The Novel Form of “Metropolis”: Review, Part 1 (Repost from last June)

by Thea Von Harbou

This isn’t a full review of themes and social issues and Von Harbou and Naziism such as I see in other reviews, but simply a reader giving her impressions as she goes along.  I have linked to reviews which do go deeper, which I have also consulted for help understanding this book.

Spoilers Below!

If you’re familiar with the movie Metropolis, you may not know about the novel, which was serialized in the magazine Illustriertes Blatt before the movie came out.  Thea von Harbou and Fritz Lang wrote the screenplay based on Harbou’s novel.

I came across a copy of the book on Amazon.com, though admittedly it appears to have been self-published, due to the many typos and grammatical/spelling errors.  The translation must have been done by the publisher as well.  The wording is often awkward, a common problem with translating from one language and its grammar rules to another, but which should be fixed with flowing sentences before presenting a translation to the world.  Still, if you fix the problems in your head and try to ignore them as much as possible, you can pay better attention to the story.

And the story is quite different from the movie.  If you’ve only seen the heavily edited versions, it’s even more different from the movie.  I will write with the assumption that the reader has already seen the movie; if not, I highly recommend it.

Despite all the issues people complain about with the movie, such as bizarre plotline and accusations of Nazi sympathies, I love this movie.  The special effects amaze me, considering this was made in the 1920s, and the inclusion of a video phone even before television had been invented.  The mad scientist, the robot, the magic, all make the movie fun.  That, and my husband and I snarking on it all the way through like Joel and the Robots.  ?

Another review of the book is here, filling in details I missed–which make me wonder if the copy I read also left out a few things inadvertently.  Such as, I never caught until the very end that Hel and Maria looked alike, but I thought that was just Rotwang’s delusion.

But now on to the book:

It is set in 2026, so ten years from now, 100 years from when the movie was made.

In Chapter 1, we discover that Freder Fredersen has been building a machine of his own, a robot girl, starting before he laid eyes on Maria on that fateful day in the Eternal Gardens.

Ever since he saw her, he’s been feverishly working on the robot and playing the organ, unable to think of anything else.  He goes into the workshop and up to the robot:

Freder caressed his creation. He pressed his head gently against the machine. With ineffable affection he felt its cool, flexible members.

“Tonight,” he said, “I shall be with you. I shall be entirely enwrapped by you. I shall pour out my life into you and shall fathom whether or not I can bring you to life.

I shall, perhaps, feel your throb and the commencement of movement in your controlled body.

I shall, perhaps, feel the giddiness with which you throw yourself out into your boundless element, carrying me–me, the man who made you–through the huge sea of midnight.

The seven stars will be above us, and the sad beauty of the moon. Mount Everest will remain, a hill, below us. You shall carry me and I shall know: You carry me as high as I wish. . . .”

He stopped, closing his eyes. The shudder which ran through him was imparted, a thrill, to the silent machine.

“But perhaps,” he continued, without raising his voice, “perhaps you notice, you, my beloved creation, that you are no longer my only love. Nothing on earth is more vengeful than the jealousy of a machine that believes itself to be neglected. Yes, I know that. . . .

You are imperious mistresses. . . . ‘Thou shalt have none other Gods but me.’ . . . Am I right? A thought apart from you–you feel it at once and become perverse.

How could I keep it hidden from you that all my thoughts are not with you?

I can’t help it, my creation. I was bewitched, machine. I press my forehead upon you and my forehead longs for the knees of the girl of whom I do not even know the name. . . .”

HMMMMMMMM……….He…is building a robot to be his lover?  What?  The most eligible bachelor in the city is building a Buffy-bot?  This whole section sounds just sooo wrong….. (And he longs for Maria’s knees?  Wha–?)

We find out about the cathedral, which Freder goes into later on in the movie.  No one uses it anymore except for a small group of Gothics, who send death threats to the Master of Metropolis quite regularly to make sure he doesn’t tear it down.

Atop it is a statue of the Virgin Mary, whose face–austere as the Virgin, sweet as the mother–reminds him of Maria’s.

That strange house where Rotwang lives?  It was built centuries before by a magician, and was said to be older than the cathedral.  That explains the pentagrams and the doors that open and close by themselves.  Unlike the cathedral, it needs no one to make death threats, because if anybody comes near to tear it down, the house itself kills the person: stones falling, trap doors opening, sudden plague, that sort of thing.

