Arch 443/646: Architecture and Film
Fall 2004

Osama Tezuka's Metropolis (2001)
Rin Taro, director


Discussion Questions:
last updated December 28, 2004

7. Czypyha, Shane

You may want to read Steve Bondar's research paper on this film if you are not familiar with Anime and Japanese Manga... It is large (10MB pdf) so be patient as it uploads link

  1. The above ground architecture in Metropolis 2001 differs greatly from the style of architecture that came to be standard for futuristic architecture in other Japanese anime films. Why do you feel that the directors chose this particular type of architecture over what was the norm for the genre?   
  Tokyo, Oct. 13th 2004

Dear Tezukasan,
I made this movie at length. Metropolis 2001.
I know, I know very well what you used to say. You told me more than once that you were not going to be made into animation anything you had done before Astro Boy in 1952. I know you thought that the Metropolis manga was not skillful enough, that its structure was not the level you wanted. That’s what you told me more than once. I do remember the night spent in your office at the end of the 60’s. I was talking about starting my own career while I was still drawing on weekly episodes of Astro Boy. You know, you’ve been my teacher, my Sensei. After your death I thought it was such a waste not to bring to light such a great idea as Metropolis. I always told you. You were miles ahead. I know, you’re dead and I did not ask you for permission directly. I’m sure you got a bit angry about that. But I’m sure you saw the movie somehow and you liked it. I’m pretty sure. What I wanted to do was to respect your idea, to remain faithful to your manga. Metropolis 2001 is really a state-of-the-art anime movie, I used all the most advanced computer graphics technologies but at the same time I still used hand-drawing technique. Thousands and thousands of old drawings together with thousands and thousands of new byte. I’m sure you noticed that the above city of Metropolis is so closer to Manhattan. I thought about it when I started realizing this retro-futuristic part of the city. I thought it was close to your original idea, the city and the characters too. Something thought in the past but thrown on the future. And I know you never watched Fritz Lang’s movie. On the contrary, I did and it was one of my favourite film and surely it went somewhere in a corner of my brain. You know, all that you can find in Metropolis 2001 about Fritz Lang’s Metropolis is something I did not control at all. We can call it unconscious influence. Something I’ve got inside me. I think that in my movie there’s much more than I actually wanted to put in it. My subconscious played a big role, I guess.

You know I’ve always been a Sci-Fi movie fan, especially western movies. And you can find a lot of influences. Some of them are very clear, some others maybe lie in hidden levels. Do you remember that novel by Philip K. Dick? That one about the self-consciousness of androids…yes ok, blade runner too…and do you remember the Discovery from A space odyssey? I think you can find it somewhere...such as something from David Fincher’s Alien version. You know, so many influences. What I really wanted was to give the movie a particular image. It’s the only movie based on an idea of late 40’s and I really wanted people to feel such a retrò taste. It’s hard to say which parts of the movie have been influnced directly by you, but of the audience felt your spirit, I can say I reached my main goal. Metropolis 2001 has been a big production, one of the greatest, and my desire was to make it completely different. With your help.

I’m getting older and I thought this was a great way to honor you, to pay my tribute to you who’s been teaching me for so many years.
Domo Arigato Gozaimasu, Tezukasan.

Shigeyuki Hayashi Aka Rintaro

Christian Tognela

  2. Compare and contrast the above ground street sections in the Lang and Tezuka versions of Metropolis as well as the street section of Just Imagine. How are they the same? How are they different. Which is most believable and why.

The three movies show urban sceneries that mix together future with many “art deco” elements to create a futuristic city that recall the American cities of ‘30s and ‘40s.

The architectural characteristics of the three cities are very similar: the cities extend themselves in height, along a vertical axis, their main buildings are skyscrapers, there are high towers connected through bridges and multi-level walkways.
As it has been already underlined, the picture of these cities refers to New York and it has been pointed out that “where Metropolis seems inspired by lower Manhattan, with its angular streets and closely packed towers, Just Imagine’s city suggests midtown, with its buildings and avenues more regular and wide” (from Celluloid Skyline).

As far as Metropolis 2001 is concerned, the ground street section seems to me even larger. The fact that it is an anime movie has made possible a more detailed image of the city: it shows details of the urban life that are not present in the other two movies and many scenes take place on the upper level where people live, walk, meet each other.
This is one of the differences among the cities shown in the three movies: in Fritz Lang’s Metropolis the city appears most of the time as a scenery, we have its complete vision only from above or from very far, but we can’t see what it is happening in the street excepts in some scenes such as that of Maria’s escape, or that of worker’s insurrection, even if it is always focused more on the characters than on the surrounding.

In Just Imagine there are many scenes of the interiors of the buildings where all the new technologies are shown, but the city appears another time as background.

Metropolis 2001 is the only film among these that let the spectator “walk” through the streets of the town, it seems more realistic thanks to its detailed description: even smaller details like street and store signs are clearly visible and this makes the image of this metropolis of the future more believable than the others.

Federica Martella

x 3. Although the vehicular systems that are represented in the film present transportation in ways that may be conceived as futuristic, the actual “style” of the vehicles is grounded in transportation of the past. Why do you think this is so? x
  As we have learned in class, the Japanese anime Metropolis was created by Rintaro and is based on a 1949 comic book by Oasmu Tezuka. I believe it is for this reason that the style of the vehicles, although conceived as futuristic, is actually grounded by the nostalgic look of the 1930’s and 1940’s automobiles.

