority in which everyday actions might be monitored as it provokes rebellion and resistance.

Despite the overwhelming suppression of autocratic rule, there still exist avenues for resistance and rebellion, however often at the expense of the individual. Lang initiates the notion of rebellion upon Freder’s discovery of the workers city; extreme close-ups present the protagonist’s realisation of the of the proletariat life.

Lang’s implementation of diegetic text “They will rise against you someday” identifying that capitalist plutocracy is no form of absolute power or control over resistance. Freder’s rebellious tendencies are furthered through his love with Maria. However in an attempt to resist the overwhelming power, these ideals are soon contradicted with the introduction of Robot Maria, thus signalling the notion that the system will always win as the innate control Freders possesses over his people deems them powerless. The result of Robot Maria alludes to the ineffective nature of resistance as it is both futile and at the expense of the individual whereby the workers unknowingly leave their children behind in the peril of the rampage.

The futile nature of rebellion is supported through Lang’s non diegetic text “allow the workers to do as they please… so that we can claim the right to use force”, thus outlining how the system will always win as the proletriat can not rebel due to the degredation of their individual self. Thus Lang is able to summarise that within an authoritarian regime any sense of individualism is in fact the by-product of the government’s desires, hence showing the attempt of rebellion at the expense of the individual.

Similar to Lang, Orwell conveys the notion that resistance against the dystopian ideal will eliminate all expression of personal liberties. Orwell is prompt in establishing Winston’s rebellion through the repetition of the phrase “Down with Big Brother” alluding to the beginning of the end for the protagonist. Much the same as the relationship between Freder and Maria within Metropolis, Orwell establishes a defiant relationship between Winston and Julia with the simple direct statement “I love you” highlighting the resistance through the violation of the highly regulated language of Newspeak. The insolent relationship is furthered through “their embrace had been a battle… It was a political act” the use of irony alluding to the impending detention within the ‘Ministry of Love’. Similar to Lang, Orwell creates the illusion of individualism illustrated through Winston’s understanding of “The Theory and Practice of Oligarichal Collectivism – Emmanual Goldstein” ironically revealing that the inner party is in fact controlling Winston’s rebellion, hence furthering the notion that the system will always win.

This concept is similarly explored with Fredersons introduction of Machine Maria, the system is so powerful they control a superficial revolt. Orwell ultimately reveals that the individual is powerless to afflict change against the might of autocracy within the ironic and juxtaposing statement “he had won the victory over himself. He loved Big Brother” climatically outlining a disintegration of personal freedom whilst also ensuring the system always wins.

In closing, both texts stipulate that the resistance and rebellion are both futile in nature and can come at the expense of the individual. Lang’s Metropolis explores a lust for political domination exposing the futile of nature rebellion against the regime whilst also illustrating a loss of individualism. Likewise, Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-Four revolves around notions of rebellion as he aims to warn about contextual influences such as the danger of totalitarianism. Thus it is deemed that rebellion and resistance is in fact futile and catalytically engenders the annihilation of personal freedom.

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