Feature Drama | 1920 | Silent | B/W
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Joseph opens the door and almost staggers out. Facing his father over the desk, Freder suddenly looks up and in horror points to the door.
Intertitle "Father, don't you realise what it means to be dismissed by you?"
The master (with back to the camera) shrugs his shoulders and Freder backs away in stunned horror. He rushes headlong out of the room (this scene is shown twice in quick succession). The master turns his head, unmoved. Joseph staggers down the cavernous stairwell. He stops, takes a gun from his pocket and puts it to his head. Freder rushes down the cascading steps and grabs his arm. Back in the office the master stares in anger and apprehension at the door. Freder addresses Joseph in a comforting manner
Intertitle " Joseph, I need your help"
Joseph clasps Freder's outstretched arms and agrees in earnest. Freder looks into the distance: a look of scheming comes over him.
Intertitle: "I have far to go today - alone into the depths - to my brothers"
Dissolve away and lighten to return to scene of Freder descending (normal sized) iron staircase and approaching metal door. He pushes it open and steam erupts forth. Undaunted, he walks in. Freder walks through the steam and beholds a factory landscape: a couple of workers trudge out of shot and a worker driving a cart passes by. Steam shrouds the features of the factory. Joseph in his white shirt and breeches blends into the steam but his dark hair and heavy eye-shadow stand out as he looks on. He approaches a worker who is continually struggling to move the hands on a man-sized clock face calibrated to 45 places, each with a light bulb. Other workers trudge by carrying tools and looking dejected. Freder looks on in horror. The worker pauses to wipe his brow, turns round slightly and collapses into Freder's arms. Freder calls out for help. The worker suddenly comes to and exclaims
Intertitle "The Machine! Someone must stay with the machine"
he struggles to get back.
Intertitle "I will stay with the machine!"
Freder reassures him and duly takes his place and starts moving the arms on the dial. Freder starts to tell the man a story:
Intertitle: "In the middle of the city was an old house"
Cut to shot of old house amongst iron work supports of other structures. The house has a steep roof resembling a Teutonic country dwelling, but it has no windows and only a single dark door.
Intertitle: "Here lived Rotwang, the inventor"
Shot of middle-aged inventor with unruly white hair, seated at a table. His outstretched right hand is blackened. A stunted attendant, resembling a sufferer of spina bifida, ascends from a spiral staircase and wearing a tunic and close fitting trousers announces
Intertitle "John Fredersen"
Cut back to Freder at the dial face, now wearing the dark overalls of the worker. The blond haired worker is in Freder's white outfit and attentively nods to what Freder has to say while studying a small piece of paper. He gives his workers hat to Freder who puts it on. Middle shot of Freder moving the hands of the clock to match up with the flashing light bulbs while the worker puffs out his chest with relief and tumbles off. The mad Rotwang, with a belt holding a long coat in place over a dark outfit shakes his hand at arms length in John Fredersen's face. The master notices the inventor's strange hand and holds it. The excited Rotwang exclaims
Intertitle "At last my work is ready!"
Close up of Rotwang's face contorted with excitement as it shakes with delirium - eyes bulging out of sunken sockets, nostrils flaring and teeth exposed as he speaks to (Fredersen) camera and waves his hand.
Intertitle "I have created a machine in the image of man, that never tires or makes a mistake."
Suddenly he is calm. Middle shot of him leaving in profile toward John Fredersen.
Intertitle "Now we have no further use for living workers"
Close up of Fredersen as he tightens his lips and lowers his gaze. Rotwang points away. and the two men ascend the spiral staircase into Rotwang's laboratory full of large pieces of experimental equipment. The men approach a curtain which Rotwang pulls back: a female robot is seated on a pedestal. Fredersen stares and both men approach and stand in front of the robot on either side. Rotwang raises his hand; the robot slowly stands up and walks forward. It is clearly female in proportion and shape. Close up of Rotwang and robot. The robot looks like a cross between C3PO from "Star Wars" and a cyberman from the "Doctor Who" BBC TV series. Rotwang gestures and the robot continues to walk along the plinth in front of the chair. It stops and raises its hand toward Fredersen who slightly draws away in fear and uncertainty. Rotwang leaps over to impress upon Fredersen
Intertitle: "Isn't it worth the loss of a hand to have created the workers of the future -- the machine men?"