On the surface we can quickly see the resemblance between the hovering vehicles in Tezuka’s Metropolis and the elite models of the 1930’s and 1940’s. Upon first glance we can quickly see the resemblance of the old 1930 chevs, ford’s, buicks and cadillacs that we are familiar with today. We could simply conclude that Rintaro used these nostalgic vehicles to bridge the generation gap between Tezuka and himself. But there is a deeper meaning to the use of these vehicles in the comic and the film. To begin with it is important to note that all the previously mentioned vehicles represented the proud and flourishing automobile industry of 1930 american society. It is also important to recall the means of air transportation used in the film. This was achieved by the use of large zeppelin airships, which historically can be remembered with the soviets 1930’s “Red Airship Program” that they put much pride into. Now we can observe two very successful and patriotic means of transportation in the thirties

What is important to note is that Tezuka’s comic came out in 1949. This was a period in which the cold war was very much alive in society. Each country was trying to establish their identity and take a clear stance on the cold war. Perhaps Tezuka used both a soviet and american means of transportation because he was not sure which side of the cold war he and Japan should support. This ultimately added to the chaotic state of Japan in his comic.

Similarly, Rintaro used the old nostalgic automobile of american society and the large zeppelin airships to keep the parallel created by Teuka and depict the search for identity in his film.

Joshua Bedard 3B
  4. Compare the architecture and sense of urban space of Zone 1 with the below ground accommodation of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis. Similarities? Differences? Why?  

The architecture and sense of urban space of Zone 1 of this film is very similar to the below ground accommodation of Fritz Lang’s Metropolis. The main reason for this is because both of these areas are mechanically driven, with a somewhat chaotic nature. Another reason for these settings having similar characteristics is that they both possess a lack of natural lighting. A possible reason for these similarities is that both of these films were describing these areas as being inhabited by the lower/working classes of society. Therefore the abundance of mechanical devices, poor lighting, and overall chaotic atmosphere emphasizes a depiction of the type of life the lower/working classes lead. It is a life dominated by work and machines and plagued by the darkness and danger that associates itself with their work.

If one were to explore the main differences between the architecture and sense of urban space in these films, the primary distinction would be the level of detail and modernism. In Osama Tezuka’s Metropolis, both the film medium of animation and the time period in which it was created, allow it to achieve a much higher level of detail and modernism than Fritz Lang’s Metropolis which was filmed some 60 years earlier.

Matt Bolen 3B

  5. How is colour used in the film to begin to assist in differentiating the architecture/amenity level of the various Zones?  

The three zones in Tezuka’s Metropolis are as follows: Zone 1 is a residential area for the lower class citizens. Zone 2 houses the industry of the Metropolis, including the sewage treatment plant, which filters to the zone below. Zone 3 is the labyrinth of sewers. The main level, above zone 1 is the area of economic prosperity, and its tall buildings are typically bathed in a warm sunlight. When we are first shown the technicolour world of Zone 1, the robot guide states, “It takes light to create shadow”. Much of this Zone, which includes Laughton’s laboratory, is painted in monochromatic yellows, reds, blues or greens. There is a green mist surrounding the entrance to the zone, Laughton’s laboratory is soaked in red, and Tima’s incubator is a honey yellow. Tima is often the most prominent source of light, though not colour, and the contrast between her luminance and the backdrops of varying shades creates a strong iconography while she is below the city’s surface. In Zone 2, the people match the backgrounds, as the workers begin to become synonymous with the machines. When first we are introduced to Zone 3 (when Ken-Ichi falls through after the fire) it is a dark, and misty gray, the bowels and sewers of the metropolis. Later, it takes on several varying colours, but always in a monochromatic display.

In particular I found the quote compelling towards one unifying idea. I imagined the light from above to be representative of the economy and the prosperity of the upper class. As the sun shines down upon the metropolis it hits the earth and reflects into its base colours, like a diamond in a window, illustrating the sum to be of many parts. The surface benefits from the direct light, the energy and the power, whereas the subterranean realm receives the filtered response, the bleed of prosperity. The question that rises is what would light be without its colours? And the answer is that it would not exist. The amenities of below are essential to the existence of the top.

Liam Brown 3B

  6. Music is a very important element of this film. Choose a sequence in the film that seems to best relate the action/setting to the music and elaborate as to why this particular scene is successful.  
  Along with Broadway style big band music, the metropolis is lit with fireworks and glamour. This same piece of theme music not only sets a tone for the Metropolis in the introduction, but also helps evoke the story with much powerful emotions at the end.
Music plays an important role in the film, for instance, the opening scene gives the city a sense of light-heartedness. This is skillfully played as a comparison scene along with the ending, after the Ziggurat is blown into pieces. The same piece of music is played when the camera once again fly through the city. As viewers are being reminded of the glamour and light-heartedness of this kingdom before, juxtaposition of the music and the bleak view of city ruins firstly reinforces the painful explosion of the city as an act out of love, then later after Kenichi re-unites with Fi-fi and other robots, the music soothes the viewers by simply stating that Kenichi finds love in the ruins, and perhaps the death of the Ziggurat is a celebration for love?
To elaborate upon the idea of the explosion as an act out of love, it refers to the scene after Rock pressed the self-destruction button. The music ‘I can’t stop loving you’ plays as the tower shatters and shoots into the air, building parts fall through the ground and into zone 1. The looping music sets the movie into a pace where destruction seems eternal, the lyrics speak of the bleakness of this destruction - it is because of Duke Red’s love for machines, which led to the machine’s rival; it is because of Rock’s love for his father, that he would rather press the self destruction button than killed by machines; it is because of Kenichi’s love for Tima, that he is destined to be heart-broken. The music and the film complimented each other, where the music combined emotions of different character, and concluded the destructive nature of love along with the scene of city’s destruction.

