Bleaker Dystopian Societal View
A parallel study of George Orwell’s “Nineteen Eighty-four” and Fritz Lang’s German expressionist film “Metropolis” ultimately show the struggle of the individual against excessive political control. Both texts explore the notion of individuality restraint through political manipulation and mass oppression. The stress and social instability surrounding post World War I is reflected through the different levels of ‘worlds’ in Fritz Lang’s Metropolis. In contrast to this, George Orwell’s Nineteen Eighty-four offers a much bleaker dystopian societal view in the event of post-World War II. The varying contexts derived from both texts pose different issues about the time, however, it becomes evident that each portray similar properties in relation to exploiting power and control. Ultimately, through form and historical context, Orwell and Lang both deliver compelling texts that propose identical positions in relation to society and lack of freedom for the individual which in turn
The snapshot of humanity offered in metropolis is one of political power owned by a small elite. The silent film delivers compelling warnings for the future of humanity in relation to social and political means. This ultimately comes at the expense of exploiting individuality and society itself. Power is gained by forcing mass oppression on the individual in an attempt to eliminate revolt. This is reiterated through the segregation of the levels; the above and the “deep beneath”. The above is characterised by monumental architecture showcasing the life of the city. The people live in a state of utopia. This is severely contradictory of the level below. The below is drenched in monotonal greys and the use of harsh lighting in the film casts a constant shadow. This contrast of colour acts as a distinguishing point for the audience to gain an understanding of how power is manipulated. By oppressing the people who are subject to the down below, it is assumed by those in power that they do not possess the means or desire to revolt.This political corruption is also evident in Nineteen Eighty-four through the operation of an ‘Orwellian society’ and the ruling of ‘Big Brother’. The term Orwellian society refers to the use of constant surveillance to monitor and maintain the lack of freedom given to the individual. This surveillance is carried out utilising the ‘telescreens’ that are present in almost every household in the state of Oceania. The use of the word telescreen ultimately presents Orwell’s concern and snapshot humanity. The fear that technology and machinery are becoming a permanent fixture in society. This fear also translates into Metropolis through the images of the heart machine appearing to be almost demon like, devouring all who refuse to conform. Orwell demonstrates a glimpse into a dystopian future under a totalitarian regime. This glimpse generates an authentic interpretation of the political and technological anxieties that existed during the early 20th century. The novel evidently corresponds with similar predictions of a dystopian future that is also implied in Metropolis. A future that is controlled by machinery and technology in which humanity will succumb to.
The repression of individualism and the deprivation of human instinct are fundamental notions that connect both film and novel. In contexts that draw upon political control and the restriction of freedom, individualism is interpreted as a threat that inhibits the severity of control. Contrasting this, despite the mirror of repression, the means through which authority is enforced differs, ultimately reflecting the context in which it is derived from. For example, authority in Metropolis comes from a figurehead that is despised by the oppressed. The working class conspire against the protagonist Joh Freder and ultimately revolt. This is represented through the character of real Maria. The use of lighting and costuming in the film present Maria with a sense of purity. Maria is seen in almost every scene wearing white and a soft light appears to be surrounding her. This ultimately offers a point of hope for the population of the down below.
In contrast, the figurehead point of power in Nineteen Eighty-four is emitted by the likes of Big Brother. The name Big Brother is one of trust and affection. This is an example of ‘double-think’ within the novel. ‘Big Brother’ and the party do not possess attributes in which a big brother usually would. Instead the party mimics the capitalist personalities of the likes of Stalin and Hitler, reflecting the political corruption that existed while psychologically gaining the trust of society with the almost nurturing name. The power exerted by the party is all encompassing; life without the party literally does not exist. Oceania believes this to be true as history is altered by ‘the ministry of truth’ to read that a time without the party never existed. “And when memory failed and written records were falsified—when that happened, the claim of the Party to have improved the conditions of human life had got to be accepted, because there did not exist, and never again could exist, any standard against which it could be tested”. This quote emphasizes how an understanding of the past can change an attitude toward the present. The Party falsifies history and weakens people’s memories so that society becomes unable to challenge what claims the party make about the present. This corresponds into historical context with the Nazi party burning books. The prohibition of basic human instinct and free thought is then manipulated and rewired into the love of Big Brother. It is through this destruction of individuality and the repression of the nonconforming that Orwell extends Lang’s representation of the dehumanisation of society. Although heavily exaggerated in the novel, it still presents identical ideas about the concept of humanity and the human condition. Power in Nineteen Eighty-four is done with such force that hope of freedom is an unobtainable notion. The protagonist Winston Churchill ultimately conforms to the party after being tortured. “We do not destroy the heretic because he resists us…We convert him, we capture his inner mind, we reshape him.” This quote reveals the party’s ultimate goal. It places emphasis on the fact that the party desires to hold full control over the individual and thought. In contrast to this, the power in Metropolis is degrading and the dehumanisation of the working class paired with the corruption of robot Maria makes a ground for revolution.