Standing in front of his creation, Rotwang is \Messianic and possessed i his proclamations.
Intertitle: "Give me another 24 hours and I'll bring you a machine which no one will be able to tell from a human being."
Rotwang points his good hand at Fredersen and fills him with consternation. Close up of the robot's head shows a decidedly female and perfectly symmetrical face of metal. Back at the factory, Freder is still moving the hands of the dial. Fredersen paces the room now that the curtains have returned to hide the machine robot. He approaches Rotwang.
Intertitle: "As always, when my experts fail, I come to you for advice."
The two men stand motionless and solemn. Fredersen reaches into his pocket and pulls out the two scraps of paper. Rotwang just stands.
Intertitle: "For months now, we have been finding these plans in the workers' clothing. What do they mean?"
Freder pauses at the dial to mop his brow and neck. He looks down and suddenly stares. Close up of scrap of paper on floor. He picks it up and studies it. A worker descends a single metal ladder from ceiling to floor. He carries a can and tools in his left hand. He also has a towel draped over his left shoulder. He stares and slows his descent as we cut to Freder moving the hands of the dial as he tries to read the scrap of paper at the same time. Close up of worker as he backs towards Freder and whispers to him conspiratorially.
Intertitle: "At two - at the end of this shift, she has called another meeting."
The worker moves off. Freder is perplexed but he continues to move the hands. Rotwang is at his desk with dividers in his hand measuring a chart. Fredersen is seated in front of hand.... with his left arm resting on the desk. Behind the desk is a bookcase. Rotwang consults a book on his desk. Close up of Fredersen looking at Rotwang. Fredersen's eyes drop to his watch and a close up shows it has just gone one o'clock - on a standard time face i.e. 1 to 12 digits. Freder struggles at the large dial and the decimal factory clock shows half past nine. Steam begins to envelop Freder and he begins to fade. He notices the manometer with the liquid rising to the danger mark (close up) and his effort is renewed. Yet in no time, he collapses, still holding on to one hand. The decimal clock face appears illuminated through his dial. He struggles to hold back the seconds" hand as it approaches the hour. Freder is stretched across the dial - crucified.
Intertitle: "father, father - I did not know that ten hours can be torture."
Outside, it is night time and the steam organ pipe structure amongst the tower blocks lets off a whistle for a change of shift. Freder leaves his post, another worker takes his place and joins a group of departing workers to trudge out of the scene. The whistle blows again and we cut back to Fredersen and the inventor. Rotwang looks at the plans.
Intertitle: "These are the plans of the ancient catacombs, far below the lowest levels of the workers' city."
Rotwang throws the plan back on his desk and returns a book to the shelf as Fredersen sits and thinks and then retrieves the papers to study it himself. Close up of plan: a maze of single lines with arrows and numerals. Fredersen's thumb is visible on the right of the plan. The shot is superimposed by a crocodile file of workers descending through a tunnel into the catacombs: one carries a torch. Fredersen lets the paper down to his lap and stares.
Intertitle: "What is down there that interests the workers?"
