I have created a machine in the image of man, that never tires or makes a mistake. Now we have no further use for living workers. . . . [I] have created the workers of the future—the machine men.
Actually, Rotwang has created the machine woman. Under the penta- gram sits a metal robot whose heavy, machinelike limbs and joints combine strangely with womanly features—noticeable hips and defi- nite, sculpted breasts.The face is not fully realized, but Rotwang says “Give me another 24 hours, and I’ll bring you a machine which no one will be able to tell from a human being.”
A later scene shows what Rotwang means. Maria is strapped to a table in his workshop and is wearing a metal helmet with wires lead- ing to the robot. Rotwang throws switches and examines gauges, and a spectacular light display—impressive even in the black-and-white film of the era—surrounds woman and robot. As Maria sinks into unconsciousness, her face is overlaid on the metallic features of the robot, which stares directly at the camera.
That stare, and an evil wink the robot gives Frederson, signal that this physical duplicate of Maria has a completely different character. As Frederson wanted, she inflames the workers, and to show how human she appears, excites the assembled leaders of Metropolis with a lascivious dance.This might be the first virtual being with overt sexu- ality, and the film delves further into robotic psychosexuality.While Frederson tells the false Maria to rouse the workers, his son sees the robot—apparently the woman he loves—in a near-embrace with his father.The scene is even more disturbing at a deeper level.A subplot (it does not appear in all versions of the film, the original having been variously re-cut and re-released, including a 1984 adaptation with a rock music score) reveals that Fredersen and Rotwang were once rivals for the same woman, Hel. Fredersen won her, and Hel became Freder’s mother.Years later, Rotwang builds the robot to replace his lost love, and so Freder sees both his love and an image of his dead mother in his father’s arms.
Many reviewers have noted loose ends and illogicalities in Me- tropolis (for example, would not Frederson rather have had the work- ers soothed by the good Maria than provoked to run rampant by the