BRINGING UP THE BODIES: THE DEAD MAKING THEIR PRESENCE KNOWN
Remember that post I made comparing Jupiter Ascending to Jacobean revenge tragedies? Well, it has since struck me that Jupiter Ascending is, in some ways, strikingly similar to Fritz Lang’s 1927 silent film Metropolis. If you’re not familiar with it, Metropolis is one the earliest science fiction films; in brief, it is about a mad scientist who creates a female robot which causes a catastrophic break down of society. For our purposes, though, the most interesting thing is that the mad scientist, named Rotwang, was driven mad by losing the love of his life: a woman named Hel who chose businessman Joh Fredersen over him and died giving birth to Fredersen’s son. Rotwang has a shrine dedicated to Hel in his laboratory, and made the robot to recreate her. For convoluted plot-related reasons, the robot is given the face of a woman named Maria; Maria is kidnapped by Rotwang for this purpose, and he gradually begins to confuse Maria with Hel. By the film’s climax, Rotwang has convinced himself that Maria is Hel and calls her by that name. Maria, terrified, flees from him. And yes, if you haven’t seen it you should watch Metropolis - it’s frickin’ awesome.
So, how does this relate to Jupiter Ascending? I’ll break it down for you:
1. A dead woman casts a long shadow over both films. In Metropolis, the plot only happens because Hel refused Rotwang, married another man and died. In Jupiter Ascending, the plot only occurs because Seraphi was murdered and left a proviso in her will taking into account her potential recurrence. While the situations/circumstances are very different, the plots of both films only kick in because of a dead woman and her choices.
2. A dead woman is venerated by the villain(s) of both films. In Metropolis, Rotwang has a shrine dedicated to Hel and is still devoted to her memory. In Jupiter Ascending, Kalique has a shrine to Seraphi and Balem is shown to be obsessed with Seraphi; he appears to have never stopped mourning her.
3. A dead woman has a double in both films. In Metropolis, Maria is a double of Hel. In Jupiter Ascending, Jupiter is a double of Seraphi (in the most literal sense possible).
4. This is the most striking similarity - in both films, there is a climatic chase which sees the villain pursue the dead woman’s double and actively confuse her with the dead woman herself. In Metropolis, Rotwang chases Maria through an old, crumbling cathedral; he believes that Maria is Hel returned from the dead. In Jupiter Ascending, Balem chases Jupiter through a crumbling refinery; he believes that Jupiter is Seraphi returned from the dead.
I would imagine that the Wachowskis have seen the film, since it’s one of the most influential sci-fi films ever made and the parallels between it and certain elements of JA are striking.
Have you seen Metropolis? Did you pick up on any echoes of it in JA?
Freder Fredersen, the son of the most powerful man in Metropolis, a city divided between the rich and the poor who lives in the underground, falls in love with Maria, a prophet girl from the working class who predicts that a savior may come to intermediate the differences between the classes