Arch 443/646: Architecture and Film
Fall 2007

Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, The Golem, Metropolis


Discussion Questions:

Please answer the questions below. Use paragraph form. Your answer should be around 400 words. Email me your responses in Word .doc format to: I will be posting these each week after the class. You should be prepared to deliver your answer in class -- but paraphrase, do not read it.

In this first set of questions we are going to explore the general interpretation of "the uncanny" as we see it expressed in the films. We are therefore, in the end, going to attempt to define it. The word was first defined by Sigmund Freud as the "unheimlich" or "unhomely". This came to be associated with feelings towards the "haunted house" and was expanded to refer to feelings of discomfort arising from vacuous urban space, as it contrasted with the comfort and security of "home".

Not all of the questions will refer directly to this issue, but the questions are designed to lead into an understanding of the question.

updated 23-Dec-2007 9:36 AM


1. Adam Brady

Question: How does the Expressionist setting of Caligari give rise to feelings of discomfort that could be construed as either uncanny or "haunted"?

Beginnings of discomfort in Caligari come from the film’s ability to stimulate the mind to question itself.  The mind begins to question its own ability to perceive what is real. The film is successful in this nature by using an expressionist set design, comprised of dynamic compositions - appearing as a world constructed from various works by Kandinsky.

Simple aspects of design throughout the film, such as windows and doors have been skewed into abnormal polygons. They do not follow the conventions of ‘proper’ door and window design. As with much of the architecture in the film, there are rarely any 90° lineations. This ‘proper convention’ is familiar to most, but the expressionism displayed in the film draws one towards feelings of the uncanny. Buildings appear to angle themselves out onto the street, and then dart back into one another, interfering with public and personal space. This dynamic intention is carried through the design of a vast amount of interior spaces, confusing the mind, making it hard to distinguish between interior and exterior space.

This madly artistic technique used begins to emerge consistently in various locations throughout the film; residential areas, the wilderness, the fair, the insane, asylum etc. The mass use of the similar setting brings about eerie emotions through use of geometry and interior design (eg. furniture). Discomfort arises, as if feeling that one has been to these places before. One can easily lost when trying to navigate through world that Caligari has created.

The insane asylum’s inner courtyard is one of the few places the escapes these odd conventions, or so it seems as first. It uses clean lines, and bright colours. The eccentrically painted floor and constructed archways that lead up into the asylum try to distinguish it from anywhere else. But once venturing the false facade, into the twisted depths of the asylum, one finds that is no different from any other space in the film’s setting (eg. the hallways, the director’s office). The dark lit interiors, the jagged walls, the skewed windows and doors are all common once again in this interior. The design of asylum intended to bring a balance to the world, but upon revealing its true nature, shows itself as contorted as the next.
The setting is very visual in depicting the uncanny, causing notions of discomfort, as one finds familiar aspects of design and things common to them distorted - a world that has been twisted somehow. By playing upon this, the familiarity of the setting begins haunting oneself throughout the entire duration of the film.



2. Cassandra Cautius

Question: How do the soundtracks in Caligari (however faint behind the narration...), Golem and Metropolis support feelings of either comfort or discomfort in the films.

Similarities with regard to musical soundtrack are to be strongly found within all three of the silent films. Scenes of lovers meeting or stealing a moment are scenes characterized with the most lofty music and airy tones. Alternately, scenes containing any of the golems created are scenes of deep, dark and eerie music. Each film creates these feelings through means of different sounds and effects. But each one runs within the musical theme and vibe that particular film is attempting to promote.  Without spoken words in the film, the music is relied upon heavily to convey the essential feeling of a scene.  The dramatic introduction music to Lang’s Metropolis opens to a scene of the worker’s city, immediately this music is contrasted with light tones of the introduction to the club of sons.  Once the machine man takes on Maria’s form, starting from the heart, the music makes a drawn out transition into the chaos and anarchy that follows. The wilder the situation becomes the more uncanny fake Maria’s behaviour, machine-like, distorted and uncomfortable, the tempo increasingly picks up into epic music that categorizes the scene.  This continues, until the machine and inventor are dead, lovers embrace, and one note is held until fade.

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari uses the music in much the same way; an upbeat tempo at the carnival slowly dips low as Dr. Caligari ushers people into his tent. The entire tent scene is characterized by dark tones and ungodly noises during the unveiling of Cesare. Furthermore, when Jane, who is the depiction of wholesome innocence in the film, enters the tent on her own the same eerie sounds create a greater sense of dread or unease because of the situation we find Jane in.  Within Wegener’s The Golem, we find music used to much the same extent but without such clear cut situations. The lightest music is still to be found in the lovers meetings, and the Rabbi Loew is followed through the film by dark and uneasy music. However, the music is not so dark while he is studying the stars, making heavenly aspirations signifying the purity of his intensions.  When the Golem first finds life, single notes provide a dramatic, but not yet dark feeling. Upbeat notes also characterize the scenes where Golem is learning things, alluding to the innocence of his nature as a not yet a corrupt being.  The film finds some of its darkest tones when creation first turns on his master, and the Rabbi is forced to extract life from the Golem.

Alternately, Tezuka’s Metropolis, having the ability to create the feelings of unease through script employs its soundtrack to different means. The music is not constant as it is in the 3 silent films, so the music is used for emphasis. Music played while the setting is in Zone 1 is a semi-constant circus type music, almost affable, and creates more of a sense of unease than the dark tones of the silent films. The most dramatic music of the film occurs when Tima is on her throne and says “This comes of trifling with robots.” The sense of unease bay be greater in this film because the divide is not between mortal and one Frankenstein, but a whole divide of population among man and machine.



3. Alexander Chan

Question: In The Golem, is the main set of the house of Rabbi Loew (the one with the spiral staircase up to the roof) "homely" or "unhomely"? Why do you think this? What attributes of the space can you cite to support your stand. Is its impact on the viewer different from the exterior or interior?

The house was unhomely because of the distortion of iconography between domestication and natural forces.

The first architectural objects I noticed that were missing in the house composition were safety barriers like handrails for the stairs. There were no pragmatic elements within the house that instated any regards to domesticated needs. Items like the chain hanging from the ceiling were one of the only elements that indicated any signs of function or use.

Instead the house resembled a dark catacombs carved out of rock completely sparse and unadorned save the characters and some unfinished furniture pieces. There of course was no exterior indication of the building actually being carved within a rock outcropping as the house was situated amongst many other medieval houses. The fusion of buildings made the distinction unclear between the Rabbi’s house as the communal focal point and his house. This aspect was also reflected in the aggressive geometries that fused distinct architectural elements like the interior rooms, stairs, doors, and shelving into a landscaped conglomerate mass that did not give the audience a clear or comfortable way of understanding spaces. The ambiguous staircase was extremely cramped and even an old man like Rabbi Loew barely fit in its crevices. Also when Rabbi Loew first descended the stairs he also collides into the underside of the steps because of the low clearance height.

