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1984 and Metropolis

Significant texts offer insights into how core values define the thoughts
and actions of individuals within society. It is, however, the context of such
texts which present the values and perspectives of composers. Langs
Metropolis(1927) focuses on the misuse of technology, power and control,
reflecting his fears of an exploitative capitalist system in a period of
hyperinflation and social turmoil within the Weimar Republic. Orwells
1984(1948) demonstrates his criticism of totalitarian systems as he,
through his representation of the repression of his characters by society,
examines the destructive potential of extreme political ideologies in post
WW2 Europe.
Orwell, through his representation of the social and political repression in
the World state examines the connection between the misuse of
technology and bleak systems of authoritarian control. Orwell juxtaposes
the enlightened use of technology to end hunger, diseaseraise living
standards to the dismal life of Winston in the cold windsswirled dust
and paper into spirals. Orwell employs the use of pathetic fallacy to
amplify the ironic neglect of a society that makes a conscious choice to
impose suffering on its citizens. This provokes a sense of fear about
technology as a source of control and exploitation. Orwells vision draws
from the context of post war Europe, as the development in military
technology was used to kill masses of people. He was also concerned with
its use in constant surveillance. The simile of the helicopters which
skimmed like blue bottlessnooping, emphasises the deprivation of
privacy and freedom through these technological advances. It echoes the

fear in 1940s Europe as communist Russia and Stalins purging of human

resistance to his political agenda cast a shadow over a world still trying to
respond to the horrors of Nazism. The symbolic use of speak writes, a
form of technology which dictates human thoughts and alter history,
reflects the concerns about media manipulation and the politicisation of
language throughout post-war Europe. Orwell links his concerns about the
excesses of the nationalism by showing how the presence of the
telescreens, can be justified in the interests of national security. It works
alongside the speak writes, to create a lingering sense of fear about the
insidious influence of technology on human choices and individualistic
expression. The metaphoric use of these forms of technology, allows
audiences to see the oppression on society, as Orwell warns us of the grim
possibilities of totalitarian forms of government.
In comparison, Langs Metropolis draws upon the social and cultural
context of the Weimar Republic to reflect the fears of capitalist excesses in
a period of hyperinflation as Germany tried to adjust to the austerity
measures emerging from war reparations under the Treaty of Versailles.
Lang contrasts Robot Maria and the human Maria to emphasise the
dangerous impact of the subversive use of technology, equating it to lust,
evil and revolution. The frantic and sinister expressions and movements of
Robot Maria represent the dangers to society, posed by the corruption of
technology. This is juxtaposed to the smooth, fluid movements of the
human Maria, along with her soft facial expressions, which have been
exploited by Rotwangs misuse of technology, thus transforming society
into one fuelled by fear and danger. Lang represents his fears of an

uprising, due to the fragile position of a new Republic trying to reform

itself but ironically using the old personnel from the previous government
with entrenched attitudes and perspectives. Langs metaphoric
representation of the Machine echoes the insensitivity of the ruling elite,
as workers are relegated to the position of tools, supporting a capitalist
system that only provides them with a bare subsistence. The emphasis on
the scene where the workers are being sacrificed to Moloch reflects the
capitalist ideas that disregard individuality and compassion in favour of
progress and efficiency. The mechanical movements of the workers
demonstrate the repression of individuality that is further reinforced in the
uniformity of the workers clothing. It provokes sympathy from the
audience as we witness the anguish, thus proving an effective
representation of the imbalance of power and economic suffering within
Weimar Germany.
Orwells 1984 critiques the lack of tolerance as Cold war tensions reinvigorated fears about the devaluing of human identity across post WW2
Europe. Orwells representation of the thought police symbolises the
arbitrary use of force in totalitarian systems, where the emphasis on
thought reiterates how the social repression penetrates into human
consciousness. Orwell emphasises how systems fuelled by a corrupt sense
of power and control devalue morality, family and loyalty. This is
symbolised by the cries of a man; Ive got a wife and kidscut their
throats in front of my eyes. Orwells harrowing imagery parallels the fear
of individuals and arbitrary violence to totalitarian systems in 1940s
Europe. In contrast Metropolis offers significant insight into the core

values associated with an obsession over power and control, as he draws

upon the fears about political uprisings within the Weimar Republic. Lang
utilises the contrasting imagery of the Yoshiwara club and the machine
workers to emphasise how the 1920s created a culture of excess and
transgression in contrast to the chronic disempowerment of its people.
The buoyant though morally decadent depiction of the Yoshiwara club
contrasts to the darker imagery of the machine, as Lang juxtaposes light
and dark imagery to amplify the repression of individuals in a capitalist
society. The disempowerment of individuals results in the fracturing of
morality and identity, metaphorically represented through the Robot
Maria. Here, Lang employs the use of the eye motif to symbolise moral
corruption as he lingers on close ups of her constant twitching and the
darkness of the eye makeup evoking a strange unearthly quality. Lang
also emphasises the fears of the overuse of power through the symbolism
of the people of Metropolis and their revolution against the Machine. He
juxtaposes the slow, rhythmic movements of the workers to the frantic
movements of the protestors to symbolise the degradation of society.
Iroically, irrationality is linked to science as Lang emphasises the threat
to Christian values and the disruption of social harmony.
Both Orwell and Lang draw upon their own social and political contexts to
demonstrate the devastating impacts of totalitarian systems of
government, and their corrupt perpetuation of power, control and
technology in order to repress human emotions and thoughts.