Rotwang replaces a volume in the bookcase and turns to face Fredersen. Fredersen jumps up and Rotwang approaches the desk. The inventor gives Fredersen a torch, takes one himself and walks over to a descending staircase. The two men descent the metal spiral staircase and walk through a doorway to a room with a trap door in the floor. Rotwang raises the door and shining his torch down into the unknown tells Fredersen to lead on. Fredersen pauses, switches on his torch, hesitates but then descends, Rotwang follows behind and closes the trap door. Middle shot of the two men descending worn winding steps into brick built catacombs. Cut to the workers and exhausted Freder descending and back to Rotwang and Fredersen. Head on shot of workers as they come to the end of their march and stop. Freder is in the middle of the shot. Close up of Freder as he puts his hand to his heart, raise his head and opens his eyes. We see what he sees: a long shot of a cavern temple with lots of wooden crucifixes near a central altar. In the middle is the priestess, Maria. Freder removes his cap in amazement. Maria stretches her arms out at her side and this action is mirrored by Freder as he sinks to his knees. Meanwhile, Rotwang and Fredersen approach a gap in the tunnel, put down their torches and look through; long shot of quasi-religious scene of priestess Maria and workers. The workers stand motionless and Maria raises her arm and speaks:
Intertitle: "Today I will tell you the story of the Tower of Babel"
Reenactment of Biblical theatrical scene with starlight backdrop and old Hebrew addressing seated followers. Intertitle: "Let us build a tower whose summit will touch the skies"
The Hebrew raises his arms
Intertitle: "and on it we will inscribe: Great is the world and its Creator. And great is Man!"
Shot of Tower of Babel against a starlit sky. Model of tower amongst seated thinkers in Old Testament robes.
Intertitle: "Those who had conceived the idea of this tower could not build it themselves, so they hired thousands of others to build it for them."
Dissolved images of head-shaven workers from five sources slowly converge to form huge army of downtrodden workers.
Intertitle: "But these toilers knew nothing of the dreams of those who planned the tower."
Image of old Hebrew with arms aloft worshipping before image of tower in the sky.
Intertitle: "While those who had conceived the tower did not concern themselves with the workers who built it."
Long shot of hundreds of workers struggling with ropes to shift huge block of stone. Middle shot of agonized faces.
Intertitle: "The hymns of praise of the few became the curses of the many."
Long shot of old Hebrew on summit of steps, in the foreground a handful of workers raise their fists in salutation.
Hundreds of workers charge up the steps. Raised hands in the foreground partly obscure the radiating haloed tower, but the scene dissolves to show a ruined tower against a starlit background and the words written in the sky: "Gross....orfer (not in frame) und gross ist der Mensch. The words fade, as does the tower and the imagery is over.
Close up of Maria's head and shoulders with hands held in front as she continues her sermon. Candles behind her.
Intertitle: "Between the brain that plans and the hands that build there must be a mediator."
With hands on heart and staring into camera, Maria continues
Intertitle: "It is the heart that must bring about an understanding between them"
her eyes are wide and possessed Threequarter view of worker as he pushes his hands together and bows his head. Groups of others follow suit, clasping hands and sinking heads in prayer.
Then one raises his head and slowly stands:
Intertitle: "But where is our mediator, Maria?"
Close up of Maria who immediately looks to one side. Close up of Freder. He turns his head slightly and looks at her out of the corner of his eye. He checks himself and clasps his hands to his chest and closes his eyes. Maria continues to look over in his direction and then she averts her gaze and with hands uplifted in grace, closes her eyes.
Intertitle: "Be patient, he will surely come."
Freder pounds his chest and lowers his body. A seated worker next to the standing questioner shoots out a clasping hand toward Maria,
Intertitle "We will wait, but not for long."
Fredersen, with a scowl on his face, slowly draws back from staring through the hole in the tunnel wall. He does not like what he has seen. One hand is on the tunnel wall, the other hand is clenched, his head gives a twitch of anger. He looks up and glowers. Rotwang jerks his head away from the hole and stares at Fredersen who is now standing upright and in control of his senses again. he puts his hands in his pockets.
Intertitle: "Rotwang, make your robot in the likeness of that girl."
Rotwang turns fully to look at Fredersen, with a look of slight pleasure. Fredersen takes his right hand out of his pocket and with a claw-like fist raises it in the air.
Intertitle: "Hide the girl in your house. I will sent the robot down to the workers to sow discord among them and destroy their confidence in Maria."