This spatial composition was continued throughout the rest of the house where humanity’s inhabitation seemed to be an afterthought. Room division did not seem to be a product of careful humanistic planning set on pragmatic function resulting in comfort but as thematic accentuations established for the characters by some external forces. The golem’s room was at the very bottom of the house where the atmosphere was dark and ominous. In contrast, the daughter’s room was bright with vibrant flowers painted on the walls.

Various architectural elements showed a similarity to natural objects but through an extremely exaggerated embodiment. The door hinges creep across the door as if trying to root into it. Passages had ribbed-like structures that held up its tubular form. The staircase was womb-like. Again the daughter’s room had flowers painted all over the walls alluding to domesticated things like wallpaper but in a non-organized and free-formed way. It was as if nature was utilized to alienate specifically iconic architectural elements like the stairs but it was also used as imagery hinting at domesticated trends.



4. David Henderson

Question: Compare the house of Rabbi Loew with the house of the mad inventor in Metropolis 1927. Do either of these support Freud's idea of the haunted house? Explain your position.

Freud’s idea of the haunted house is a place in which one does not feel comfortable in, but rather feels unsafe, and it is portrayed quite clearly in both the house of Rabbi Loew from “The Golem” and the house of the mad inventor in “Metropolis”. Both of these houses are very unusual and are clouded with mystery. The forms and styles of the architecture are unfamiliar and give the audience a feeling of uncertainty.

There are a couple factors that definitely portray Freud’s idea of the “unheimlich” in the house of Rabbi Loew. One of the main features in the house, is a very unusually shaped staircase in the centre of the main space. The odd, organic shapes in the architecture give the space the feeling that it is more than just a room with a stair in it, it almost feels like it is alive. The main space is dark and empty and has very few, if any right angles. The combination of the unusual organic forms and the sparsely furnished, poorly lit space are the main factors in making this house seem like a “haunted house”.

The house of the mad inventor in Metropolis also falls into Freud’s haunted house idea. His house, from the exterior is not all that unusual compared to our common idea of what a house is. However, it is surrounded by massive high-tech towers making it very out of place in its setting. This juxtaposition makes the audience immediately realize that there is something wrong with this place. The interior of the house is far eerier than the exterior. The doors open and close on their own giving the sense that, like Rabbi Loew’s house, there is some unseen force at work in the house. The style of architecture of the building is not organic as in Golem, but rather it uses an excessive amount of closed doors to create an uneasy feeling. All of the doors are locked, and open seemingly of their own free will. This house is far more mysterious than Rabbi Loew’s house, making it, in my opinion, a far better example of Freud’s notion of the haunted house.

One theme that is common in both movies is the idea of creating life. Rabbi Loew and the mad inventor are both in the process of creating “monsters” in their “haunted houses”. This theme of unnaturally creating life, and the mysterious architecture of the houses are both major factors in creating this unsafe and unhomely feeling. Although I feel that the mad inventor’s house is a better example, both houses definitely qualify as haunted houses according to Freud’s definition.



5. Minwoo Lee

Question: Compare the trailer of Dr. Caligari with the factory of the mad scientist in Metropolis 2001. Do these environments support the notion of madness of the characters? Do you feel that either of these feeds more into the idea of the uncomfortable or uncanny than the other? Explain.

The visual construction of Dr. Caligari’s trailer and the factory of the scientist in Tezuka’s Metropolis are choreographed with devices to portray the inner world of the characters, predominantly, their shared sense of madness.

A distinct expression of the character’s madness is expressed by their complete preoccupation with their obsession. As if to reflect this singular drive, the trailer and the factory are devoid of features associated with the typical activities of life, dedicating its entire existence to their obsession. In The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, the somnambulist is the central feature of the space while the building maintains only the most rudimentary elements of a dwelling; a window, a door, and a lamp. Likewise, the factory in Metropolis is portrayed as a machine built only to serve one purpose, the creation of Tima.
The frenetic visual representation of the space adds to the sense of madness. The surreal qualities of the German Expressionism embodied in the trailer by means of distorted forms and sharp frenzied light, reflect the delusional mind of Dr. Caligari. In Metropolis, the constant movement of the machines, sporadic sparks of light, and the busy sounds of the factory creates a likewise sense of frenzy.

Although the trailer and the factory display a similar quality of madness, their expression of the uncanny is much different. The feeling of uncanny stems from the reaction of fear and uneasiness towards the unknown; necessarily, to evoke a sense of uncanny, topics of the unknown must be dealt with. This exploitation of the unknown is much more pronounced in Dr.Caligari’s trailer than it is in the factory of the scientist.  Placement of elements associated with taboos such as the coffin, the necromantic manipulation of the somnambulist, and the disturbed world of the psyche represented in the set design strongly provoke the sense of uncanny.

 The Metropolis, however, does not deal with the taboos as provocatively. The factory is not built around the idea of the unknown, but it is a machine that is built and controlled by the scientist. Thus, it is observed with a sense of technological aspiration rather than as a subject of fear. Even the potential sense of uncanny associated with artificial life, is turned into a subject of beauty and admiration through the celestial portrayal of Tima that is accentuated with an aura of light that surrounds her. 



6. Paula Lee

Question: Caligari, Golem and 1927 Metropolis all place women in differing social roles in the film. How does this feed (or not) into any feelings of fear/propriety and the place of women in the films?

In the film, the Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, the female character Jane is described as a beautiful, but fragile being. She is loved by all men in the film and beauty is her only weapon from the dangers she faces, for example she is totally at the whim of Cesare when she faints in the shock of his presence in her room as she awakes from sleep. When Cesare threatens Jane with a knife, which he has already used to kill Alan, the fear of the viewers incline and reaches its peak witnessing a frail character being attacked by a monstrous character, helplessly. Similarly, in the film Golem: How he came to the world, the female character who is also described as being beautiful like Jane in the Cabinet of Doctor Caligari, is helplessly kidnapped by Golem and is dragged by her braided hair in the streets of Prague. Such scene, like the other, provoke fear from its viewers as the main character, who is without resistance or any power to defend herself, is abused by an opposite character of power and uncontrollable temper. In the film Metropolis 1927, like other movies discussed above, is of beautiful appearance and mild character that is also defenseless and helpless from all the dangers of the world. For example, though people trust and adore her beauty, she is easily betrayed by the people that she had helped, though she has done nothing wrong or unrighteous, as they become wrapped up in despair and rage. Likely, she is kidnapped and is used by Rotwang in his evil experiment even though she does not deserve such treatment. The defenseless female characters overpowered by unexpected and undeserving danger from each movie further incline fear in the movies as the main character’s danger is felt by the viewers. In some ways women in these films resemble the beauty of Mother Mary, being innocent, non-threatening, beautiful in appearance and in character. Especially in film Metropolis 1927, Maria, as her name already hints her resemblance of the evangelical- Mother Mary, acts as a ‘mediator’ between the ruler and its people, taking the role of humanity’s mother that spreads hope, love and peace. Female characters in the three films share the common characteristics of beauty and helplessness thus inclining people’s sympathy and fear with their accountancies with dangerous situations. 