Tammy Chau 3B
  7. How is light/daylighting (or lack thereof) used to both differentiate the Zones and reinforce the architecture and social structure of the film?  


8. Compare and contrast the role of Tima to the role of Maria in the two films.

  Both Maria and Tima are deemed as leaders. Maria is a spiritual leader and a revolutionary of the working class, while Tima, heir to the Ziggurat of the west and leader of all classes, both human and robot. However Maria’s role in Metropolis (1927) is to represent morality and humanity. Tima’s role in Metropolis 2001 is to mirror and represent technologic possibilities and the evils of technology respectively. Finally, predeterminantly and resultantly although not intentional, Tima succumbs to her robot nature and sets out to “destroy humanity” after learning she is not a human nor does she posses emotion.

Both characters are products of their environments, the Futurist City, and moral states. Maria is an angelic figure seeking equality and rights for the workers. Tima is an object of sin, demonstrating the allure of a precocious girl-child. Maria and Tima are young, also both are sentient, capable of thought, and are either a replica or have been replicated. Robot Maria is a mirrors the physical qualities and attributes of Maria. Meanwhile Tima was constructed in the image of Duke Red’s deceased daughter. Therefor both exist or existed in human form and both existed in robot forms, they unfaithfully represent real people. Similarly both exists in isolation in a sort of no mans land and their role is to address the existing conditions that surround them in their terms, through their interpretations. The results, equally uplifting and constructive or tragic and destructive for within their societies and cities.

These figures are representative of particular types of female individuals with qualities that endeared them to their specific roles as figureheads and leaders. Their roles in the films are based on what they represent and the questions that arise as a result of their actions and reactions to their milieus. Their multifaceted natures and capabilities, Maria social and romantic, Tima antisocial and fantasy, friend, enemy and robot, demonstrated the complexities of human nature and interpersonal interaction.

“Metropolis begins with a disclaimer of sorts: “This film is not of today or of the future. It tells of no place. It serves no tendency, party or class. It has amoral that grows on a pillar of understanding: The mediator between the brain and the muscles must be the heart”. Maria’s role in the film was to deliver this message to instruct the workers. She also strives to touch the hearts, bridge the gap and awaken the leader’s sense of humanity. She was a mediator between the abused and abusers, the workers and leaders. The disclaimer was “an attempt to raise this film above the level of just a futuristic melodrama and make it into a sort of morality play”.

The angelic and spiritual portrait of Maria was enhanced when she “is first shown in the worker’s city, she is bathed in light in front of a forest of crosses and candles”, an aspect of the incorporated religious allegory in Metropolis. Also “ Maria tells the workers the story of the tower of Babel that was brought down by pride. She prophecies of a Mediator who would come to save them. (If you look a bit deeper you’ll find that Maria is actually the figurative mother of the Mediator)”.

Tima is an electronic simulacrum of the deceased daughter of Metropolis industrialist Duke Red, creator of the Ziggurat dubbed “A symbol of the advanced civilization…The newly completed skyscraper”. Where is the humanity in the advanced civilization? Tima is a symbol, a portrait of the missing link in the society of Metropolis 2001. Her role is to depict the potential and manifest the eventual demise of their culture due to lost values and callous leadership.

Like the corporate West he symbolizes, the Duke tries to recreate childhood lost by means of technology. Tima in part represents advanced technology and a fusion between the West and Japanese culture. It is a formula we have watched unfold repeatedly onscreen: Youth + Technology = Power. In Japan, Youth + Technology = Wide Eyed Fun. Tima also represents that wide eyed fun and innocence, she is a depiction of fact (the possibility of her existence) and fantasy ( her youth, slenderness and innocence). Her role is to demonstrate the catastrophic ends that result from this type of combination of fact and fantasy brought into existence through the adaptation of technology. Her creation isa result of the Japanese curiosity-turned –obsession with the possibility of a sentient machine.

Her role as a messiah, under the condition that she can manifest no evils within society, is the result of hampered faith. Having exhausted the possibilities of organized religion and our own selves, we turn to our creations for salvation. Fundamental questions then arises, will our creations turn on us? For which reasons will they turn? Could technology be the greatest evil? Which values does technology uphold if any at all? How do we incorporate new technologies in fantasy and common practice? Will they be practical or pornographic? What are our new boundaries and adopted moralities? The role of Tima surfaces these questions quite intentionally.

On ascending to the throne of the Mighty Ziggurat, Tima sublimates her learned personalities into the collective consciousness of all things robot. She is no longer a daughter of Duke Red or a play mate to the naïve Kenichi. She is a robot. Her mission, the mission of all machines. Dare we even ask? Need we? It is self-evident … Destroy humanity.

