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Discuss how a comparative study of the two prescribed texts leads us to a greater depth of

understanding about control in society. Use the images and extracts in the stimulus to guide your
response.

Through a study of intertextual perspectives, audiences are confronted with the way oppressive
governments are able to achieve absolute control through the manipulation of history and the destruction
of communication between the masses. Fritz Lang’s 1927 German Expressionist film Metropolis and
George Orwell’s satirical didactic novel Nineteen Eighty-Four present similar intertextual perspectives on
the pervasive nature of control which allows for the inhibition of the unifying powers of history and
communication, yet contrast in society’s ability to instigate a successful rebellion. As Lang draws many
parallels to the increased technological advancement during the Industrial Revolution, he draws upon
technology’s role in the separation of labourers as they no longer become self serving, but rather served
the society they worked for. Meanwhile, Orwell establishes the eradication of history and communication
as he reflects upon the rise of totalitarian rulers such as Joseph Stalin and Hitler whom had an enforced
ideology and monopolistic control of mass communication. Therefore, these texts are used as vehicles
through which the composers can express their disparate contexts, and the social concerns of corporate
control, during their immediate context.

The alteration of a society’s history catalyses the systematic removal of the value of truth and thus forces
the general public to mindlessly conform to the ideologies presently perpetrated by oppressive institutions
of power. Whilst Lang explores technology’s role in manipulating history and the subversion of
traditional values, Orwell presented a darker reality which exposed audiences to the use of language as a
tool in imposing a false a reality about past events. As shown in Image 1, Lang utilises chiaroscuro
lighting coined with colour contrast to portray Hel as the ultimate embodiment of purity and kindness
within the dystopic world of Metropolis. However, Lang then successfully condemns the subversion of
the purity that Hel once possessed through Rotwang’s creation of Robot Maria, a means necessary for the
attainment of absolute control over the masses. As seen in Image 3, Lang has characterised Robot Maria
with exaggerated movements, conventional to German Expressionist cinema, to represent technology’s
immense power as becoming a political instrument to wreak havoc and destroy the memory and legacy of
Hel. Therefore it is through the juxtaposition between Hel and Robot Maria in Images 1 and 3 that
audiences are forced to recognise the great power of technology and great faith that was placed into it that
was evident in the rapid modernisation that took place in Germany during the Interwar period within
Lang’s immediate context. On the other hand, Orwell projects a very heightened representation of
dystopia as seen through the cumulative listing in “Were there always these vistas of rotting nineteenth
century houses, their sides … crazy garden walls sagging in all directions?” which confronts audiences
with Winston’s cluelessness and absence of knowledge of Oceania’s past as a result of oppressive
governments who attain power through the distortion of societal pool of thought. Furthermore, Orwell’s
use of symbolism in ‘who controls the past, controls the future’ parallels to the censorship by the British
Ministry of Information in World War 2 with the Party’s alteration of history as presenting a facade of
history in which memories of past events are completely eradicated. Hence, it is through this that Orwell
makes evident the abuse of technology by oppressive governments as a means of eradicating individuals’
memories of the past and consequently enforce indoctrination. Therefore, it is through a comparative
study of both texts that audiences gain a better understanding on the role of the manipulation of history in
attaining absolute control over the masses.
The destruction of communication between the masses ensures individuals remain stagnant and do not
instigate a rebellion, and is therefore necessary for political regimes to maintain control. Whilst Fritz
Lang’s Metropolis reveals to audiences that despite oppressive governments’ attempt to eradicate all
forms of communication, citizenry are able to evoke a positive change, George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-
Four disturbs audiences with the projection of a darker reality whereby all modes of communication have
disintegrated and thus, individuals are unable to attain a successful rebellion. The biblical allusion to the
Tower of Babel evidenced in Image 2 accentuates the power of communication, given its unifying effects,
and how totalitarian regimes try to squash this as fear of an overthrow by the masses would compromise
one’s sense of control. As a result of this, Orwell draws parallels between the Babel story and the growth
of the upper city of Metropolis at the detriment of the workers’ freedom as “One man’s hymn of praise
became other men’s curses.” However, Lang articulately represents individual’s capabilities to move
beyond the boundaries enforced by tyrannical rulers to ensure a successful revolution occurs as evidenced
in Image 4. In Image 4, salience of the catacombs maps allows Orwell to powerfully represent the maps
as a symbol of hope and the potential for rebellion, since the maps ensure communication between
individuals provide unity in society that allows the overthrow of unfair and unequal systems of
government. This successful revolution is reflective of the establishment of the Weimar Republic which
was an attempt to establish a democracy and sense of unity that was disrupted by previous raging World
War and the debts suffered by the German community. Therefore, this act of reconciliation is heavily
contrasted with Winston;s in 1984, as shown in the repetition of ‘frightening thing’ in “The frightening
thing, he reflected..the frightening thing was that it might all be true,” which crystallises the social
upheaval and chaos that ensued citizenry as a result of the Party’s replacement of memories with political
propaganda that consequently hindered individuals from communicating to each other. Moreover,
Orwell’s use of hyperbole in “The only evidence is inside my own mind, and I don’t know with any
certainty that any other human being shares my memories,” exemplifies the extent of the disintegration of
communication as individuals were no longer able to vocalise their individual thoughts, but rather,
mindlessly conformed to the Party’s ideals. This disintegration of communication mirrors the Stalinist
purges that occurred in Orwell’s immediate context that saw the execution of individuals who posed a
threat to the pervading communist thinking, and thus, forced individuals to limit their sense of
communication given the threat of such purges. Therefore, it is due to the differing representations of the
pervading nature of control of oppressive governments that a society’s ability to evoke positive change
also differs.

Hence, it is made evident by a comparative study of these contextually dissimilar texts that these texts are
a product of their time, as composers reflect upon their disparate contexts to form didactic commentary on
the differing natures of the methods of control enforced by oppressive governments and society’s ability
to instigate a successful rebellion.