7. Evelyn Lo

Question:The portrayal of the Golem and the robot version of Maria in Metropolis 1927 both use human actors to represent the "non human" beings. How do you feel that this works either to support, or not support, the belief that the beings being represented are truly robots/inhuman?

In the Golem and Metropolis, both the Golem and Maria are artificially created beings – one at the hands of a magician-type Rabbi, and the other at the hands of a mad scientist. In both films, both artificial beings are portrayed by human actors - The Golem by director/actor Paul Wegener and Machineman-Maria by actress Brigitte Helm. Despite the use of human actors, their roles as created, artificial beings are presented more convincingly, as human actors encompass a greater realm of gestures and expressions that may further enforce their disturbing non-human characters. The quality of human likeness is determined generally by two things: human movement and human appearance, and in both these roles the human actors are believable as non-humans, as they adjust their movements and appearances accordingly. For these characters to fall into the ‘uncanny valley’ they must be striving towards perfect realism, creating an image so close to reality excepting for minor features that then protrude as unnatural and grotesque and so to cause discomfort to viewers.

Brigitte Helm plays a dual role in Metropolis, as both human Maria and the Machineman-Maria are made in her image by Rotwang. She first appears as pure, virginal Maria, serving as a spiritual and motherly figure to the oppressed workers of Metropolis and later appears as the sinful, lustful, evil Maria who conducts Rotwang’s evil will of destruction. By playing both roles, having both Marias appear so much in each other physical likeness- and yet so contrasting in characters, the realization of what exactly has happened in Rotwang’s lab is rendered all the more disturbing and therefore furthers the plot of the film. Although machineman-Maria’s physical appearance mimics human-Maria’s perfectly, she appears completely inhuman and evil as she almost always has one eye open unnaturally wider than the other- this is an example a defect, or the inability to create the complexity of a human being through artificial means- as symmetry implies good health, and so represents human, and asymmetry implies hideous and inhuman. The notion that Rotwang was able to create an exact physical replica of Maria, with such opposing intentions is a sinister and frightening thought and allows viewers to compare and contrast the two roles and the inner transformation is made much clearer. Although Machineman-Maria is played by an actor, Brigitte Helm distinguishes her facial expressions and gestures enough to seem convincing as robotic or mechanical.  In playing human-Maria, she radiates purity, and her movements are gentle and comforting – but in playing Machineman-Maria, Helm’s movements are jerky and mechanical- particularly in her lustful, erotic dance when she flings her limbs about wildly, and she appears out of her own control – as she is under the control of her creator, Rotwang.

Wegener portrays Golem as an artificial monster who is, similar to Maria, under the control of the Rabbi who created him. He is conveyed as a clay monster, and crafted to appear larger, stronger, and taller-as a type of superhuman. His appearance is in the form of a man, but he has an abnormally large build, and also moves his body in a rigid and awkward manner. Wegener is able to convincingly express through stiff facial movements; a shift of the eye or a twitch of the mouth, his inner emotions and his reactions to the world around him. These are delicate facial expressions-, which would not be possible with the use of any other than a human actor. These instances occur when he is in the palace court and he appears confused when the women recoil from his touch, and when the child offers him an apple and he appears touched by her kindness. Because the Golem’s form is not believably a human one, the very subtle human facial expressions are necessary for viewers to consider him as human- even if for only moment before returning their attention to his glaring abnormalities that conclude he is artificial. Conversely, in machineman-Maria, her form is so convincingly human, that she must exaggerate her motions and facial expressions to appear more grotesquely inhuman.

In both characters, the use of human actors support their roles as nonhuman beings, as it aids in creating characters that fall just short of appearing realistically human emphasizing their abnormalities and thus prompting the disturbing and unsettling reactions from audiences.




8. John McFarlane

Question: Compare the nature of the scale models and sets in Caligari, Golem and 1927 Metropolis. How did this affect the believability of the larger urban spaces? If the uncanny also refers to a sense of fear in the sheer scale and anonymity of urban spaces, how does this figure into the method for making/representing these spaces?

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari uses wildly expressionist sets and models to create a sense of mental derangement that acts as an element of the development of the plot. The sets and scale models of The Golem, in contrast, are used to add a sense of historical realism to the film. The spectacular settings of Metropolis are used to give the film a fantastic and futuristic atmosphere.

All three films have successful settings when measured by their intentions, though only The Golem, intent on realism, uses its sets to contribute to the believability of the larger urban spaces. The broken reality displayed in The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari deliberately avoids realism in order to convey what is revealed to be the insanity of the narrator. The exceptional scenes that emphasize this effect are those at the beginning and end of the film in which the narrator and the listener representing the audience are speaking in the more realistic asylum garden. The effect of these more normal scenes is to draw the viewer into believing in the sanity of the protagonist and the truth of his story. The expressionism of the story initially seems to be related to the tragic nature of the plot. At the conclusion of the film, however, the same twisted nature of the settings is revealed as a symptom of the insanity of the storyteller.

Both Caligari and The Golem are set in urban centers of the near and distant past, and both generally rely on effects other than the use of scale to convey the aura of unhomelyness that Freud analyzes. A possible exception is the wall surrounding the Jewish ghetto in the Prague of The Golem. Although the effect of the massive wall and gate could be considered as an uncanny threshold separating the Jewish section from the idealized Austrian section, the smaller scale of public spaces on either side of the wall provides a sense of intimate human scale such as that also seen in the small German town of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. As both a cause and effect, in both these films the predominant method of representing the spaces is through sets.

In Metropolis, the vast scale of the settings is a principle strategy to create an uncanny atmosphere in which the plot occurs. This film uses many scale models as well as very large sets to portray the uncanny and overlarge urban spaces of a precipitous capitalist future before a Marxist re-evaluation. Although The Golem makes some use of crowds to create the impression of anonymous Jewish city-dwellers, the effect of the anonymity of crowds is expanded exponentially in Metropolis to create a modern sense of loneliness within a crowd. The vast multitudes of workers create a faceless and nameless mob of labor. Because of their numbers, the revelers too become anonymous. The effect of the numberless crowds is first to emphasize the vast and teeming nature of the metropolis and second to combine individuals into groups representing concepts. This can be seen in the set design which shows regular and undistinguished buildings for most city-dwellers in comparison with the highly individualized dwellings of The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari and The Golem. The scale model scenes reinforce the feeling of anonymity by showing vast numbers of similar buildings (the obvious exception being the great central tower) and the bustling traffic that implies the extent and magnitude of the crowds.