Again an enthusiasm for technology has created fission between Japan and the U.S. It is no coincidence that particular themes have been explored and exploited within both cultures. Additionally they have been represented through similar modes incorporating similar characters in similar fashion with similar characteristics, hence the comparison between the roles of Maria and Tima to whom we are both endeared and sympathetic.

“ Japan and U.S. have been co-enablers in a mutual identity problem. Who is mimicking who? Let’s figure this out: If I am in love with Pikachu but you’re still in love with Elton john … Hold on: I was heavily into Shonen Knife and noise bands in college but you have lung cancer from smoking Marlboros … Wait, which one of us is the dominant technological power again? Oh it doesn’t matter – we’re both crazy about pubescent girls and vitamin water….”

Natalie Drago 3B


Metaphilm - Metropolis (2001) - 19k

Scifilm -- Reviews, METROPOLIS (1927) - 18k

  9. What historic iconographic references are used in the film to portray the importance of military power in the film?  

In Osamu Tezuka’s Metropolis a story of struggle between class and type take place. Since the building of Duke Red’s Ziggurat, there is an eminent visual of hierarchy existing in the city of Metropolis. On the rich and opulent surface level, people enjoy their lives with no worries about the conflict and struggles of the low-income working class below. On the sub-surface level, residents constantly look for answers that will save them from poverty. To maintain peace and order within the city a military stronghold is used at the site of any disturbance. It most represents a dictatorship control with similarities to communist Russia or China. Scenes with soldiers marching in tight rows, or officers wearing communist-like uniforms give examples of this. Any robots that function out of line are instantly destroyed with no questions asked. In the city of Metropolis military presence is seen on every level. At the main gate separating the surface world to the under world, guards oversee the entering and leaving of every human and robot that go through. It compares to a military checkpoint at country boarder crossings during hostile times. With the use of force people and robots are kept in line. In the beginning scene at the opening of the Ziggurat, tight security is seen with large military tanks or vehicles on the outskirts maintaining the order. Through the fear of the potential use of such military equipment, people are forced to keep the peace. This is common to what some dictatorship countries do. Public affairs are thrown to boost the government image, but are strictly controlled to receive the outcome they want. Not much concern is put into the way such actions affect the individuals involved. The city’s leaders in Metropolis seem to have at their disposal the ability to use the army in whichever way they please. Duke Red has a personal army, the Marduks which maintain his control and power. They are seen as lethal and quick killers of robots getting out of hand. Overall this causes a state of underlying fear over the residents of the city. Through visuals the military presence is quite clear in the movie Metropolis. It is a dictatorship government suppressing rights in order to keep order and power.

Andrea Krejcik 3B

  10. This version of the story has enhanced the role of the robot in society in that they have replaced the human workers to perform most tasks. Why do you think this was done? How has this changed the role of the revolution from the 1927 version of the story.  
  In Tezuka’s Metropolis, the role of the robot has been enhanced to reflect the reality of the modern day society, where technologically advanced machines slowly replace the necessity for manual labour. It is evident nowadays that the rate of unemployment has risen, and, although seeming very slightly, the gearing towards the use of automated machinery, especially in the manufacturing field, will have contributed to the rise. Robots and machinery are employed to increase efficiency through their specialization, being able to operate longer hours, and producing and serving at a consistent standard of quality, all which could not have been possible with manual labour.

The cause of the revolution in Lang’s Metropolis is that the workers are treated as machines, working endlessly under inhumane circumstances. This reflects the time period in which the film was made, where the human workforce still dominates most industries. The role of the revolution has changed in Tezuka’s Metropolis, as seen in the film where the inhabitants of Zone-1, who were once the manual workforce of the metropolis, now become social outcasts without a purpose in their lives because their skills have been replaced by robots. Their hatred towards machines eventually caused the revolution. This reflects the modern-day situation and sympathizes with the individuals who are unemployed due to this reason. While the revolution in Lang’s metropolis warns that workers should not be mistreated, the revolution in Metropolis 2001 raises the awareness that as more machines are being used, the higher the rate of unemployment, leading to protests, increased crime and urban slum areas. This shall be an upcoming dilemma that modern society will face.

It is also interesting to note that the film originates from a country of pioneering technology. The fire-fighting robots in Tezuka’s Metropolis do not seem a distant reality in the city of Tokyo. This reinforces the warning that the revolution of obsolete workers may be imminent.

Vivien Liu 3B

  11. How has the role of the “machine” remained much the same as it the Lang version of the story? Why do you think the directors continued to feel that this was key to the film?  
  The role of the “machine” has remained much the same in both versions of Metropolis. Although their form differs from robot to machine, they are used in similar ways. It is the idea of the machine replacing the working class, and the struggle between humans and machines that ensues.
In Lang’s version of Metropolis, the working class was sent below ground, their sole purpose was to operate the machines, and sacrifice themselves to feed them. The machines were crucial to the world above ground, which the workers had no part of. In the anime, the working class was completely replaced by the machine, the robots. Instead of having to work for the machines they no longer had any purpose at all. This created a new problem of poverty and boredom. These two situations create a struggle between the humans and the machines; it creates a new form of class struggle. These struggles are the essence of both films, and in the end the machines destroy the city.
The directors obviously felt this idea of class struggle was key to both films. It is seen not only between the machines and the workers but also between the workers and the upper class. The directors may also have been commenting on the role of technology in society. Both films comment on the loss of humanity in society, and the ever increasing role and dependency of technology. It is interesting that the same issues plagued the minds of both directors even though the films were made at such different times.