And red-cheeked Rotwang saw this house and said, “I want to have that!”

We find that the drudge workers of Metropolis live in a city underground, 10 hours on shift at a time.  When the shift changes, Joh pushes a blue metal plate which fills the city with a siren calling the workers to work.  Freder sees it as the “machine-city of Metropolis” raising her voice and roaring for living men for food.

We also get a little more of the backstory about Hel, basically that she was drawn to Joh but very sad about causing pain to Rotwang.

But first, her name: A little Googling reveals that the scenes with Hel’s statue were cut out of the film originally, because English-speaking audiences would see her name and think of Hell.

But in German, Hell is “Hölle.”  “Hel” actually refers to the Norse goddess-queen of the underworld.

Joh Fredersen is like a god: his name is a variant of Jehovah.  Metropolis means “mother city.”  Maria is a variant of Mary.

And we have a New Tower of Babel.  The Eternal Gardens are the Garden of Eden.  Freder is like Adam, going from innocent pleasure to discovering the evil of how the workers are being treated.

But I’m not sure how his name translates; in Danish, it means “watches over.”  One source says it refers to “brother,” but “brother” in German is Bruder.  And Joh and Freder are both Fredersen, son of Freder. —The Philosophy of Science Fiction Film edited by Steven Sanders

Hel “meant to two men all heaven and all hell.”  We know from her statue’s inscription that she died giving birth to Freder,

But Joh Fredersen knew only too well that she did not die from giving birth to her child. She died then because she had done what she had to do. She really died on the day upon which she went from Rotwang to Joh Fredersen, wondering that her feet left no bloody traces behind on the way. She had died because she was unable to withstand the great love of Joh Fredersen and because she had been forced by him to tear asunder the life of another.

Never was the expression of deliverance at last more strong upon a human face than upon Hel’s face when she knew that she would die.

Wait–forced by Joh?  How much of this affair and divorce was her choice?  Later on, Joh visits his mother to look for solace and help because he’s losing Freder to a woman.  But she has never forgiven him for becoming the heartless brain of Metropolis, or for stealing Hel from Rotwang.  She says,

“You have sinned toward your friend. For Hel loved Rotwang and it was you who compelled her.”

“When she was dying, mother, she loved me…”

“Yes. When she saw that you, too, were a man, when your head was beating against the floor and you were crying out. But do you believe, Joh, that this one smile in her dying hour outweighs all that which brought about her death?…

A friend is unarmed against his friend. He has no shield before his breast, nor armor before his heart. A friend who believes in his friend is a defenseless man. A defenseless man was it whom you betrayed, Joh.”

Joh’s mother tells him he went against her advice in this matter, and that now he’s paying for his sins.  It sounds like Joh not only betrayed his friend, but stole Hel using more than just seduction: Did he force her?  Did he use his position to make her feel she had no choice but to go with him?  Some people think David did this with Bathsheba, because he was king and she was afraid she’d be killed if she refused; maybe Hel felt the same about Joh.

Hel’s death caused wracking pain to Joh, while it caused madness in Rotwang, whose hair turned snow-white, “and in the eyes under this [wonderful] brow the smoldering of a hatred that was very closely related to madness.”

I have a bit of a thing for Rotwang, which I’ve also given to a main character in a novel I’m currently working on.  Her thing for mad scientists, especially Rotwang, leads her to fall for one who–Well, this isn’t about my novel.  Back to Metropolis.  There’s just something about Rotwang and his wild hair and his long, dark robe, holding his arms in the air and fiddling in his lab.  And it’s all sorts of fun to say his name the German way, not “rot wang” like an American, but rrrrroht-vahnk. (The uvular “r” is fun, too, but not nearly as much.)

Rotwang also has his robot, which seems to be different from Freder’s robot, though why they’re both making one, I don’t know.  Freder’s robot just vanishes from the story and all remembrance.

In the movie, Joh didn’t know about Rotwang’s robot.  But in the book, Joh has asked for machine-men to work his machines, since–as he told Freder in chapter 2–the human workers are burning out quickly.

No, Rotwang’s robot is not a machine man, even though in the movie it’s referred to that way.  As he explains in the book, it is specifically meant to be a machine woman, and Joh wonders why it is so when he asked for machine men.