Fredersen drops his fist in determination while Rotwang looks in awe at the master. Fredersen turns to Rotwang and they shake hands.
Intertitle: "Leave me here, John Fredersen."
Their hands drop apart, Rotwang closes his eyes and hesitatingly Fredersen walks off. Rotwang is left standing with his back to the hole in the tunnel. The light from a torch plays over his face and he opens his eyes. The torch light moves away and he looks more wicked than ever. Long shot from the vantage point of Rotwang, looking down on to the cavernous temple with Maria at the top of the altar steps and the workers gathered beneath in loose groups. The workers stir and those who are seated on their haunches stand up. Shot of Rotwang through the hole: he turns and looks through, his face jerks into concentration when he sees that the meeting below is coming to a close.
Maria walks away from the altar and the workers slowly leave, all except Freder who is left kneeling, as in worship. on the ground. Maria is about to leave through a tunnel when Freder stretches out his arms and calls. Maria turns round in shock. Close up of Freder with one hand on his heart and the other outstretched. Maria steps forward a little, Freder looks more and more earnest. Maria slowly walks down to him. Her face comes to fill the screen. She looks intently receptive. Close up of Freder's face staring with passion and wonder. Threequarter view of Maria looking down on Freder. She puts her hands to her heart. Looking over her shoulder we see Freder looking up at Maria. He says a few more words before she puts her hands on his shoulders. Threequarters of the couple; Maria gently stoops to plant a simple kiss at the side of Freder's mouth. His face (we look over his shoulder) is transfixed with delight as she withdraws her head and strokes his hair. Middle shot of the couple at the bottom of the altar steps. Freder stands up. The couple hold arms and look at each other intently. Maria looks up at Freder.
Intertitle: "Until tomorrow - in the cathedral"
The couple draw apart leaving Maria's outstretched arm for Freder to savour to the end. He kisses her hand and departs. Maria slowly brings her hands to her heart: she is left standing in a dream of love. Rotwang creeps through a gap in the wall. Maria comes out of her dream and looks around - back to hard reality. Maria leaves the temple and takes a candle from a ledge to light her way. Rotwang with furrowed brow pulls a brick out of the gap in the wall. he drops it deliberately causing Maria to turn round in fear. She looks back but Rotwang has gone from the hole. She swallows, twitches with apprehension and pulls her shawl to her chest. She looks from side to side in uncertainty and then marches off. She stops, turns away and walks back the way she's come when a shadow appears i the tunnel. She takes a new tunnel through the catacombs and enters a junction of tunnels. Long shot of Maria with candle peering into the darkness. Close up as she suddenly looks over her shoulder. Long shot as she looms round deciding which way to go. The wall has recesses filled with skulls. She holds the candle high above her head and takes some tentative steps towards the camera. Rotwang's damaged hand descends from above. Close up of the gloved hand closing over the candle. Long shot of Maria running backwards in fear. Middle shot of her terror stricken, back to the wall. A torch plays across her face and rests on a skull. Close up of Maria's fear-filled face. She looks down but it's no good - the torch lights on a skeleton and she screams. Long shot of the torch beam crossing the floor and ascending Maria's body. Close up as the beam comes to fill her face. Sheer terror: eyes wide, mouth open. Close up of Rotwang's eyes above the glare of the torch. Maria stares like a blinded rabbit and, gulping for air, turns and runs off. The chase is on. Maria runs through the catacombs: the torch beam follows her every move as she crashes into walls and through tunnels. She comes to a dead end, turns and swoons against the wall, crossing her arms in fear. Just when she is about to collapse she summons the strength to turn up the steps leading to the trapdoor. She is out of the catacombs but in Rotwang's dwelling. She bangs on the locked doors in vain. The torch rests on her back and she cringes against the corner of the door. She turns round, drops her shawl and freezes. Final shot of Rotwang in the foreground half out of the trap door and Maria in the background with the torchlight on her terror stricken torso.
End of part one!
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