Has slavery truly been abolished? Men and women go to work every day in the world. Some never return. Many work long hours, some even twenty-four hours straight. Many of these jobs are grueling, dangerous and people even die while at work due to overexertion, accidents or negligence. For as hard as these people work many are paid minimum wage; some even less than that. With all of this mind, I believe one can soundly argue that slavery does still exist.
I feel the 1927 film Metropolis conveys this. In my opinion, this film is an early political vehicle to persuade its audience to embrace Marxism. I say this because it shows the workers (or proletariat) being exploited, basically worked to death, by the rich (or capitalist bourgeoisie).
I also think the Maria character is symbolic of the Christian church. Marx described organized religion as "the opiate of the masses." I feel Maria is supposed to be this opiate because: for one, her name is Maria (or Mary) like the mother of Jesus; two, she wears white and is beautiful similar to man's concept of an angel; and three she speaks of mediator (or messiah) who will come and deliver the workers from their plight. This fits with Marx again for he believed religion was used to keep the proletariat subjugated, extolling virtues such as submitting to authority, pay taxes, turn the other cheek, be happy that you are a slave, you will be rich in heaven. This is what Maria said, be patient.
I don't feel the film made it completely clear as to why the rich man wanted to use violence against the workers. I wasn't sure if this was to set an example that if they ever tried to rise up and overthrow the powers that be, they would be swiftly punished and perhaps even killed. This seemed a bit strange to me because if all of the workers were killed, who would do the work? I feel this film probably did reach many of its viewers because many probably have similar exploitative jobs. People probably do feel challenged when seeing something like this. However, I feel the problem with this film (as with most other political movies) is that they bring up a problem, complain about it, but propose no practical solution or policy alternative. At the end of the film the "mediator" or "heart" is uniting the rich man with the worker, or uniting the "brains" with the "hands." Perhaps Fritz Lang then felt that the audience would be inspired to launch myriad political reforms. I honestly don't know.
I honestly feel, for it's time, this was an extraordinary film. I feel the politics of it were expressed explicitly, implicitly, and creatively. And most importantly, this film was very entertaining. The actors were excellent and the directing was phenomenal. I do think the whole purpose of the robot/agent provocateur should have been developed more. I also didn't understand if the scientist was somehow supposed to also represent the church since his robe looked much like that worn by a monk.