joh | master of metropolis

800 x 1000 mm (unframed) • acrylic on canvas • 2024

In the future, wealthy industrialists and business magnates reign over the city of Metropolis from colossal skyscrapers, while underground-dwelling workers toil to operate the great machines that power it.

Joh Fredersen is the city’s master. His son, Freder, idles away his time in a pleasure garden. One day he is interrupted by the arrival of a young woman from the lower levels named Maria. Freder becomes fascinated by her and goes to the lower levels to find her. While there he witnesses the explosion of a huge machine that kills numerous workers. After seeing his father’s cold indifference towards the harsh conditions faced by the workers, Freder secretly rebels against him and decides to help the workers.

Grot, foreman of the Heart Machine, brings Fredersen secret maps found on the dead workers. Fredersen takes the maps to the inventor Rotwang and learns they show a network of catacombs beneath Metropolis.

Visiting the lower levels, Fredersen and Rotwang eavesdrop on a gathering of workers. Maria prophesizes the arrival of a mediator who will bring the working and ruling classes together. Freder believes he can fill the role and declares his love for Maria.

Rotwang had been in love with a woman named Hel, who left him to marry Fredersen and later died giving birth to Freder. Rotwang shows Fredersen the robot he built to “resurrect” his lost love, Hel. Fredersen orders Rotwang to give the robot the likeness of Maria so it can discredit her among the workers but is unaware that Rotwang plans to use the robot to destroy Metropolis and ruin both Fredersen and Freder.

The false Maria unleashes chaos throughout Metropolis and urges the workers to rise up and destroy the machines. The workers follow the false Maria, leaving their children behind and destroy the machines which triggers a flood in the underground city. Grot berates the celebrating workers for abandoning their children in the flooded city and believing their children to be dead, the hysterical workers capture the false Maria and burn her at the stake revealing her to be a robot.

Rotwang is pursued by Freder to the roof of the cathedral. The two men fight as Fredersen and the workers watch from the street below. Rotwang falls to his death and Freder fulfills his role as mediator by linking the hands of Fredersen and Grot to bring them together.