Elizabeth Myers 3B 
  12. The architecture of Zone 1 has many references to New Orleans and other run down entertainment districts. How does this succeed in establishing the character and purpose of the Zone. Why do you think this particular style was chosen?  

The purpose of Zone one in the Metropolis is being a residential ward for humans left behind by the cities economic prosperity, a mechanized world of 2 haves the robots and the have-nots, the have-nots being those that have been pushed below surface due to robot labour and unemployment. The society produced in zone one by this dissection from the elitist upper world reflects that of the lower classes, the working class to the unemployed and of course the robots. These people and robots reflect their society in return the society created reflects its architecture. Thus the architecture reflects the people the place and identifies the atmosphere and feeling which the zone is, a lower class society cast out of sight from the elitist eye. This architecture has been visually represented with the lower class, in comparison to the upper world of metropolis, zone one has a dated historical colourful palette which represents not only the character of the zone beautifully but also displays the origins of it’s style with references to new Orleans. This style is best referenced in my opinion to that of Bourbon street in the historical French quarter of New Orleans, a place of exquisite 1700’s Spanish architecture, lacy ironwork, balconies, jazz clubs, street cars and dazzling colour, the foremost display in Metropolis being the colour and the musical motif of jazz played softly every time the movie entered the zone, New Orleans being known as the birthplace of Jazz. The choice of this style has strong symbolism to what the zone represents, the lower classes, and the visual depiction of the run down entertainment district of new Orleans is a reflection of the zones themes, a visual and symbolic unity.

Aaron Nelson 3B

  13. Why does a film of Japanese origin place such importance on the Art Deco style as to choose it to emphasize the importance of the spaces inhabited by Duke Red and other political figures?  
  Tezuka’s Metropolis constructs a truly unique retro look for the future. In a way suggesting that even though we are looking into the future we must not forget the past (or we must continue to look into the past). Looking at the past shows us where society has come and how society has arrived where it is. In a sense this is what the reference to Art Deco does for the film.

Reviving relationships to past depictions of Metropolis Tezuka justifies the importance of the past when looking at the future. For this the reason the spaces inhabited by Duke Red and other political figures place importance on the Art Deco style. The Art Deco style is not of Japanese origin and has the effect of universalizing the film. The effect of this universalization is that it portrays the political influence of the politicians onto a larger more worldly scale. The reason for portraying Duke Red and other political figures as occupying these spaces might be in a way to highlight their relationship to power.

In addition to this attempt to relate the Art Deco style to the plot of the film, there is also an attempt to return to significant past visions of the future. There is a return to the portrayal of the city in the original Fritz Lang production where Art Deco is used to portray the future Metropolis. In returning to the 1920’s and 1930’s vision of the future, Tezuka’s Metropolis revives feelings that link the past vision of the future to the modern. What is notable in this is the distinction of how far society has come in the materialization of these ideas and the issues that are still present.

With homage to the time period of the original movies, the art deco background almost becomes a character into itself. The streets and terraces filled with people are all alive. The Ziggurat is a direct reference to Fritz Lang’s Tower of Babel, this time the tower has the power to decommission the entire world. The Art Deco style is again the depiction of power, beauty, and success manifest through architectural form. With reference to a historical ideal, Art Deco separates the past in the form of political power and the future in the form of the mechanization of the human body as robot.

Michael Votruba 3B
  14. Although the ultimate outcome for the characters is different, compare and contrast the roles of Dr. Laughton, and “Hel’s” inventor in Lang’s version of the film.  

Dr. Laughton of Tezuka’s Metropolis and Hel’s inventor of Lang’s Metropolis both play the role of stereotypical mad scientists in the films. Embracing the typical characteristics of the mad scientist, both Laughton and Rotwang are eccentric, obsessive, and extreme geniuses. Both are set in similar circumstances in their respective films. Even both of their creations share the inevitable destiny of getting out of control. However, the character Rotwang has perhaps deeper significance in Lang’s film than the less dominant role of Dr. Laughton in Tezuka’s story.

In Tezuka’s Metropolis, Dr. Laughton is a criminal wanted for illegal smuggling and experimenting with human organs. He works for the leader of Metropolis, Duke Red, who hired Laughton to recreate his late daughter Tima in order to sustain Red’s legacy. Dr. Laughton dies early in the plot when Duke Red’s adopted son Rock sets his laboratories on fire. Laughton’s role here is rather shallow and not particularly memorable.

On the other hand, Rotwang, Hel’s inventor in Lang’s Metropolis is not a mere mad scientist. In addition to being Fredersen’s love rival, he represents the ultimate worker, the hand that the heart tries to mediate with the head. Though of course, the irony is that Rotwang is in fact missing a hand. There are different interpretations of this interesting trait of Hel’s inventor. Some speculate the missing hand to be a tribute to Dr. Strangelove who also lacks a hand in the Stanley Kubrick’s film. Some see it as a symbol of the classic struggle between science and
religion. Others would say that the missing hand emphasizes his obsessive personality and his undying love for Hel. Thus, it is clear that Rotwang’s character is more dimensional and carries a deeper significance in terms of the plot and themes in Lang’s Metropolis.

