Moloch: Now thats what I am talking about!

The above is a still image from Fritz Lang’s 1927 dystopian sci-fi film, Metropolis. Freder, hero of the film (and son of Master of the city) has a vision in which the machine that the workers tend become an idol to which the workers are sacrificed.

Moloch is (or was) a god who was worshipped by the ancient Hebrews (among others) and apparently demanded costly sacrifices. Apparently there are references in the Bible that suggest that children were sacrificed to Moloch by burning them. Moloch is sometimes described as a metal idol in the form of a man with a bull’s head which doubles as a furnace.

It’s been decades since I have sat down to watch Metropolis. Although the actors performances are pretty weird by today’s standards (there is a lot of over-the-top grimacing and pointing and gesturing and everyone wears makeup, including some pretty outrageous eyebrows as I recall), the sets and special effects really are like expressionist paintings come to life… and I remember one somewhat (unintentionally) comical scene in which an engineer who tends the machines beneath the city attempts to ward off a mob by swinging an obviously rubber wrench (it flops and bends like a massive rubber dildo). Great inspiration for settings and images, though — the picture above needs to be the setting for some sort of dero sacrificial rite…

It’s probably difficult for us to understand how radical the film might have been — in the 1920s in both the US and Germany, striking workers could count on being sent back to work by force and their strike leaders killed or arrested. Many were in virtual debt slavery while a tiny minority of the extremely wealthy lived lives of unbelievable decadence (the Weimar era parties in Berlin were famous for fountains that flowed champagne, orgies, sexual slavery, all-you-can-snort cocaine buffets and other examples of ‘off the hook’ conspicuous consumption that apparently make Dennis Kozlowski look like an amateur). All this while the working class were struggling to keep living at a level just above starvation. One of the consequences, unfortunately, is that when the socialists and police began battling in the streets for control, the fearful populace sprang right into the arms of the Fascists… but that’s a story for another time.

2 Comments on “Moloch: Now thats what I am talking about!”

  1. Melan says:

    limpey: the “suitcases full of money” period was from 1919 to 1923, which is somewhat different from the final crisis that destroyed the republic. Although they were grim years, they did not end in a dictatorship as they should have, but a fairly functional democracy by the standards of the age. As a counter-example, I would also offer Italy — victorious in war and arguably not bad off compared to the rest of Europe, yet it went to Mussolini as soon as 1922. But I simplify, and this is getting far from Metropolis, so…

  2. limpey says:

    Right you are, Melan… but the memories of that time were pretty fresh still when my Grandparents were younger. Whether it's true or not, one of the 'reasons' that Germans of that generation gave for the Nazi's success was the fear of another radical period of inflation, coupled with the resentment over WW1 reparations. Their fears may not have been based on accurate information, but I would suggest that did not stop the politicians at the time from exploiting the fear.

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