9. Sava Miokovic

Question: Does the presentation of insanity in Caligari and the nature of the mad inventors in Golem, Metropolis 1927 and 2001, feed into feelings of the uncanny in the films? How does the reading of "insanity" compare to ideas of "haunted house" or "unhomely" that Freud might have been referring to in his definition of "the uncanny"?

The presentation of insanity in the films strongly contributes to their feeling of the uncanny.  The portrayal of insanity is able to conjure a sense of the uncanny because it is something we all fear.  We fear its consequences, the segregation that occurs from your inability to communicate your thoughts and feelings with your peers and losing control of yourself, being directed by external forces.  It is something that can happen to anyone at anytime without explanation.  It is comparative to the generation of the haunted house, we never expect a house to become haunted but due to an unforeseen and unexplainable tragedy the dwelling becomes forever doomed.

Insanity is something we have all experienced through literature, media and in our everyday lives.  Consider the classic tale of Hanzel and Gretel, a story about a witch who lures children into her house with candy because she desires to eat them, an insane person.  If you recollect your own history, you might remember stories of the crazy old man next door or the lady who wanders around the neighbourhood aimlessly talking to herself.  Due to these experiences, when the insane characters are introduced to us in the movie they seem “strangely familiar”.  In reality, most of us only get a glimpse into the lives of the insane, but we cannot help but wonder what happens behind closed doors, like the haunted house, we fear it but we want to know more about it, our curiousity draws us in, we want to resolve our suspicions.  Nevertheless, the full story is usually left to our imagination.  In the films, the story of the insane characters, which are strangely familiar, is told in its entirety and this makes us feel estranged.  Its like our wildest thoughts are confirmed.  In fact, the scenario feels so real that when we finally discover what occurs behind closed doors we feel it is our moral obligation to warn the characters in the movie that they are being deceived.



10. Reena Mistry

Question: Caligari's story is presented as a story within a story - ie. a story "framed" by a larger story. How does this feed into ideas of discomfort/uncanny? Would the story be as uncomfortable had it only been comprised of the middle section, without the justification/surprise presented by the frame? Explain.

The framed story in The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari takes the viewer into an unsettling world of instability and contortion. The depiction of this world, its strange storyline and its eerie characters is enough to produce a level of discomfort; however it is the frame itself that immerses the unsuspecting audience into the uncanny.

To classify the tale as uncanny requires that the story is originally intended to seem ‘real’. The frame sets up Francis’ story as a retelling of his past by establishing the conventional relationship of trust between the narrator and viewer. The opening sequence portrays Francis as a relatively sane character, especially when contrasted by the ghostly introduction of Jane. Francis’ portrayal brings integrity to his character, and thus his story. Within the framed tale, though the story is strange, this trust between the narrator and viewer is built upon and affirmed by the heroic character of Francis. The sudden and unexpected betrayal of this trust occurs in the final sequences of the film when the framed story is revealed to be the sick fantasy of the narrator. Thus, the frame is essential in producing discomfort as it utilizes the narrator’s story as the intentionally deceptive tool which produces the uncanny.

The narrator’s betrayal of trust by the portrayal of his insanity continues to affect the audience with uncanny notions beyond the confines of the movie screen. The ambiguity of the film’s conclusion leaves the viewer with unanswered questions about the story just witnessed. The audience is left to wonder if any part of the tale was true at all, or if the fantasy was an entire construct of Francis’ ill imagination. Perhaps the audience hopes to believe that some part of the framed tale was true, in effort to justify their willingness to believe such a deranged tale from the mind of a madman; this exposes the ease at which a spectator can be manipulated by a film. Finally, the ambiguity leaves the viewer with a consciousness of the inability to establish truth from fiction, or real from unreal, thus leaving the audience with the uncanny truth that insanity is closer to reality than we would like to believe.

Thus, though the framed story provides the sense of discomfort, the framing story with its deranged plot twist and distorted reality is essential to the uncanny notions of the film.



11. Melissa Ng

Question: Metropolis 2001 seems to be set in an undefined time period. Its "scientific objects" reference base objects that are "old" (thinking of the modified telephone used by the Detective when operating on Tima), rather than clearly futuristic, as might be implied by aspects of the flying machines in the film. Do these contrasting sensibilities help to support a sense of unease in the film? Explain.

In Metropolis 2001, the contrasting sensibilities of “old” and futuristic objects create a sense of uncanny by confusing the viewer and their perspective on time in the film.  Objects allow a film to be three-dimensional and identifiable as they represent time and a spatial frame of reference.  The conflicting and contradictory manipulation of the time through the use of objects from different eras is able to create both a sense of ease and unease.  Objects from the past in the film produce an identifiable sense; a world the viewer recognizes and is familiar with.  Objects of the future create a sense of unease as they represent objects which are unusual, extraordinary, abnormal, and alien to our perceived memories.  

The rotary dial antique telephone depicted in the hotel room rented by Kenichi’s uncle, is from the early twentieth century.  The telephone links us to the past as an object representing a breakthrough in technology and communications during its era.  The object still remains representative as a new technology in the film; however, its depiction as a scientific object used to connect machines to a greater mainframe pulls the viewer from their sense of ease in realizing that the once familiar object is no longer the same for the exception of its exterior shell.  This technological transformation of the telephone is an indication that the present time is the future; a future where the time is unknown, unspecified, and unfamiliar.

Other objects in the film such as the old radio, which Tima finds in the underground trash, is representative of an era closer to our real time.  The world portrayed becomes more recognizable and the object seems as a hint to understand the time and space in which the film is set.  The radio creates a sense of ease, but a sense of unease as well.  We are able to recognize objects such as the outdated radio (which appears to be recently discarded) but other objects in the film such as the futuristic television monitors and lasers remind us that the world is not our own.  The radio is able to tell us that the world in the story is close to ours, but the futuristic objects push the ambiguity of space and time.

The objects in the film represent distinct time periods of both past and future which in turn creates a sense of uncanny.  The contradicting objects of both the familiar and unfamiliar depict a story which is taking place beyond our world.  Realism in film is often relative to the film’s true representation of time; Metropolis 2001 uses objects to confuse time to create a world beyond our own.              



12. Aisling O'Carroll

Question: Compare the rendering of "faces" in the silent films to the differentiation of the face types in the Anime version of Metropolis. How are they the same/different? How does this impact the reading of the character roles in the films?


