Tag Archives: Metropolis

Rotwang or, what mad scientists will do for love

This post is a part of the Movie Scientist Blogathon hosted by Silver Screenings and Christina Wehner

There are mad scientists, and then there’s Rotwang.

Rotwang (Rudolf Klein-Rogge) is a scientist and one of the primary antagonists of the 1927 silent film Metropolis (directed by Fritz Lang). All of his life he’s been in a rivalry with Joh Fredersen (Alfred Abel), the “Master of Metropolis” because years ago they both loved the same woman, Hel. And even though Hel chose Joh, married him and bore his child (Freder), Rotwang has lived all his years since then convinced that Hel should have been his.


When Joh (reluctantly) comes to visit Rotwang to try and determine what the workers are up to in the catacombs below the city, Rotwang reveals a secret: he has found a way to “resurrect” Hel, and this time she will be his alone! “Hel” is revealed to be a robot with a feminine body (I believe in the end she was meant to resemble Hel, but the process was not finished).

How exactly Rotwang created the robot is not known, but we do find out that Rotwang sacrificed a hand in the process (replacing it with an artificial limb, to Joh’s horror). The science seen here in Metropolis would be categorized as “soft science” (the processes shown are scientific in nature, but the how and why are left unexplained)


And speaking of science, the entire scene where Maria’s likeness is transferred to the robot is unbelievably brilliant (it makes it hard to believe that this was done in 1927). To create this scene, the film had to be exposed multiple times to create the illusion of multiple rings of light.


Once Rotwang’s robot is turned loose upon the city, the increasingly unstable scientist becomes infatuated with the captured Maria and eventually convinces himself that Maria is actually Hel come back to life. He pursues Maria across the city, culminating in a chase across the roof of a cathedral. Maria’s love Freder finally intervenes and at the climax, Rotwang falls to his death. To the bitter end he believes he is pursuing his beloved Hel.

Next to Dr. Frankenstein, Rotwang is one of my favorite movie scientists. While he is unquestionably brilliant, he is also certifiably insane (and may have always been so, one wonders why Hel rejected him). He’s so convinced that this robot will serve to replace his lost love, the intensity of his passion is terrifying.

Rotwang is a memorable movie scientist, and a good addition to this blogathon, I hope you enjoyed!

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See also:

Gottfried Huppertz: The composer behind Metropolis

*All of the images are property of the film studio

Gottfried Huppertz: The composer behind Metropolis

In the world of silent film, Metropolis is rightfully considered a masterwork. Released in 1927 by UFA, the film was directed by Fritz Lang and told the story of a great city called Metropolis, set in the distant year 2000. The film is notable for containing the earliest intact appearance of a robot on the silver screen (an earlier example from L’uomo meccanico (1921) does exist, but only in a 21 minute fragment.)


The “Machine Man” was invented by Rotwang (on the right) as a secret means to overthrow Joh Fredersen (on the far left).

The score for this amazing film was composed by Gottfried Huppertz, a composer who wrote the music for several of Fritz Lang’s films.


Huppertz was born in Koln, Germany on March 11, 1887. His first composition was published in 1905 and the composer worked as an opera singer during the first World War. In 1922 while in Berlin, Huppertz met Thea von Harbou, a close friend of Fritz Lang, and the two became introduced. Huppertz first composed a score for Lang’s film Die Nibelungen (1924).


Huppertz on the set of Metropolis

The score for Metropolis, written and recorded in 1926, is seen today as Huppertz’s greatest work. During the filming process, Huppertz would actually visit the set and play music to help set the mood for a scene (this was very unusual at the time). At the film’s premiere, the score was performed by a 66 piece orchestra, and was very well received. Though the film was heavily cut shortly thereafter, with major chunks lost for decades (a situation that would not be resolved until 2010), Huppertz’s full score has always been available and has remained an invaluable source for outlining the pieces of the film that remain missing.

You can find a suite arrangement of Huppertz’s score here: Metropolis: Soundtrack Suite

After Metropolis, Huppertz continued to write film music, even composing for several sound films: Der Judas von Tirol (1933), Elisabeth und der Narr (1933), Hanneles Himmelfahrt (1934) and Le Domino Vert (1935).

The composer died of a heart attack on February 7, 1937 and became forgotten for over forty years, until Metropolis and Die Nibelungen came back to the attention of the cinematic and musical world.

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