Frankenstein and Metropolis

A comparative analysis of Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein and Fritz Lang’s film, “Metropolis”.

This paper operates under the assumption that artistic works – whether films or novels – are not autonomous, and cannot be truly understood outside of the context in which they were created. The paper discusses how Mary Shelly’s Frankenstein, for all of its traces of modernity, is a work of the early 19th century Romantic period, while Fritz Lang’s “Metropolis” is defined by a preoccupation with the technological culture of the 20th century. As such, the paper argues that this film is closer to our apolitical, technology-obsessed 21st century than is Mary Shelley’s novel.
However, it appears that at issue here is not so much the specific of Frankenstein’s scientific and technological knowledge, but rather the world view that these are associated with. After his meeting with the professor in the above quoted passage, Frankenstein is disturbed by contrasting how the medieval masters of science sought immortality and power while modern science was limited to realities of little worth (Shelley, 50). It is not until he encounters another professor, Waldman, that Frankenstein learns how modern scientific methods can be merged with the ambitious visions of the ancients in order to acquire almost limitless powers (Shelley, 51).
From this perspective, there is little that is new in the technology of Shelley’s Frankenstein. Her main character is like the medieval legend of Faustus who attempts to achieve knowledge that man was not intended to know. Thus, it is not surprising that in Frankenstein’s encounters with his creation, he names him in medieval fashion as a daemon, a fiend and a devil who belongs in the tortures of hell (Shelley, 90).”