The medium change between silent films and the animated version of ‘Metropolis’ greatly impacts how the viewer relates to and understands the story of the film. In the silent films, the faces on camera represent actual people and the viewer watches the story happen, while in an animated, cartoon film, the characters on screen are not replicas of individuals, and so it is easier for the viewer to relate to the characters based on their actions in the story.  In Tezaku’s Metropolis this is emphasized even more with the contrast of the cartoon faces in front of a more detailed and realistic background. The characters in Tezaku’s version are also more abstracted from the recognizable human form since a large percent of the population are in fact robots, with whom we can only connect with their actions; as well as many of the human characters whose features and bodies are so exaggerated and stylized that they do not resemble a human and so we cannot attach them to individual existences, rather we understand them through their character and our own interpretation of the person in that character.

In the silent films, characters are played by actors rather than drawn by the artist, and so there is less control over the expression and deliverance of each role.  The makeup and facial expressions are crucial in conveying the themes and feel of the movie. There are similarities between all three silent films in how the faces are rendered. The innocent, good characters have softer, clearer features, and are portrayed as perhaps more civilised, while the gloomier, mysterious characters are rendered darker, and wilder. This is explicit in the Cabinet of Doctor Caligari, where the evil Dr. Caligari is rendered throughout the film with wild hair, and dark makeup around his eyes,  and then at the end as the calm respectable doctor in the hospital. In Fritz Lang’s Metropolis this comparison is also possible with Maria; the real Maria is soothing and peaceful, her face is clear and easy to read – but the evil Maria is rendered with dark eyeliner, and more wild expressions and movements.

It is interesting to compare how similarly between the animated and filmed movies, the characters fighting for good and trying to unearth the social disparities in the plots are often depicted by younger characters. In Metropolis, the young Freder and Maria try to mediate between the workers and the business men above.  In Tezuka’s Metropolis, Ken-ichi and Tima are rendered incredibly infantile, exaggerating their innocence. Even Rock is rendered as a younger character, which makes sense in this comparison as he is searching for the reasons behind what is happening as well.

Common between the silent and animated films is a focus on the eyes as tools for expression. In the silent films, the questionable characters are depicted with darker, shifty eyes, while the opposite is true for the protagonist characters. All expression with the eyes in exaggerated and held for unnatural lengths in order for the viewer to understand the significance of the emotion.
In the animated films, the characters we trust are similarly rendered with clear faces. They are also rendered most like human forms, while the darker characters are more abstracted. The darker characters also often have other features that distract from their faces and eyes, like in the case of Duke Red, with the dramatic hair and nose. The eyes of the animated characters are also very important. When a character is betraying someone their eyes are hidden; like Rock who wears glasses whenever he tries to track down Tima and Ken-ichi, knowing that Duke Red really wants them, or Skunk, the secretary of State who hides his eyes beneath his hat brim as he betrays President Boon.
It is interesting to see the many similarities between the animated and silent films, and yet see the huge contrast in effect of the two.



13. Shannon Ross

Question: Compare the nature of the public spaces of the workers' level in Metropolis 1927 and 2001. How are they similar/different? How does the architecture support the idea of a class structure?

The film metropolis was originally made in 1927.  It was envisioned to portray the future of its industrial society.  Social class had changed during that time and at its extremes had become divisible into two categories, the worker and the patron.  The director imagined this class division to increase and to become more uncanny.  Thus giving rise to the exaggerated version of the future portrayed in the film.  Where the workers became so disposable that they were treated as gears part of a larger machine.  The theme of class division was carried through into the remake of the film in 2001.  Except that the vision of Metropolis 1927 was no longer an extrapolation of the industrialized society of 2001.  In this sense the two movies differ but both carry through the ambition to create a version of the future based on the current direction of its present society.  Both films portray class division through architecture.

The nature of the public spaces of the worker’s level in the 1927 version of Metropolis is one of harsh and rough terrain, void of nature and its elements.  It depicts a cavernous space, a completely artificial world, designed more as an exhaust chamber in a motor rather than a place akin to the spiritual desire of freedom humans relish in.  In contrary the materials used in the architecture of the upper level allow natural light in.  The higher ceilings create a sense of freedom and the large doors of the patrons’ office portray wealth. 

Metropolis 1927 depicts more of a chiaroscuro version of the future.  The patrons live above the ground while the workers live underground deprived of light.  But in the Metropolis 2001 social class is more stratified because of the invention of artificial intelligence.  This means that even though a human is considered a worker he/she is deemed more important than the robots.  There are more physical levels as well as social class levels than the version of the film made in 1927.  As we move down to the lower levels human presence becomes less and less evident.  The architecture of the upper level is full of color and dense precision.  Metal and glass dominate the facades and enforce the director’s vision to carry through the aspirations of the original film to attempt to predict the future of the industrialized society.

So the public spaces of the human workers are open to the sky in Metropolis 2001.  Even though the large towers shadow them there is more color and more depictions of human interactivity.  There are merchants and children playing.  There are firework displays and festivals.  But as we move underground the architecture mirrors more closely the original film because of the cavernous ambiance and the absence of natural light.



14. Terry Sin

Question: The expressionistic nature of the sets in Caligari can be seen to be more closely aligned with the character of the animated sets in 2001 Metropolis, than those used in 1927 Metropolis. Agree? Disagree? Comment.

I agree that the expressionistic sets seen the Cabinet of Caligari are more closey aligned with the animated sets of Osamu Tezuka’s Metropolis, than those used in Fritz Lang’s Metropolis. Of course, they are definitely not as exaggerated as those in Caligari. Caligari’s sets are extremely styled renditions of regular settings, which reflect the ambience of the current scene. For example, jagged patterns in sets usually signified tense situations while smoother lines meant calm, such as scenes with Jane. Similarly the final cell that once held Caligari at the end of the movie also changes to reflect Francis’ new reality. On the other hand, 1927’s Metropolis involves sets that try to be realistic representations of the future. While Lang’s vision was still very much ahead of its time, many of the sets, including the cityscape were based on architecture during the age of the first skyscrapers. The giant machines of Metropolis may be seen as being loosely based on the power stations being constructed at the time. 2001’s Metropolis, while still trying to be a plausible representation of the future took many liberties with the stylizing of its sets, especially with the levels from Zone 1 and below. While this could be partly due to the style of anime, it is nonetheless an amplification of elements. The colour and general toning of the sets seem to reflect the events and emotions of the movie. During the more playful scenes at the beginning of the movie, Zone-1 is very colourful and vibrant. As the movie moves into darker themes involving Dr. Laughton, Zone-1 becomes a very dark and intimidating place, with pipes of the doctor’s laboratory snaking into the landscape. During Pero’s standoff of the coupe d’etat, the set becomes very cold in tone, while once it was very vibrant at the beginning of the film with a bustling community moving about the escalators. With the exception of the M-Machine monster, the sets in Lang’s Metropolis never truly reflect the ambiance of the film. An example would be the subterranean church. The same set is used in two very different scenes; one scene of hope and the other of anger and violence. Yet the cave does not become twisted or even darker at this moment. Thus, the sets of the Cabinet of Caligari seem to be more closely related to Osamu Tezuka’s Metropolis as they are stylized to reflect moods, while those used in Fritz Lang’s Metropolis seem to be more concerned with reality.



