"Let the ruling classes tremble at a communist revolution. The proletarians have nothing to lose but their chains. They have a world to win. Workingmen of all countries, unite!" Karl Marx once exclaimed this during the industrial revolution to those suffering and dying in the dank and dark shafts of the working class. In 1927, in the wake of the birth of Marxist thought, a German expressionistic, silent film, called Metropolis, was produced. Within this film the director Fitz Lang makes clear choices in theatrical Mise-en-scene to represent the chasm between the two tiers of a cast system set in an extreme, capitalistic society.
At the start, Freder Frederson, the son of the Metropolis city leader, lives a life of luxury and privilege in the year 2026. He is a naive adult,
without knowledge of the underworld of which his father is both ashamed and proud. In his ignorance, Freder is indulging in a garden by frolicking with a group of women, when he freezes at the sight of a plainly dressed woman with a group of children. He is changed by this encounter and follows her into what is seen as the underbelly of his society. There, he is exposed to the gruesome truth of who keeps the upper-class Metropolis running, the working class, the hands, but the heads of the city see them only as replaceable cogs in a machine. Once Freder is exposed to the reality of this injustice, he makes it his prerogative to be the heart that leads "the hands" to a revolution against the separation of classes, to free Metropolis from servitude to a cast system.
The Mise-en-scene in Metropolis reveals the twisted intricacies of both realms of existence, and capitalizes on the theatrical tradition, using props and/or people as representation of a implied ideals. For instance, it seems that one of the most vital scenes in the film is the scene in which Freder is intently
captivated by a plain woman surrounded by a group of unkempt children. The irony of this is that in the beginning of this scene, Freder is being entertained by a hoard of women in an immense, luscious garden in the middle of which a fountain springs. As the scene changes perspective, the plain woman enters from two large, cold, doors and gathers a group of identically-dressed children about herself. In props, set, and costuming a very clear theatrical distinction is drawn, the classes are established, and Freder sees that he has been living out a half-truth.
In reference to the costuming in this scene, Freder is wearing almost all white clothing, a tie, and dress shoes. The women he is with in the garden are dressed in provocative and rich clothing along with extravagant hats, diamond jewelry, and high heels, resembling the peacock also set in the scene. In complete opposition to their appearance, the woman entering with the children is wearing a plain dress with a white collar, no hat or accessories, accept the children at her side who are all dressed in identical, dark, tattered, and torn clothing. Through these costumes two worlds are exemplified.
Furthermore, Mise-en-scene as a measure of character in this film reveals that the set reinforces this initial separation of class worlds. The gardens in which Freder and his hoard frolicked, were big and full of space (but the characters controlled the space), rich plants, and a bubbling fountain. The space from which the woman and children enter however, is massive (and they are controlled, and seemingly shrunken because of its size), empty, and plain. This glaring creation of two separate worlds sets the tone and purpose for the film, allowing the cultivation of curiosity and conviction within Freder as he embarks on a quest to bridge the gap toward economic equality.