It’s good to know that the story did not forget basic anatomy after all, even though the movie made it seem so.  Rotwang, as he explains, made a woman because every one who would create a person would make a woman, not a man.  He believes that if there is a male God who made Adam and Eve, then Eve must’ve been the first human He made, not Adam.

We also find that the robot emanates cold, being made of some kind of cold metal.  Much later in the book, we discover that the robot was also meant to look like Hel.

To be continued next week.  Full review here.

 

Reblog on the trolls

Remember the troll mob that came through here last month just because I *talked* to their usual target?  Well, their target has posted an update.  He and a friend have been working to get their accounts suspended on Twitter.  Thanks to the list he posted here, I just blocked a bunch more of them.  Seems they’ve been losing interest in him finally, and their number has dropped significantly as well.

I recently got a comment on one of my posts saying these trolls have been targeting several other people as well.  This person said they also use Facebook to harass.  I did get a couple of friend requests which I suspect were them, which shows disturbing stalker activity, because I keep my real-life name private online.

Sure they’ve been quiet, since I blocked their comments and reported a couple of them on Twitter.  But it still makes me feel squicky to think of them reading my blog and stalking my Twitter.  Anyway, here’s the update from their usual target:

Twitter just emailed me this list they have been working on with Lindsay for the past several months. As you can see a lot of accounts are no longer active or working. Most of them have been deleted by Twitter or by the user. And for some reason one of…

Source: 170 Trolls, One Dead? Huh?

Anti-Muslim and anti-black language is disgusting: There is a better way (Repost from 2015)

In reviewing this post as part of site maintenance, I realized it is still relevant–unfortunately–and needs to be posted again.  I originally wrote it on February 22, 2015, as a Facebook post:

Recently, the local newspaper reported on racial and religious/ethnic tension in the community.

And the response in the comments online, was to deny it.  To dig in the heels and refuse to see what’s going on.

For example, a black man moved here a short time ago, and was disturbed to see pickaninny statuettes.  He even had to remove pickaninnies from the wallpaper when he moved into his home!  He has also experienced racism in other ways.  (See here, here and here.)

I came to this city 20 years ago, having grown up in a larger city with many black friends; I knew those statues were racist.  I was shocked to see them around town, brazenly displayed as if the owners didn’t care what message they were sending.

Now, finally, the newspaper laid it bare.  I was glad that somebody finally addressed this problem.  (I did not know the owners of the statues, so I couldn’t do it myself.)  To my relief, the owner of one statue simply did not know it was racist.

Which amazed me, because how can you be so clueless?  I’ve known for decades that such images are racist.  But at least it was not malicious.

While some people in the newspaper’s online comments were glad to see this addressed, several made comments like, These people offended by statues must have huge chips on their shoulders and need counseling. 

Even one of my old college friends said this when I posted a link on Facebook.

I was floored.

Not everyone here is like this, of course.  I know people around town who are not like that at all.  And there were plenty of comments from people who recognize racism rather than denying it exists.

But I was surprised at what so many people wrote.  Openly.  On the Net.  With their names attached.  And no shame, just derision for the article and the man described in it.

Then we had a couple of articles this week about a local group which brought Muslims and Christians together for dialogue, study and fellowship.  It was led by Sisters from our St. Agnes convent, who are very much involved in social justice, and wonderful people.  (Here and here.)

The response in the comments: to spout off against how evil Islam is and, to the one person who defended the need for dialogue, the “left liberals” who are “anti-Christian.”

Floored once again.

Good heavens.  Still?  In 2015? 

I could’ve sworn I took a time machine back to 1960!

The comments, both about racism and about Muslims, were highly offensive and disgusting.

(Though this does explain how we keep electing politicians who are getting more and more extreme and wacky, with their crazy conspiracy theories.  Even our long-time and revered Republican Congressman, Petri, has been treated lately like he’s too “liberal”!  Once upon a time, I was a Republican, but cannot be in good conscience anymore.)

Because of my old college friend’s comment on the statues, and her Tea Party rants lately against anything I post that’s even remotely political, I have been considering dropping her from my Facebook.  Which would be sad.

But this, and her anti-children comments as well lately, make me understand better how she and my BFF Mike ended up parting ways back in 2010.

(This was the same time that I had to drop my supposed “BFF,” Richard, only to find that Mike and other college friends are my TRUE “BFF’s.”)

But this problem is NOT isolated to our little community.  It is all over the country.