15. Helen Tout

Question: Comment on the impact of colour on the reading of the differentiated levels in the environments presented in the 2001 version of Metropolis vs. the 1927 version.

The original 1926 black and white Metropolis differentiates the above ground level from the workers level by how much light is shown. The surface level is bathed in light depicting a freer environment and the workers level is much darker and gloomier to heighten their despair and feelings of isolation.
The 2001 version of Metropolis has 4 different levels. These levels are differentiated by colour. The surface level is again very bright and bathed in light. Zone-1 (where the working class lives) is darker and scruffier then the surface level but still consists of brightly coloured structures to give the illusion of brightness and freedom. Zone-2 (mostly for robots) is depicted as having only the complimentary colours of red and green which give it a two dimensional, empty feel that doesn’t really relate to humans. Zone-3 (sewage plants) is very dark, using black and browns to show the massive machinery, this gives us the feeling that humanity definitely does not belong here.



16. Jamie Usas

Question: Compare the portrayal of the workers accommodation (first level below ground) in the two versions of Metropolis. How do these work into the idea of the "homely" versus "unhomely"? Does one feel more uneasy or uncanny than the other? If so, then why?

Fritz Lang’s 1927 film, Metropolis  and Rintaro’s 2002 adaptation, Metoroporisu portray the workers accommodations with an uncanny familiarity to our own world.   Both films illustrate capitalist society as bourgeoisie occupying the ‘regular’ world and the proletariat being exploited in the wasteland beneath.  Lang's Metropolis presents the modern capitalist city with an art deco aesthetic familiar of the films time.  The worker's city underneath is presented in through a bare minimalism of shapes and shadows which create a sense of the uncanny through it's shocking similarity fortress-like concentration camp, filtering out any sense of life or vitality, leaving only the mechanical impressions of a capital driven society.  Through the use of sets that come alive by the hand of the human fused to them, Lang clearly implies the android nature of human/industry. Rintaro’s 2002 Metoroporisu provides a different angle from which we may appreciate the uncanny.  By modeling the city above ground after what appears as a western-like society and the city below ground an "Spadia Streetesque" eastern-society, an uncanny comparison is created regarding the relationship between the consumers and producers or our modern world.  If given the choice, I would take the latter.   



17. Susan Varickanickal

Question: How is differentiated architectural style used to represent varying levels of authority or power in both versions of Metropolis? Is this also a factor in Caligari and Golem?

In the both versions of the film “Metropolis”, the varying levels of authority or power are represented by differentiated architectural style.  Grand skyscrapers built to the sky, is home to the wealthy, influential decision makers of the city.  In both versions of Metropolis the endless tower reaching to heavens is the architectural style used to represent the highest level of power and authority in the City.  They are the ones who oversee the city and decide on its fate.  Being in the towers allows the people of power to look down on those below them, and oversee the city in its entire splendor.  The tower also represents the opportunity for growth, as it is endless.  They have the opportunity to grow and expand as the sky is their only limitation. 

The dark, industrial architecture of the underground city is home to the labourers or working class of the city.  Again in both versions of Metropolis, the compact, overcrowded, industrial buildings represent the lowest level of power in the city.  In the anime version of Metropolis, the literal change in levels is more obvious as certain people or robots needed specific clearance to be on certain levels.  The buildings are plain, overcrowded and lack splendor.  The compact overcrowded architectural styles represent the lack of authority and wealth.    There is a limit to their growth and are forced to look up at those in the towers who control the power.

Differentiated architectural styles are not as evident in Caligari and Golem, however they are still evident.  Although the expressionistic art in the design of the set for the film Caligari is similar throughout the movie, one notices that the places with the greatest authority, such as the city clerks office or the police station, have architectural elements which are different then the places with the least authority or power, such as the carnival.  In the city clerks office the clerk himself is elevated on a podium and then elevated even more by sitting on a high stool.  This represents his high level of authority as city clerk.  Also the scenes introducing the police station, the actors must walk up a set of stairs in order to reach the station, and upon arrival meet police officers who are also elevated on high stools.  This again represents the high level of authority the police figures have.  For those part of the carnival, like Cesare, and Dr. Caligari, they are situated on the outskirts of the city.  The scenes introducing the carnival, the actors must travel downwards to in order to reach the carnival.  This represents the lowest level of authority.  Likewise in Golem, the creator of the golem lived in a tower, representing his authority over the golem.  The golem however was created, and dwelled underneath the tower representing his lack of authority and power.



18. Chao Lun Wang

Question: Comment on the use of light/darkness and use of "shadows" in Caligari and 1927 Metropolis in creating a more fearful environment. How does this enhance the feeling of the uncanny or "haunted" in both expected/typical as well as unexpected/atypical ways?

The sense of the ‘uncanny’ is conveyed effectively by the inter play of light and dark and shadows in two iconic German expressionist films, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, and 1927’s Metropolis.

The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari

Unexpected / Atypical
In Caligari, the portrayal of light and shadow are surreal and symbolic. They are often staggering patterns on the walls and floors of the sets. This bizarre portrayal of the most natural of elements presents the world as a flattened backdrop for a sequence of uncanny events in the eyes of an insane.

Expected / Typical
The fear of unknown is also highly symbolic through the use of light and shadows. In one particular scene where Jane meets Dr. Caligari while searching for her missing father, Caligari, dressed in a black cloak, merges into the darkness of his tent, while creating a sharp contrast with his white gloves and their suspicious motions, which lures Jane into the darkness. 


Unexpected / Atypical
In Metropolis, the lights of the city is dazzling, and hypnotizing. Those who live above ground are fascinated with this light, which is the produce of the working class, but they are completely disconnected with workers. Conversely, the workers works underground in stifling conditions and are not beneficiaries of their own produce. Thus they also feel a strong sense of disconnection. The tension of the film builds up as the disconnection increases. The climatic scene when the entire city lost its light and is devoured by total darkness is the point when the disconnection between the classes reached breaking point.

