Metropolis: The Comic

To dwell on the question of whether the comic is telling a coherent narrative or is a collection of snapshots is to miss the point of the images entirely. Frans Masereel is very clearly making a statement that the city is an oppressive force that reaches every individual. The city breeds debauchery, aggression, and perversion while crushing the individual’s humanity. Regardless of whether these images have any direct, sequential relation, they are thematically linked by these ideas which are shared by Fritz Lang’s film, Metropolis. Metropolis would be released in 1927, two years after Die Stadt in 1925. My knowledge of the economic and emotional climate of 1920’s Germany is limited to these two properties, but there seems to be a very prevalent fear, and perhaps aversion, to rampant industrialism dominating the mentality of the time. Although entirely open to interpretation, the images do seem to be arranged in a sequence: increasing violence. Die Stadt begins with panels illustrating the mundane lives of city-goers and the broken lives of those who built the city. As the comic progresses, the violence happening in the shadows and background becomes the focus, culminating in some of the chaotic final panels. In class we focused on the sexual connotations of these images, but that is only part of a larger whole, and is neither the focus nor the point of these images. Frans is using that particular aggression as another example of how a city, built by the workers for the elite, fosters an evil environment of declining decency when those committing the violent acts lack perspective. Metropolis is a film that deals with this idea of perspective. The worker’s city below the surface is literally invisible to the citizens above. This creates a lack of empathy on both sides. The citizens of Die Stadt, much like the citizens of Metropolis, did not consciously intend to fall into a life of absent morals. Their lack of empathy and understanding for the workers blurred their perspective and shifted their focus towards leisure and self-satisfaction. This behavior keeps building upon itself as the people become progressively violent. From the people separated by walls, to the divisions between class and sex, Frans is communicating that a city only serves to separate the people.

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