Clementine Chang -- masters

  15. Compare and contrast the portrayal of Zone 3 with the lowest levels below ground in Fritz Lang’s version of Metropolis. How are these the same? How have they been made different? Why?  
  These two levels are similar by virtue of the fact that conceptually, they both serve the same purpose. Both are places of desolation, isolated from the world above, separated by a world between. Places of escape, escape from humanity (in the case of Osamu Tezuka’s Metropolis), and escape from the machines (as in Fritz Lang’s Metropolis). Ironically, Zone 3 is the refuge in Osamu Tezuka’s Metropolis. A place seemingly run by reason; in actuality a breading ground for rebellion. This condition is reflected in both films; both lower levels are depicted as forums of insurgency – a place to reclaim free will. Both are areas of suppression governed by a higher order of opposing power. In Lang’s case, the aristocratic society and the fatherly inventor; similarly in Tezuka’ case the affluent citizens above grade and the wealthy aristocrat funding “bad science.” Ideologically both films share many similarities in this respect; however, their application is conveyed quite differently.

They are obviously different due to the fact that in Lang’s Metropolis the people still operate the machines, where as in Tezuka’s Metropolis the machines are seen as being capable of operating themselves. This implies that the machines have an equal level of intelligence to the workers in Lang’s Metropolis. Lang has built his set at a more humanistic scale, the objects are still something we can relate to (i.e. levers, pulleys, stairs, buttons, etc.); where as Tezuka has created an environment based on the scale of the machines, incorporating large cavernous spaces full of machine debris, with catwalks and elevator shafts plunging in at various locations; a segregated society capable of self perpetuation. Part of this is due to the fact that Tezuka obviously had the luxury of virtual freedom; it further divides the robots from society above and affirms the level of high intelligence the machines possess. In Lang’s Metropolis the machines need the humans to sustain life and the natural evolution of the city; Tezuka has asserted that if we are to go one step further and allow the machines to sustain themselves, we are likely to end up with a large class of people with nothing to do.

Everything has its own degree of natural evolution, control is an illusion; the nature of a thing is to protect itself from harm in order to sustain life and free will, regardless of whether it is synthetic or organic. Both Lang and Tezuka have made this clear through their depictions of suppressed societies seeking freedom.

Mark Cichy

  16. Several scenes in the film make use of a clown motif. Why clowns? What is their purpose and why was this particular figure chosen?  

 The people of metropolis seem to be worried that technology has become so advanced and complicated that humanity is in danger of losing control.
I think clowns are used here to demonstrate the fear people are capable of constructing in their minds due to anthropomorphic tendencies. Humans project their own thoughts into non-human things, such as animals and machines. Cars don’t give you trouble; your goldfish doesn’t love you and your favourite sweater doesn’t care if it gets lost and unraveled. The clowns in this movie are perceived as inhuman with threatening tendencies. They parody the human figure making themselves targets of the vigilante group intent on destroying robots.
The purpose of a clown is to make fun of humanity. Clowns can transgress acceptable behaviors in ways that deflect criticism. They symbolize danger as well as opportunity in the uncertain with their comical, irrational behavior. Humour has its limits though and the parody of a group to which you don’t belong is dangerous. The parody of humanity by a robot clown can be perceived as offensive if you also attribute human qualities to that robot.
The society that thinks its machines are out to get it, is particularly paranoid when it fears the innocuous clown.

Nancy Gibson

  17. Some of the robots in the film were given increasingly human emotions. Fifi’s, Pero’s and Tima’s roles assist in plot development due to their human responses to certain situations. Why do you think that this attribute has been given to select robots? (but not all?)  

The robots have been conceived as the ideal race of Metropolis because of their lack of emotion. Without them, Metropolis could not exist: the robots have built the city, and now their role includes maintenance of the city, and operation of the complex garbage processing system. Ironically, it is for this lack of emotion that most humans treat the robots as an inferior race.

When the robots begin to show emotions it represents a glitch in the system that threatens the daily operation of Metropolis. This becomes obvious in scenes where robots decide to rebel and Rock is forced to destroy them, illustrating that the robots’ lack of emotion is simply a myth that covers the suppression of the race. The robots who are portrayed without emotion represent the common belief that this façade is reality.

Specific robots begin to show emotion only when characters have more contact with them: the distant view of the homogeneous race disintegrates, allowing the human characters to see the robots as individuals. When other robots rebel, their actions seem senseless. Fifi and Pero’s heroic sacrifices make sense after they have interacted with the characters, made personal connections and expressed their suffering and their ideals. They begin to lend the shadow of an identity to the other voiceless robots.

Tima’s human attributes present the greatest conflict because it has convinced even herself that she is not a robot. It raises the possibility that being a robot is only a mental state, created by the way one is treated, more so than any physical differences.

Olivia Keung

  18. There were comments made after the fact, that the images portrayed in the ultimate scenes of destruction, closely paralleled the reality as seen in 9/11 – yet the ultimate outcome of the film was positive. Do you think that a positive outcome is warranted?  
  Although, the final scenes of destruction in Metropolis resemble the images that were broadcast in the media after the 9/11 terrorist attack, it is very difficult to compare conclusions about the fictional narrative of Metropolis and the multitude of histories that played out that day in New York. Unlike reality, the film has to provide a conclusion, history however continues. This is why I think the ultimately positive outcome is warranted; as history has shown us we do have the capacity to regenerate after a tragedy. Tima’s mechanical heart that Ken-ichi holds in his hands at the end of the film represents the essence of this hope.