Expected / Typical
Like The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, Metropolis also uses light and dark in typical ways to convey the uncanny. When the mad scientist Rotwang stalks Maria in the underground caves, the camera follows Rotwang’s staggered silhouette against the walls as he stealthily creeps up on her. When Maria noticed her situation, Rotwang chases after her with a harsh flashlight, easily spotting her giving her no opportunity to hide. Finally, Maria feels she powerlessness in the presence of the spot light and drops to her feet.



19. Benjamin Wong

Question: In the two versions of Metropolis, compare and contrast the advantages/disadvantages of scale models versus animation in the creation of the more alienating elements of the subterranean environments.

The use of sets and filming techniques as Eugene Schufftan had in the 1927 film, Metropolis, is able to give the audience a more realistic view of the world imagined for 2027.  Placing the characters in a scaled set has the advantage of allowing the audience to perceive a natural physical interaction between the actors and the created world of Metropolis.  In a scaled set, actors are able to move through the world contained within walls, using it to enhance the expression of their body gestures.  As opposed to the animated world in Osamu Tezuka’s Metropolis, Schufftan’s version perhaps allows for a more personal interpretation of the experiences of the film’s characters, allowing one to relate to them on a human level.  Although the animated aspect of Tezuka’s film might cause a certain level of detachment, it is able to present a world limited only by the imagination.  This is essential in the depiction of the subterranean environment.  Through the animation in Tezuka’s Metropolis, the world seen is perhaps most effective in its portrayal of the “uncanny”.  The ingenuity of animation in its creation of the underground Metropolis completely infested with technology gives the audience an uneasy feeling.  The animated environments are overwhelming as they approach reality.  Another advantage of an animated film is its seamless portrayal of the characters and their environment, as the characters and their world are created in the same dimension.  Schufftan’s Metropolis is at a disadvantage as the sets were built according to restrictions of the material world.  Another point is the very stylistic approach of the set design, and its very clear link to Modernism and Art Deco.  It seems as if the sets were created more as aesthetic works of art, more concerned with composition than portraying reality.  Without the addition of animated environments available to film technology today, the set can also be seen as unsuccessful as a depiction of a possible reality.  The uncanny aspect if much more present in the animated Metropolis through the level of detail in the machinery, which appears much closer to machines in the present day.



20. Erin Corcoran

Question: Compare the upper "aristrocratic" levels in the two Metropolis films. How does the architectural style support the differentiation of these areas of the city from the main and subterranean levels? Is one film more successful than the other at achieving this class differentiation through architectural style? If so why or why not?

scene from city


Within the upper ‘aristocratic’ levels of Metropolis, the architecture in both films is first and foremost that of the skyscraper, containing within it the ideal of reaching upwards into the sky through pure human ingenuity and technology.  Within the 1927 version, this ‘high architecture’ is presented through heavily detailed Chicago-style buildings (see image, top left), gravity-defying infrastructure, and grand neo-classical white stone athletic complexes and pleasure houses perched at the summit of these towers.  Similarly in the 2001 anime, architecture is portrayed at its ‘best and brightest’ through a series of slender towers built to incredible heights and clad in perfectly detailed machine-fabricated glass, metal and stone.  The tone within each of the two cities is that of the unbelievable, cities constructed to prove only that it can be done, and because of this, both are overshadowed by feelings of being larger-than-life and separated from the human scale.  It is hard to imagine daily life within these environments, and within the films these environments can only be showcased with aerial views, panoramas and fly-through shots that are forced to quickly cut to the human activities involved in the plot. 

In the underground layers of each city, buildings are architecture-less, either determined by random construction or based solely on their function.  In the 1927 version, the workers housing units are designed as mere storage boxes for the people; grid-like towers, plain in construction, and driven by function in their design.  In contrast, the lower city within the 2001 anime is highly decorated and disorderly, and completely unplanned.  Instead of simply lacking a style like the 1927 film, the environment of the lower city in the anime is determined entirely by the people within it.  It is a hodge-podge and is decorated by human hands, coated in graffiti and hashed together by convenience and available materials.  It is lacking in architecture and unlike the upper city, its form is completely determined by the human scale.  In the 1927 version, the differentiation between the cities is only made through a lack of ornamentation, and design and the lack of human scale is still present in both.  In this way, the anime is much more successful in separating the lives of the upper and lower layers, one as defined by an excess of design, perfection in every detail, and the other, lacking design, an environment determined by chance and chaos.



21. Matthias Heck

Question: In Metropolis 2001, speak to the issue of the environment (degradation of buildings and waste) in the lower Zones. How does this relate to the 1927 version. Why do you think there is this change between the films?

In Tezuka’s version of Metropolis a dirty and waste-filled ambience is shown in the lower levels, beginning in zone -1, the housing level, where the oppressed underclass is living. It is a gloomy and discomforting atmosphere and the pipes and the machinery that are part of the environment try to communicate the image of a giant artificial machinery, that lies under the bright surface of the upper city. The industrial character is even more present in zone -2, the power plant level. Despite the decaying and unappealing state of the environment, life seems to be more bustling and uplifting than in the original Metropolis version. This might partly be due to the fact that the movie itself is quite colourful (although the workers seem to share the same fate in both versions). Still, the 2001 version is not as sinister as Lang’s version.
The lowest zone, the sewage level is only roamed by robots and completely lacks any habitable and liveable environment.

The worker’s zone in the 1927 version on the other hand is characterized by sterile and monolithic buildings, bare of any ornaments or traces of their inhabitants, the workers and their families. They seem to be reduced to anonymous numbers in the system. In contrast to the chaotic structure in the anime version, the dwellings in Lang’s version seem to be ordered and equated. Environmental similarities between both movies can be seen in the factories and the power plant zones: both have a clean and mechanical character.

One possible explanation for the change in the environment is that Tezuka tried to create a bigger visual contrast between the upper and lower stratum on a graphic level, hence the decline from level to level. A crucial quote from the anime version is: “It takes light to create shadow”. This statement can not only be seen as an explanation for the different light conditions and the different atmosphere that is created by that, but also as a general statement that extends beyond the obvious meaning to other opposed parts, for instance the environment. Furthermore, with some 75 years difference between the production of the movies, one has to see the different cultural background: Lang came from an post-industrial era in Germany where the issues of the workforce in a Marxist and socialistic sense had been an important topic, Tezuka however (or probably even more, director Rintaro) grew up in a modern and post-modern world (post WW2 in Japan), where environmental issues started to arise. So, when the 1927 version stood mainly as a warning for the rights of the workforce and a socialist view of the world, the 2001 version maybe added the aspect of the ongoing environmental pollution.



22. Lejla Odobasic

Question: In Metropolis 2001 the public urban space is presented very differently during the early part of the film and during the coup (winter scene). How has nature/time of day/brightness been used to create varying feelings of discomfort. Is there a particular seasonal effect that you feel lends itself more to feelings of discomfort? Why?



