Join Date: Jul 2012
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# 1 My thoughts on Metropolis
03-23-2013, 04:04 PM
Maria: The Robot with a Soul

"Your Honor, Starfleet was founded to seek out new life -- Well There It Sits! Waiting..." - Captain Jean-Luc Picard

Last night, for the first time, I watched Metropolis. Of course, as a former film student and lifelong appreciator of science fiction, I was aware of aspects and elements of the film, but had never actually seen it. Several things struck me about it: The style of acting and directing was very different to what is seen in modern films, but it was not dated. The story was as valid today as when it was written nearly a century ago. The technology shown, albeit limited by the technology of the day, was not ludicrously outdated. Although I am not a fan of remakes, I think that this is a film which could be re-made with modern technology, and contemporary actors, still use the original screenplay, and still stand as an excellent piece of storytelling.

I read an analysis of Maria by Francesca Myman, which had some ideas I agreed with, but just as many which I did not, and which I felt totally overlooked the evidence presented by the narrative of the film . The concept I disagree most with Myman on, is the issue of Robot Maria's soul. I agree with Myman's comment that it is impossible to think of Robot Maria as an 'it': Even in the original Robot Form, the structure was identifiably female rather than male. I do not believe that Rotwang had some cheuvenistic desire to create an army of robot women to be subjugated in hard labor, but rather that he constructed the Robot Maria as a prototype: A concept piece to demonstrate to Joh Fredersen what could be achieved, not as a production model. And that was why he built the robot as female (in memory of his beloved Hel) Rotwang wore the overalls of the Worker, not the suits of the Elite, so his motives can be considered as benevolent, even if he was later ordered to evil by Fredersen... Like Myman, I see no reason to describe Robot Maria as anything other than a female. It is on the matter of Robot Maria's soul that I disagree with Myman.

Even in her original Robot form, Maria displayed an awareness of her surroundings and the people in it, reacting to Frederson in his initial introduction to her. I would argue that even in this form, she was as aware and fully functional as she was later observed to be after being given the Human appearance: She had always been capable of dancing, speaking and running, it was just that she was a Robot, rather than looking like a Human girl. I do not view the duplication process as anything other than an external treatment to make Robot Maria look Human, and as irrelevent to the robot's functioning, as the flesh covering on a Skynet Terminator. Myman proposes that during the duplication process, in transforming from her robot to Human form, Robot Maria may have been imbued with a copy of the original Maria's soul, and goes on in great depth to describe Robot Maria's actions and uses the sexual nature of her actions to attempt to attribute her the role of femme fatale.

However. A femme fatale uses her sexuality to manipulate men for her own benefit. Robot Maria had no ulterior motive beyond following Fredersen's order to incite the workers to action and discredit the original Maria. She did not seek to manipulate men for her own personal desires, and therefore cannot be considered as a femme fatale. In Freder's nightmare of Robot Maria in a burlesque act, Fredersen's question as to if Robot Maria would be accepted by Man(kind) is answered with a resounding 'yes'. Was Freder dreaming? Was he somehow aware of Robot Maria's performance as it happened, or was he merely hysterical following his experiences as a worker, and Maria's performance being intercut as occuring simultaneaously with his hysteria? Only Fritz Lang could answer that question, but that is in itself an irrelevance to the point of the scene -- Robot Maria was accepted as 'real' by all who observed her. That Robot Maria was then able to impersonate her template closely enough to be accepted by the workers (both men and women) and thereby manipulate them as ordered, was therefore a reinforced logical progression, not merely a point which occured for required plot continuity.

I discount Moroder's claim that Robot Maria was in any way 'out of control', because she led the workers to revolution precisely as she was ordered to do by Fredersen. She did, however, after the initial revolution, take to the Elite quarters to party with the men there. And this is where I think the nature and identity of her soul best presents itself for analysis. Not only is she now no longer following the orders Fredersen gave her (because she had completed that order) and thus behaving autonomously, but she was behaving in a manner very different to that of the original Maria, who was shown as chaste, demure and idealistic, not in anyway extroverted or hedonistic. While Robot Maria may not have been 'under the control of a man', she was certainly not 'out of control and running amok'. If, as Myman suggests, Robot Maria had been infused with a copy of the original Maria's soul, why was she enjoying herself so much participating in the carnival-like street party or the earlier burlesque performance? As original Maria would not have behaved in such a manner, this is the clearest indicator that Robot Maria had a unique soul, with her own preferences, rather than simply having been infused with a copy of the original Maria's soul in the external duplication process.

In the scene where Freder confronts her, and claims "You are not the real Maria!", Robot Maria winks at him slyly. She was not just acknowledging that she was indeed an imposter, but most significantly, that she was aware of, and enjoying the role she has been given. Robot Maria was clearly not only aware of her surroundings, but had the sentience to make decisions and display preferencial behaviour about her surroundings. That her preferencial behaviour differed so greatly from that of the original Maria, can only be taken as evidence of individuality, and that her soul was not merely a copy of the original Maria's, but inherant to her as an individual entity, and irrelevant of her robotic nature.

Why did Robot Maria not put up more of a fight when the mob turned on her? It has been pointed out that the original Maria fought against Rotwang, and more fiercely than the Robot Maria against the mob. I would suggest that the reason for her relative pacivity, was down to the simple reason that the mob posed no threat to her. By not fighting back, she was arguably protecting them from herself. She laughed while burning at the stake, because the flames did not truly damage or endanger her, they merely burned away the flesh covering of her robot form (something which probably would have been shown in depth, had the techonology allowed Lang to do so) Like when the Terminator rose from the fire, intent and fully capable of his mission to kill Sarah Connor, despite being robbed of his Human disguise, Robot Maria was no doubt still fully functional within the pyre. She was simply never seen again, as Rotwang's attempt to escape the mob took over the narrative, and she was then an irrelevance to the original Maria's negotiation between the Elite, and the Workers, but that is not evidence that the fire eventually consumed her robot form... Given Fredersen's actions, perhaps a better resolution would have been to show Fredersen being exiled from Metropolis, and Rotwang being embraced by the population for his attempts to ease their burden of labor with his creation of the robots. That the society had shown capable of embracing the Robot Maria as not only a being, but as a desirable one and an equal (before degenerating to mob mentality) showed that they would likely equally have tollerated a class of worker robots with equal kindness, rather than holding them in oppressive slavery.

Last edited by marcusdkane; 03-23-2013 at 04:18 PM. Reason: Spelling...

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