The final scene of destruction shows the stratified city being blown apart allowing sunlight to finally touch the lower levels. Everyone is finally able to bask in the warmth of the sunlight which never reached them before. As in the original Metropolis the oppression of the modern city is evident before the system implodes. I think it a valid question whether we should be building these highrise towers that remove mass numbers of people from the world of the street and which are being developed in an un-discriminate manner.

Julia Farkas

  19. If we connect Lang's Metropolis, Just Imagine and Tezuka's Metropolis, all 3 use the vertical space in the urban landscape, yet quite differently. Compare the differentiated take on the division in vertical space use in Just Imagine to that of the other two films.  

Metropolis, Just imagine, Metropolis 2001: it’s interesting how three films, done in different moments (right before and right after the stock-market crash of 1929 and in 2001 even though this version refers to a manga of 1949), by three different directors of different nationality , using an apparently similar scenario, the modern city with its skyscrapers, can represent this vertical setting in such a different way. In Just imagine, a film produced in the United States, everybody seems perfectly at home among very tall buildings, typical of the American landscape. The vision of the modern city is not oppressive, it’s an optimistic/futuristic gaze that reminds of Sant’Elia’s projects at the beginning of the century. The city and its storrys high buildings, in fact, don’t constitute a problem and, in any case, skyscrapers are not used to symbolize different social levels even though the rich girl loved by the leading character lives in a penthouse flat. Skyscrapers are only a symbolic, magic image of he “roaring years” when life was happy and beautiful. On the contrary, the intimidating and almost claustrophobic German Expressionists’ vision of the modern city has a strong weight on Fritz Lang’s production. Skyscrapers are seen as huge cement monsters that cause fear because they’re so far away from Nature. Their height is used to symbolize distance between the base and the power. The rich and powerful inhabitants of Metropolis, in fact, live on the upper level while the masses of laborers almost transformed into machines work and live in the underground.

Skyscrapers are like Babylon’s tower and like in the Bible they deserve to be destroyed because of the insane urge for power of man that wants to reach the sky forgetting his fellow similar. The Japanese Rintaro, thinking of Tezuka’s manga created fifty years before but surely not forgetting Lang’s Metropolis, gives us an animated film in which the vertical vision of the city’s skyscrapers is always present even though not in a pessimistic and oppressive way. His film is kind of a nostalgic tribute to the American 30/40s underlined by typical music of the time and skyscrapers remind of New York, Chicago and New Orleans but also nowadays Tokyo. They don’t scare anybody and they are no symbol of power, in fact Power resides in the Zigurrat, the real Babylon’s tower, that will be destroyed. Again verticality is used to symbolize different social levels, but this time differences are not only among human beings but also between humans and robots. In the end, after all this talking about skyscrapers and city verticality , in the six minutes film “On your Mark” there is a clear return to Nature and to houses in the country surrounded by green and the only verticality that can be found is expressed by the angel’s fly to the sky. Could this be the answer to the other three films and to our nowadays life?

Adriana De Angelis

  20. Compare the representation of "nature" in Metropolis 1927, Just Imagine and Metropolis 2001. What has happened to nature. Does this seem necessary to the plot of the film.  
  Generally speaking most sci-fi movies show lack of natural environment counterposed to mega structures, starships, or mega citities to symbolize strong alienating or hostile situations, as in 2001: a Space Odissey (the final voyage, starded in an african lanscape, rcontiunues in a stunning aseptic starship before getting to a really unknown space), Silent Running, Logan’s Run and of course in Blade Runner are well-known examples.
Given this premise, one could say that at a first glance, in Metropolis 1927, Just Imagine and Metropolis 2001, nature seems to play a little role, while in fact the natural condition of being is one of the protagonists, although this concept is put in differently in each movie.

In Lang’s Metropolis we see clearly the opposition between the vertically stretched city, symbol of the machine age and the compression of nature as a small residual paradise, a symbolic fragment of untouched purity, a priviledged space accessed by upper class pepole only.

Almost absent, nature is in fact present because of its lack of presence. The emerging desire to restore a natural sense of living within the space of the new city is carried out by means of repressing every conflict, physical, social or psycological. But the role of nature, that is natural condition of the human being, cannot be replaced by means of a restricted order or technological progress. The price you may pay for imposing such a forced armony is an out-of-controll return of nature, the water flood menacing the city, a meaningful metaphor for free expression of our feelings, our best, inevitable contribute to natural environment.

In Just Imagine nature lies on a backgound as opposed to one representing the technological city: nature is the horizon line, the martian frontier, which stands in front of us as a romantic nostalgic return to a lost purity. Again desire for nature, this time suggesting that natural conditon of man can be recovered only by refusing the present day reality and returning to natural and true values: love and courage.

In Metroplis 2001 the discourse gets more complex. As well as in the above mentioned movies, nature is not a strong presence, but it plays a very important role in a particular way. First of all in Rintaro’s film we do not find a clear opposition between natural and artificial, since dialectics is not a key concept in far east culture. We see instead a different interaction between the sky, the sunlight, the wind, the snow and the way they affect both the built environment and the characters’ state of mind, identifying the keyframes of the movie. To better understand this role of nature we have to step into a second level interaction between natural and artificial, which takes place in the characters.