23. Suzanne Gibson:

Question: How does the representation of the eyes of the various characters in the 4 movies viewed thus far feed into the notion of either the uncanny or the uncomfortable?

The four movies: The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, The Golem, Metropolis, and Osamu Tezuka’s Metropolis, use eyes to demonstrate the difference between a healthy reality and unhealthy or unnatural reality. I feel that the directors chose the human eye as it is one feature that is clearly our own.  Eyes are often used as a focal point, they are the first thing we notice when speaking to someone, and when an individual is photographed or documented the eyes are a point that the viewer is sure to come back to, the eye is so familiar to us the viewer that when altered or when it acts ‘unnatural’ it is one of the first things we notice.  When something as familiar as the human eye becomes alien to the viewer the notion of uncanny and discomfort is often the result. 

I will start with the film, The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari. By the end of the film the view becomes aware that they have witnessed an unhealthy unreality, but the audience is given clues throughout the film, as seen in the eyes of the characters. The film begins with two men sitting on a bench their eyes gaping widely, the older man the ‘healthy’ figure’s eyes are responsive to their environment, while Francis the ‘unhealthy’ character’s eyes stare blankly skyward. Throughout the opening act Francis eyes depict an unhealthy state of his mind, his eye movements are sudden and unresponsive to outside stimuli, they are wide and dilated through out the opening act, by watching Francis eyes the viewer is aware that something is not right with this character. As Francis begins to tell his story and the audience begins to see the story through Francis eyes there is a shift; no long is Francis mental illness apparent, Francis does not realize he is mentally ill, his eyes become clear and the characters that exist in his mind become unhealthy, their eyes become distorted. 

The best example is Dr. Caligari, in Francis unhealthy unreality his eyes are exaggerated with dark makeup, and distorted by magnified glasses; his eyes like Francis eyes were in the beginning are shifty and uncertain. When the audience is reintroduced to Dr. Caligari in reality his eyes are clear he lacks dark makeup and the magnifying glasses, his eyes are responsive clear and healthy.  The director uses the changes in the characters eyes to demonstrate the difference between the story of metal ill France and the reality in which he exist.
Metropolis 1927 uses a similar method to create a sense of uneasiness; Maria a wholesome character had an evil double made in her likeness.  Like in The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, the healthy Maria’s eyes are clear, free of dark make up and responsive to their environment while the unnatural double eyes are laded with dark make-up and one eye is half closed giving her eyes an unnatural appearance.  Maria’s eyes tell the story of what is natural and what is not. 

Osamu Tezuka’s Metropolis also uses the eyes to indicate what is unhealthy and unnatural.  In this case the mad scientists has a false eye while his other eye although natural is overly large and dilated, like Francis in the Cabinet of Dr. Caligari, the scientist’s eyes depict an unhealthy metal state. Further like in the pervious version of Metropolis there is also a robot human named Tima, who in the beginning is unaware of being an unnatural creation.  While Tima’s is unaware of her unnaturalness her eyes remain clear, responsive and human like, however once she becomes aware of being an unnatural creation her eyes begin to shed brown tears, and as the plot progress and Tima begins understand her existence the extent of her eyes become less and less human and more and more animated, by the end her eyes lack any human resemblance. 

Lastly in The Golem, there is also a created being, this time made of clay, yet unlike the other examples the director takes a different approach in the previous two examples where the non humans are intended to look human and it is only their eyes that give them away, rather the non human Golem is not intended to look human, it is only his eyes that resemble those of a person. The choice of using human eyes in a being that is clearly not human perhaps creates the greatest feelings of discomfort as human eyes are something that are our own and element that all audiences can relate to. Golem the clay creation’s gestures are limited and he has no speech yet through his eyes he is able to demonstrate and express complex human emotions and that in itself is creepy.



24. Kate Gould:

Question: Part of what makes scenes in a film feel uncanny arises from the feeling of deja vu. Also known as "doubling". Would the closing sequence in the Anime version of Metropolis have felt the same pre 9/11?

The 2001 anime version of Metropolis features a most uncanny moment in film history.  In the final scenes a great tower, the “ziggurat”, is destroyed in a moving sequence.  This tower has important symbolism and represents the pinnacle of man’s achievements in the city.  This scene is particularly disturbing as it presents a most ruthless and inhuman destruction, but then juxtaposes it with the music of Ray Charles.  Furthermore, a sense of déjà vu, or “doubling”, is felt by the modern audience, as this is uncanningly similar to our real life experiences of 9/11.   As this event was so emotional and everyone can personally relate to this, the scene in Metropolis begins to take on a deeper meaning.

The ziggurat of Metropolis and the TwinTowers were very similar in their iconography and symbolism, which makes their connection even more compelling.  In Metropolis the symbolism of the ziggurat is important, as these ancient Mesopotamian temples were believed to be dwelling places for the Gods.  They also represent the form of architecture that greatest resembles the Tower of Babel from the book of Genesis.  In this biblical passage humanity is united and attempts to build a tower to reach the heavens.  Simply translated the word “Babel” is comprised of “baa” meaning “gate” and “el”, “God”.  Hence, this represented mankind’s pride and arrogance in an attempt to construct a passage to God or heaven.  God reasons that “if as one people speaking the same language they have begun to do this, then nothing they plan to do will be impossible for them” .  Therefore, he prevents the towers construction by scattering humanity across the earth, and confounding their languages, such that they were no longer united.
In Metropolis, the ziggurat represents a towering government palace similar to the Tower of Babel.  At its zenith is a customized throne at which will sit the most advanced android.  This was to create a supercomputer which would have been used to establishing political dominion over the world.  Therefore, as in the Tower of Babel, the destruction of the ziggurat moves mankind from their ideas of domination and superiority to a more simple way of being.

Similar to that of the ziggurat of Metropolis, the symbolic imagery of the TwinTowers was one of the dominance and wealth of the industrialized world.  They were a prominent figure in the New York skyline. Their image became synonymous with the idea of the “American Dream”, as did that of the Statue of Liberty or the EmpireStateBuilding.  When they were built they were believed to be indestructible, a symbol of America’s economic power.  Therefore, when they were destroyed everything that they represented was drawn into question and America realized just how vulnerable they really were.
Hence, in the shocking similarity between the final scenes of Metropolis and the real life scenes of the 9/11 one experiences a great sense of déjà vu.  Just as the construction of the Tower of Babel triggered God to teach humanity a lesson of their mortality, so the ruin of the ziggurat of Metropolis or the TwinTowers in New York made us realize that nothing is indestructible of our own mortality.

Book of Genesis 11:1-9



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