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Are Metropolis and 1984 Cautionary Tales?

Paper Type: Free Essay Subject: English Language
Wordcount: 776 words Published: 1st Sep 2017

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Both Metropolis and 1984 can be viewed as cautionary tales. The concerns communicated within the texts directly align with the concerns of their respective authors and their contexts. Discuss this statement.

Texts are fundamentally expressions of the composer’s contextual concerns, where differing perspectives upon similar issues provide insight into the values prevalent in the composer’s time. Fritz Lang’s expressionist film Metropolis (1927) and George Orwell’s dystopian satire novel Nineteen Eighty-Four (1984) (1949) are linked by their shared exploration of technological advances and social structures that restrict individual autonomy. Lang is optimistic about societal reform whereas Orwell completely rejects the possibility of a cohesive world, revealing the shift in context from Weimar optimism to post-war nihilism. Therefore, a thorough study of the conceptual connections between these texts ultimately allows us to attain an enhanced appreciation of their composers’ intertextual perspectives on universal concerns.

Despite their differing contexts, both composers highlight the dehumanising nature of totalitarian regimes within society. Lang’s depiction of German expressionism in Metropolis displays the extensive disparities of class that occurs due to the existence of autocratic power. Set in a dystopian future world, “Master” Joh Frederson’s complete control of the capitalistic Metropolis is exemplified through the juxtaposition of the underclass labourers in “the Depths”, a subterranean workers’ city while the aristocratic, wealthy industrialists “high in the heavens” rule over them tyrannically, symbolically representing the oppression of the inferior lower class. This notion parallels the social inequality in 1920s Germany where hyperinflation induced by the Weimar Republic’s poor economic management led to immense social disparity. Furthermore, the hedonistic behaviour of the upper class in the Golden 20s is epitomised in the privileged life of Freder, depicted by the extreme long shot of the “Eternal Gardens”. In contrast, the mise-en-scene coupled with the slow, uninspiring body language of the worker’s during shift change illustrates the lack of individuality within the working class. Thus, Lang skilfully allows the audience to empathise with the workers by highlighting this perspective, allowing for insight into how totalitarian regimes necessitate conformity as shaped by the context.

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Orwell mirrors the ramifications of harsh political regimes on the individual and echoes the qualities of the prevalent communist ideology as he examines the psychological impacts of politically enforced conformity on the individual, emphasised by his personal experiences with fascism and his socialist agenda. The totalitarian rule of Oceania, governed by the omnipotent and omniscient Party employs the use of propaganda such as “Big Brother” and “Newspeak” to manipulate people, leading to a society in which the people unquestioningly obey their government and mindlessly accept propaganda as reality, similarly represented during Stalin’s arbitrary governance in Soviet Russia. The complete suppression of independent thought is described through anaphora in “Thoughtcrime does not entail death: thoughtcrime IS death” provides parallels to the contextual deprivation of freedom of speech as facilitated by Soviet governance. Orwell employs the protagonist, Winston Smith, to rebel against the Party’s doctrine, paralleling the mass uprising in Metropolis, through his “blow struck against the Party political act” as his subversion culminates in a sexual relationship with Julia which challenges how the Party, and similar dictatorships in Orwell’s context, suppress human sexuality and relationships. However, Winston’s attempt is rendered futile as the psychological and physical torture instigated by the Party in the novel’s poignant culmination results in Winston succumbing to the totalitarian rule when he states with an accepting tone of voice that “He loved Big Brother”.


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