Friday, February 10, 2017

Character Analysis: Rotwang

Character Analysis: Rotwang

By: Brian Cotnoir

One of the earliest and most successful films of all-time has to be Fritz Lang’s “Metropolis”.  For a film that is almost a century old it still receives praise for its style, set, practical effects, and story.  The film only has 5-6 actual characters that you get to know from watching the film.  There’s the bitter Joh Fredersen, the sweet-natured Freder, and of course the lovely Maria, but as I learned through a quick search of Google, there have already been tons of Analysis’s done on these characters, but much to my surprise, there was one character that not—for the most part—has gained little fanfare, so today I am here to do my analysis on, Rotwang, the mad scientist.

CHARACTER: Rotwang from “Metropolis” (1927)

    Rotwang is a scientist and advisor to Joh Fredersen, the Master of Metropolis.  Rotwang, is a peculiar man to say the least.  He lives in a small, dumpy house in the center of the city.  This house has only one door and one window, and also has access to the cities catacombs via the basement.  Rotwang spends most of the day in his home performing his various experiments and mourning the death of his former lover, Hel, who left him for Joh Fredersen, and perished during childbirth.                       
Rotwang has a contentious relationship with the industrialist Joh Fredersen, to say the least, and surprisingly is kept as a top advisor by Joh Fredersen.  Rotwang shows Joh Fredersen, his latest creation, a “Man-Machine” that he intends to use to bring Hel back from the dead (by trapping her soul in the robot).  Rotwang actually lost one of his hands while working on the Man-Machine.  Joh Fredersen sees potential in Rotwang’s newest invention and instead instructs him to construct the Man-Machine in the image of his son’s lover, Maria—the powerful and influential leader of the Working Class—in hopes of disrupting there movement.  Rotwang reluctantly obliges, but double-crosses Joh Fredersen, by programming the Maria-bot (That’s just what I’m calling her) to only obey his commands.


Rotwang is played by German Actor Rudolf Klein-Rogge, who has appeared in some of the earliest and most influential German films in History.  He has an uncredited role in “The Cabinet of Dr. Caligari”, and also played the role of Dr. Mabuse.  Rudolf Klein-Rogge is known most commonly for playing Mad Scientist roles in films.


Rotwang is a one of the earliest incarnations of a Mad Scientist in film, and thus, he has played a huge influence as to how the role is played in films.  Rotwang obviously shares a lot of traits with Victor Frankenstein from Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, both are mad scientists with the desire to try and bring a person back from the dead, albeit, two completely different methods.  And both are said to have a God-Complex and are, “mad”.           

Dr. Victor Frankenstein
     I see similarities between Rotwang and Hjalmar from “The Black Cat” (1934).  Both are German men who have an unhealthy obsession with trying to bring back their dead lovers.               
     I also see similarities between him and Jack Dante from the film “Death Machine”, as are reclusive scientists, with mental instabilities who live in their own little world, but are still gainfully employed by rich and powerful companies, where they are paid to create godknowswhat in their laboratories and then use their robot creations to unleash death and destruction on their masses. Oh yes, Rotwang is probably the most influential Mad Scientist character in the history of film.

Jack Dante from "Death Machine"


After his Maria-bot orders the workers to unleash untold destruction on the Metropolis, Rotwang goes to reap the benefits of his work.  He is unaware that the workers have come to their senses and have burned the Maria-bot (believing it to be the real Maria).  Rotwang eventually comes across the real Maria, but believes she is actually his Man-Machine.  Rotwang partakes in a chase and epic fight on top of the cathedral, with Freder (the son of Joh and Hel Fredersen), where he is knocked of the roof and plummets to his death.

1 comment:

  1. Definitely one of the strangest and most memorable films I've seen with or without sound. Well done!