The mad science genre often focuses on the misuse of science, or on science itself as a threat. This can be attributed to the fact that many mad science films and texts have been produced in eras of technological change or scientific discovery. One such mad science film is Fritz Lang’s 1927 German expressionist film Metropolis. The film’s release date straddles the time between World War I and World War II, and the film was produced by Germany’s largest (and inherently propagandist) movie corporation of the time, the UFA, or Universum Film Aktiengesellschaft. Metropolis explores the fear of a technology-dominated society and of a dystopian superpower city (the city in the movie supposedly represents Lang’s first impression of New York City). Furthermore, scholars often refer to Metropolis as the quintessential mad science film. It was one of the first feature films to depict the mad scientist as the disheveled, wild-haired, white-lab-coat-donning madman, and it was also one of the first mad science films to focus on the machinery within the mad scientist’s intricate, mysterious laboratory. Rotwang, the mad scientist in Metropolis, represents another interesting facet of the mad science genre: the idea of the creator or mad scientist as a monster himself. Throughout the film, Rotwang’s monstrosity surfaces in many dimensions, but the most obvious and immediate form of his monstrosity appears when he loses the lower portion of his right arm while creating the robot Maria. To replace the arm, Rotwang wears a mechanical prosthetic that is made of the same technology he uses to create his robotic monster. In this, Rotwang physically embodies his monstrosity, as both his calculated machine-like demeanor and appearance are outside of nature.

Works Cited

Dadoun, Roger, and Arthur Goldhammer. “Metropolis: Mother-City—“Mittler”—Hitler.” Camera Obscura 5.3 15 (1986): 137-164.

Huyssen, Andreas. “The vamp and the machine: Technology and Sexuality in Fritz Lang’s Metropolis.” New German Critique 24/25 (1981): 221-237.

Rutsky, R. L. “The Mediation of Technology and Gender: Metropolis, Nazism, Modernism.” New German Critique 60 (1993): 3-32.

Toumey, Christopher P. “The moral character of mad scientists: A cultural critique of science.” Science, Technology & Human Values 17.4 (1992): 411-437.


One response to “Rotwang

  1. I like that you post introduces background of the “mad science” genre with a film history approach refers to the concept of scientists/creators embodying monstrosity, which is very relevant to my creature, Dr. Freudstein. I also think the picture captures what you write very well.

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