In Lang’s Metropolis the long distance duel between Maria and the Robot is a mirrorlike conflict between nature and artifact: a last blood duel, where one of the two must subdue the other. In Just Imagine the possible conflict is reduced to a ridiculous parody, which in fact is not a real answer, since it takes refuge in dreams, myth and nostalgia, pills simulating a new natural harmony. In Metropolis 2001 the conflict is concentrated in Tina’s charachter: her growing path and her progressive loss of robotic verginity are marked by estabilishing contacts with natural life: the breeeze and the white birds on her hair, the sunlight warming her skin. her progressive learning about her consciousness, driven by Ken Ichi, who shows her the foundamental human question: Who am I, is sustained by a paradoxical family, composed by the robot Fifi, a surrogate for a lovely mother and Ken Ichi, the ideal compaion. Her intelligence needs consciousness, but at the same time she understands that consciousness is nothing but tragic understanding of impossiblity of life without feelings. This is the secret of nature, the one we belong to, and no overwhelming architecutre can put this apart.

As human beings, we should aways be able to live each moment of our life with that intensity. i will just leave my life I have dreamt of yesterday: perharps we may do it every day of our life, leavng behind old dreams and start to pursuive a new one. So Ken Ichi does in the final scene choosing to go into the robots’world, a decision marked by the line between the shadow and the new sunlight: back to pureness of uncorrupted world, the real nature we are still looking for.

Francesco Mancini

  21. Food and the act of eating can be seen to become a key "subplot" in films and their representation of the future. How do we see this beginning to occur in the two Metropolis's and Just Imagine?  
  The meal has the potential for such variety, complexity and intensity of experience. Through the act of eating, we are able to enjoy the many pleasures of food – simple, complex, real, symbolic, basic and luxurious.

In the three films, the pleasure to be found in food and the act of eating are lost in favour of the speed and efficiency of the mechanical transaction. Food and drink are dispensed through or by machines. The dispensation and consumption of food is sterile, lifeless and speaks of a society disconnected from sensual experience and from each other. The act of eating in the films is, for the most part, a solitary and efficient exercise.

Transactions surrounding food and drink are the glue of our social system. The aesthetic and sensual pleasure we enjoy from food is utterly clear. What the gastronomic conditions presented in the film speak to is the overwhelming control under which the citizens of these cities exist. To deny pleasurable experience and a connection to each other is to essentially deny freedom.

Food connects us to the natural world in a most direct manner. In the films, the food source becomes the machine and the meal is used as a controlling device, and the act of eating an empty and efficient experience.

Anne- Marie Armstrong 3B
  22. The style of anime used to depict the varying characters in the film is not consistent. Why? Relate this to the use of make-up in Caligari.  
  In this film the various characters were constantly upstaged by the incredible CGI future world that was displayed with such detail. It did not seem to matter that the character portrayals were inconsistent. The variety of styles was annoying to a amine movie watcher like myself but one could speculate that the inconsistencies were integral moves in the film, not a directors oversight but a purposeful statement.

I did find the styles used to portray characters memorable:

Private Detective Uncle Ban was a look-alike for the little man on the Monopoly board game with the mustache. He wore a trench coat as the uniform of his office much like Columbo and other fabled westernized versions of the the Detective genre. He was east meets west comic relief and, as any good detective persona, he was a father figure.

Duke Red was a reasonably villainous character – tall, gaunt, with a vulture nose and ridged brow but he did not seem truly evil. He mourned the loss of his daughter and simply seemed misguided in how to deal with his loss. There seemed no real interest to rule the world – he was reinventing his beloved daughter and elevating her as the new figurehead of his crowning achievement, the Ziggurat.

Petro the police robot was depicted physically as the perfect Vitruvian man – no exaggerations or caricatures. He was a mecha man who in the end showed the highest ideals of Japanese Man, of Bashido, dutifully facing certain death for an ideal of duty.

Tima and Kenichi were stylized as the trademark Japanese anime – pubescent children with large doe like eyes, moppet faced children miming the apocalypse. The large eyes could be explained away as “windows into the soul” on some tripe philosophical level but I suspect the truth is simpler and well known to Japanese anime artists – the large eyes evoke affection by triggering our genetically imprinted universal response to infantile facial features, why everyone loves puppies. Hence the characters must be pubescent, it simply would not evoke the same response if mature adults had big large eyes.

Rock was also stylized in the large eyed trademark way. It immediately took the edge off his icy death dispensing character. Instead of a cold blooded killer he became a misguided rejected son seeking approval from his father. He simply was too innocent looking to be all bad.

The styles used in the film were probably chosen as proven acceptable portrayals of specific stereotypes historically used in film anime and manga for those stereotypes. Japanese anime and manga styles are now a mainstream language in Japan. To the film director, they would be recognized masks quickly decoded by the Japanese audience, slowly deciphered by newbies like myself.

The styles are akin to theatrical makeup in western culture. In the movie Caligari, I new that the good Doctor was a mad “scientist” by the stylized wild hair, the menacing black clothing and slouched posture. I instantly recognized the stereotype mask in use. The sombalist was immediately “not normal” to me when his face was shown with exaggerated black eye makeup. Theatrical makeup is a mainstream language to me even in German Expressionist disguise.

It is accepted that imagery is culturally biased. My annoyance at the varied styles in Metropolis 2001 could be a knee jerk response to not seeing what I am culturally biased to see. I do not know the anime code –yet.

Jim Arvai 4A


back to 443/646 fall 2004