Meanwhile, I hear about Muslims in Jerusalem celebrating Christmas, Muslims and Christians protecting each other from violence, and Muslims forming a line around a synagogue in Norway.

I recall the sweet, quiet Muslim lady who used to drop off and pick up her son at the same church where my son went to 4K.

I recall TLC’s reality show on American Muslims, which demonstrated how “normal” they really are–and how prejudice affects them.  But it got dropped before the end of the first year, while junk like “Honey Boo-Boo” stays on.

I recall that many practices of Muslims are shared by more traditional Orthodox Christians, such as headcoverings, onion domes, and prostrations.

And I note that my own religious leader, the Ecumenical Patriarch, signed a Joint Declaration with the Pope last November, which included this paragraph:

The grave challenges facing the world in the present situation require the solidarity of all people of good will, and so we also recognize the importance of promoting a constructive dialogue with Islam based on mutual respect and friendship.

Inspired by common values and strengthened by genuine fraternal sentiments, Muslims and Christians are called to work together for the sake of justice, peace and respect for the dignity and rights of every person, especially in those regions where they once lived for centuries in peaceful coexistence and now tragically suffer together the horrors of war.

Moreover, as Christian leaders, we call on all religious leaders to pursue and to strengthen interreligious dialogue and to make every effort to build a culture of peace and solidarity between persons and between peoples.

We also remember all the people who experience the sufferings of war.

In particular, we pray for peace in Ukraine, a country of ancient Christian tradition, while we call upon all parties involved to pursue the path of dialogue and of respect for international law in order to bring an end to the conflict and allow all Ukrainians to live in harmony.

 

Over the years, it has disturbed me to find so many Orthodox believers disparaging this Patriarch because of his work toward environmental and ecumenical causes. 

I see a true leader striving to further the ends of the Gospel through peace, love, tolerance, understanding, and protecting the world God made for us. 

The Patriarch was one reason why I became Orthodox instead of remaining in the liberal Presbyterian Church.  I saw in him that you did not have to be a liberal Christian to live out the tenets of the faith (described in the above paragraph).  Liberalism has many good traits but often goes too far the other way; now I had an alternative.

I, a lifelong Evangelical, fled and became Presbyterian in the first place because of what I saw taking over the conservative churches: intolerance, treating the Republican Party like God’s Own Party, fighting against Harry Potter instead of poverty, treating environmentalism like a lie from the pit of Hell.  Not everyone was like this, of course, but I saw even good people infected by it to some extent.  I myself was once infected by it.

But the Patriarch knows all too well what it is like to be persecuted, truly persecuted, not just from ridicule, but from a government which suppresses your religion.  He, more than anyone, is qualified to speak of the necessity for tolerance, even for the religion of your oppressor.

And note that both he and the Pope agreed to this Declaration, both spiritual leaders of millions of Christians in the oldest Churches on the planet.  These churches are as “conservative” as you can get.

But so many–at least in America–speak against the Patriarch, sounding like the far-right political fanatics who try to further the interests of corporations and Big Oil, deny the truth of climate change, sabotage the progress made in protecting our world, and promote bigotry, war and hate.

They defame our Patriarch by saying he does not further the Gospel, that he is too “politically correct.”

On the contrary, the Patriarch is fighting for Christ, carrying out Christ’s commands, a true prophet for our times.

Those who deny this, will be left behind in the dust bin of history.

The same as those who fought to keep the slaves in chains.  And those who fought to keep blacks under a reign of terror in the South, and suppressed and oppressed in the North.  The ones who are to blame for many ills still suffered by generations of blacks, long after the Civil War and the end of Jim Crow.

I do not agree with the Patriarch on everything.  My church still opposes gay marriage, for example.  But to most things I read of and from him, I cheer inwardly.

Such as his book, Encountering the Mystery.

Which I highly recommend.  It is prophetic and beautiful, all about how we are to live out the words of Christ in today’s world, promoting peace, love and environmental harmony.

These words are hard and forceful because bigotry and hatred are evil and the sources of most evils in this world.

UPDATE 3/2/15:

It just frustrates me to NO END that the guy who wrote this letter spoke the TRUTH about what so many minorities are dealing with, yet so many refuse to see it.

I spoke up in favor of what he said, I say that I know people this has happened to, I express the problem with intolerance is very real, yet there’s a guy who’s just so frickin’ BULLHEADED he refuses to accept it.

