p.p1 the many and the search for ever-advancing technology

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Throughout history, some aspects of human culture such as control wielded by the few over the many and the search for ever-advancing technology are constant. Composers of speculative fiction are influenced by the world around them, thus communicating their views about common concerns through their works. The 20th century in particular was full of change and advances in technology, science, and worldwide culture largely due to wars. German expressionist film Metropolis by Fritz Lang explores an industrial world powered by fear while George Orwell’s fatalistic Nineteen Eighty-Four (1984) follows a working class rebel through totalitarian Oceania. Both texts take a didactic form, warning of the dangers of control via technology and its effect upon the masses.
 Lang’s fear of technology’s effect on the world is engendered within 1927’s Metropolis, an early example of German expressionism. Visions of the future are incorporated through the inclusion of negative connotations with the portrayal of technology, in particular, False Maria, a ‘man of the future’. Rotwang’s gothic costuming and stereotypical mad scientist hair are complemented by his eccentrically animated body language to foreshadow the ulterior motives behind his creation. This scene includes mysterious non-diegetic music over a fast-paced montage of Rotwang’s laboratory equipment, followed by recurring motifs of the heart and hands when False Maria’s heart is symbolised by flashing lights. Rotwang explains the loss of his hand whilst creating the ‘machine-man’, emphasising Lang’s distrust of technology and the dangers it possesses. Above the robot sits a pentagram, symbolic of the occult, foreshadowing the influence both Maria and her doppelganger have over the people. When the audience is first introduced to False Maria, an eye-level close up shot juxtaposes her wide-eyed dramatic appearance with the pure, religious connotations Lang places on Maria with her plain costume. Already the viewer senses an element of evil about her, indicative of Lang’s negative portrayal of the future setting, influenced by the evolving nature of technology that Orwell also addresses, in 1984, in relation to control.
 Orwell wrote the Juvenalian satire 1984 in 1948, while the world was reeling from the effects of two world wars. Language and mob mentality were common ways for governments to manipulatively control their people, similar to the Party. Big Brother, symbolic of Stalin, looms over Oceania with the elusive Thought Police, and Winston agrees with the Marxist notion that a rebellion must occur for equality to reign, as in Metropolis. The official jargon, Newspeak, aims to eradicate any thought opposed to the Party; a hyperbolic allegory of the ways in which World War leaders attempted to manipulate their people. Other obvious symbols of the Party’s absolute control are the ministries, ironically named for the opposite of their undertakings. The totalitarian regime in Winston’s world encourages him to rebel, devoted to Goldstein, a caricature of Trotsky, and strengthening his relationship with the youthful Julia. ‘He who controls the past controls the future. He who controls the present controls the past’ reflects Winston, who, in anticlimactic paradoxical irony, obeys those he rebels against.  By examining the vices and follies of his time, Orwell developed the dystopic setting to be a dismal portrayal of a future in which the population is ruthlessly controlled, albeit in a less direct way than Metropolis.
 Social inequality in regard to class serves as a vehicle for Fredersen to reign over his people via fear. When the audience is introduced to the ‘depths’, the 10-hour clock immediately defamiliarises them and acts as a recurring motif symbolic of control, complemented by a fast-paced montage of industrial equipment. The workers all wear the same dull jumpsuits, symbolic of their low status, and have slow, uninspired body language. This is juxtaposed against the positive connotations of the brightly lit Eternal Gardens in the Sons’ Club and Fredersen’s fashionable art deco ‘new Tower of Babel’, the namesake of which carries religious connotations. Lang’s use of chiaroscuro lighting clearly conveys the differences between the tower and the catacumbal  ‘workers’ city’. As in 1984, the divide between classes is clear. Another aspect of inequality introduced in the Eternal Gardens is the role of women. Here they are dressed in outlandish costume, simply to ‘entertain’ and seduce the men, and aside from Maria are absent from the rest of the film.  This reminds the viewer of the low status of women at the time whilst subscribing to changing Weimar ideals. In 1984, however, control via technology does not discriminate based on gender.
 Winston’s life is dictated by technology and the Party’s intricate systems used to assert power over its subjects, ranging from memory holes to torture instruments. Orwell hypothesised that televisions would in the future become a mechanism for surveillance, symbolised by the telescreens’ ‘never-sleeping ear’. This personification of technology emphasises the importance of surveillance coupled with Winston’s resigned tone when describing his telescreen’s authority over his every action. The ‘savage’ Parsons children are an example of one of the more extreme methods of control in Oceania, their incongruous role reversal contributing to the novel’s juvenalian tone which emphasises the grave concerns Orwell explores. Juxtaposed against the innocent children in Metropolis, the Youth Spies are like a living extension of the telescreens, ready to hand their family over to the Thought Police. In this way, the typical family dynamic is reduced in an act of absurdity and defamiliarised by Mrs Parsons’ resentful tone. Every aspect of an Outer Party member’s life is carefully monitored by the Thought Police, communicating Orwell’s concern that technology could be used in more indirect ways than he saw in war.
Texts from the twentieth century commonly examine the advances of science and technology and their role in control of the masses, and Metropolis and 1984 are no exception. Although Orwell and Lang take inspiration from different time frames and cultures, they both communicate certain fears about what the future holds for the average person. Clearly art cannot exist separately from history, as communicated through the influence of events like the German Expressionist movement and the Second World War. Both Orwell and Lang were highly influenced by the world around them, leading to their fierce social commentary on technology and control. 

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