Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley and Metropolis, by Fritz Lang Essay

Frankenstein, by Mary Shelley and Metropolis, by Fritz Lang Essay

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Literature and film have always held a strange relationship with the idea of technological progress. On one hand, with the advent of the printing press and the refinements of motion picture technology that are continuing to this day, both literature and film owe a great deal of their success to the technological advancements that bring them to widespread audiences. Yet certain films and works of literature have also never shied away from portraying the dangers that a lust for such progress can bring with it. The modern output of science-fiction novels and films found its genesis in speculative ponderings on the effect such progress could hold for the every day population, and just as often as not those speculations were damning. Mary Shelley's novel Frankenstein and Fritz Lang's silent film Metropolis are two such works that hold great importance in the overall canon of science-fiction in that they are both seen as the first of their kind. It is often said that Mary Shelley, with her authorship of Frankenstein, gave birth to the science-fiction novel, breathing it into life as Frankenstein does his monster, and Lang's Metropolis is certainly a candidate for the first genuine science-fiction film (though a case can be made for Georges Méliès' 1902 film Le Voyage Dans la Lune, his film was barely fifteen minutes long whereas Lang's film, with its near three-hour original length and its blending of both ideas and stunning visuals, is much closer to what we now consider a modern science-fiction film). Yet though both works are separated by the medium with which they're presented, not to mention a period of over two-hundred years between their respective releases, they present a shared warning about the dangers that man's need fo...

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... rock.” (Shelley, p. 292), and Lang was surely aware that without the marvels of technological progress his visual spectacular would have never graced the screen. However Shelley and Lang, in their works, warn of the dangers of not thinking progress through, of not asking “should we do this?” in lieu of “can we do this?”, and they warn their respective audeinces that sometimes it's better, like Captain Robert Walton, to recognize that the journey to progress can be a dangerous one and to return to safe shores instead.
Works Cited Shelley, Mary. Frankenstein. 1818. Ed. J. Paul Hunter. Norton Critical Edition. New York: Norton, 1996.

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