Just dismisses me as a “left liberal.” Just says I should “get over it.” Well, I’m not the one who has suffered, so I’m not the one to “get over” anything.

It was suffered by a little girl, only about 6 years old or so.  Richard’s daughter (the one he choked), who is mixed-race, was told by classmates that their parents would not let them play with her because she’s black. This was in 2008.

It was suffered by minorities around the year 2000 when a local white supremacist group was putting posters up all over town and writing letters to the editor.  I ripped one of their posters off a telephone pole.

These groups pop up every now and then. As recently as 2010, a white supremacist group put flyers on cars in N. Fond du Lac.

I’m not the one suffering it, but others. And so I speak up because somebody in the majority has to.

It is suffered by blacks who–even in these modern times–see offensive pickaninny images around the city, including statues and wallpaper, yet get accused of needing therapy for saying this is racist.

I also see people responding to this letter calling the writer “smug” and “arrogant” because of one little thing he included which is inconsequential to the point he’s making. Meanwhile, they ignore–or deny–the actual points. It is an ad hominem argument used to dismiss the whole letter.

I hope the guy who wrote this letter sees the comments and knows that no, we’re NOT all intolerant in this town. That there IS hope. That change can happen. The trouble is there is such a vocal group of people who are intolerant and are blind to their own behavior. Hopefully a small group, but they are loud.

CHANGE CANNOT HAPPEN THROUGH DENIAL.

Everyone has the right to live wherever they wish without experiencing hate, prejudice, bigotry. It is not about special treatment by any means. It is simple, normal, basic human decency which everyone should be able to expect.

The guy arguing with me, and others, also recently rejected the idea that Muslims are being prejudiced against. Not because of it not happening, but because HE THINKS IT’S OKAY TO BE PREJUDICED AGAINST MUSLIMS.

AND IT MAKES ME SO ANGRY. Not on my own behalf, but that of others.

IT MAKES ME ANGRY TO SEE ANYBODY BEING BULLIED AND ABUSED. That includes groups of people: black, yellow, red, brown, white, gay, any religion, whatever.

We need to LISTEN to the stories of people who claim they’re being hurt by prejudice and bigotry. Don’t just dismiss it because you don’t see it yourself.

NOBODY IS CALLING YOU A BIGOT/RACIST/SEXIST/etc. WHEN THEY DISCUSS THEIR OWN EXPERIENCES WITH BIGOTRY. Unless you were in that story, of course. It is a raising of awareness of what happens, to open the eyes of everyone to what is going on, so we all can help stop it.

Many times we don’t notice our own racism until it is pointed out. Over the years people have pointed out things to me which I had no idea were racist; afterwards, I was shocked and ashamed.

This is a human failing common to everyone, so everyone needs to root it out, even when they don’t realize it’s there.

IT IS ABSOLUTELY NECESSARY for such stories to be shared. Otherwise, it is just swept under the rug, and the victims of prejudice are silenced. Just the same as when victims of other forms of abuse and rape are silenced. It is necessary so we recognize problems in ourselves, and can recognize cases of prejudice that happen in front of us, so we can speak up. Otherwise, the problem simply continues unabated.

I do the exact same thing on my blog all the time. I write about what it is like to have a brain which does not “see” things the same as other people. I write my own experiences with bullying and abuse so others can learn from them and open their eyes.

It does NOT mean that the reader is himself/herself an abuser (except when my bullies/abusers are the ones reading it). In fact, I would be amazed if anybody ever took it that way. Yet somehow, pointing out cases of abuse and bullying has turned some people defensive.

We need to carry out the teachings of Christ, which were to love even the stranger, even the hated Samaritans. Christ’s teachings tell us to love even those who are different from us.

Yet the guy arguing with me, claims to be a “Christian” while violating what that means. And accusing people of not being Christian for saying we need to be loving towards others instead of hateful.

I’m bowing out of arguing with this bigoted creep.

 

Reblog: WordPress Used as Command and Control Server in 2016 Election Hack

More from Wordfence analyzing the information provided about the Russian hacks:

On Friday evening the Department of Homeland Security released a report [PDF link] containing updated and broader analysis of Russian civilian and military intelligence organization’s attempts to interfere with the 2016 US election. This Wordfence report is an analysis of the new ‘Enhanced Grizzly Steppe Report’ and the data it includes. We show that one of the websites used in […]

Source: WordPress Used as Command and Control Server in 2016 Election Hack

%d bloggers like this: