“Head and hands need a mediator. The mediator between head and hands must be the heart!” – “Metropolis”
If you haven’t seen the version of “Metropolis” (1927) that was recovered in 2008 and restored in 2010, I would recommend going and seeing that before reading. However, if you need convincing to go see a 2.5 hour silent film, then I hope this article can serve to do that.
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“Metropolis” is a silent film by Fritz Lang from 1927, written by Thea von Harbou. It’s set in a futuristic mega city that is governed by a stark class system. The paradise of the world above is enjoyed by the upperclassmen; the hellish, industrial factories below (that keep the city running) is run by the poor who struggle through back-breaking work every day.
From the working class, a prophet predicts the coming of a “mediator” — one who will bring the head (the upper-class people who invent, design and enjoy their creations) and the hands (those who actually make it happen) together.
The story involves a robot taking the likeness of a woman, a mad scientist with personal stakes, riots and uprisings, and some stunning cinematography that still holds up today.
Eventually, the working class is convinced to depart from the peaceful methods of a mediator, and they decide to conduct a violent uprising. They leave their posts manning machines and seek to overthrow the oppressors forcefully. However, the machines that they do not entirely understand are holding floodwaters at bay, and when they leave the depths to kick out the high level businessmen, they leave their children behind (a riot is no place for children). The floods come, and because of their lust for blood, their children could be killed.
“Violence begets violence.” – Martin Luther King Jr.
There is a time for war, but when there is a peaceful option, people often still seek war when they have been egregiously wronged. In fact, they often don’t want peace at all — they don’t want a solution to their problems, and they don’t care if the pain stops. Above all, they want revenge. And revenge (which is separate from justice) does nothing but bring more pain.
In “Metropolis” we see this exemplified in the workers. Those who sit in their ivory towers are no doubt the villains, but in their hate and thirst for vengeance, the workers wind up gravely endangering their own children.
This is something we can see today — as democrats and republicans continue to distance themselves from one another and vilify the opposing group, as they refuse to negotiate, compromise and extend helping hands toward one another, they are building a divided world for their children, who may have to fight the war their parents built for them. This may not be the literal next generation of children, but some generation down the line.
The hero of “Metropolis” is not the glorious leader of the revolution, it’s the mediator. An uprising was the wrong decision, but the upper class of the city were still committing terrible crimes against the workers and this needs to be solved right away. The mediator bridges the gap between the two, rekindling the human connection so they can all seek a better future together.
We have different classes in western society today, but it is certainly not so pronounced as in other countries, or in “Metropolis.” However, we do have other divisions of this magnitude and they grow daily — they are just between political parties.
If the country wishes to move forward instead of splitting down the middle and delving into chaos, then everyone has to play the role of the mediator. Instead, many of us insist on inaction, meaningless posts online, and stirring the pot here and there for personal reasons that usually revolve around insecurity. The job of the mediator is much more difficult — it takes wisdom, poise, respect, and a whole lot of patience.
Russia’s disinformation campaign on social media is simply an exploit of an existing problem, as they hope to see our children subject to the floodgates so their global competitor becomes a non-issue. Without the existence of mediators, they may see this future become a reality.
Images courtesy of Archives du 7e Art/UFA via IMDB.