Its that time again for computers, robots, and film. I always read an analysis of Metropolis through the lens of Horkheimer and Adorno’s Dialectic of Enlightenment. This is for many reasons. The first is that it view the enlightenment not as a revolution of scientific or rational thought, but a revolution for logistics and planning. The enlightenment is less about the scientific method than about standardization and commodification. There is a lot of discussion about protocols and the re-enchantment of the world, but this makes me wonder if the re-enchantment of the world is in opposition to protocols. That there is a certain amount of chaos, or unpredictability that makes something enchanted.
There as also the notion that there is a dialectic between myth (or narrative) and reason (or science), and when reason triumphs it will have nothing dialectical to push against except for its own will to power. Thus reason just becomes another narrative, and in the end reason (and society) collapses under its own weight (this was written during Nazi-ism).
What is film and in particular, what is Metropolis? Film is mythology. It is an apparatus for creating cultural mythologies to use a term from Flusser. The form, the film, creates a mythology with a certain structure – the grammar of film. This is similar to the form of a Homeric epic is in iambic pentameter and uses epithets like grey eyed Athena, or invocations. We could create a computer program that structures everything like a homeric epic and then we would have a homeric epic apparatus. In our case we have a filmic apparatus. So what sorts of myths does this apparatus give us and what is the dialectic it creates between myth and reason, mythos and logos?
The logic of film is not a syllogism. It is not even a dialectic. It is associative. Two images are placed together, and even if they are unrelated they are connected by the mind in language game sort of way, rather than in causal or rational way. A lexicon is created. Each film creates its own world with its own language, that perhaps other films can echo or index, like rotwang’s robot hand echoed in star wars and Luke’s robot hand. And in this way universes and sets intersect in a way they cannot in the physical universe or in mathematical set theory.
So the way the film acts on the view is in a non rational way, perhaps it is a mythic way, or perhaps it is some other way. We should not relegate all that is non-rational to the mythic. Perhaps there are other categories. The rational is that which can be counted, which proceeds by the laws of cause and effect. The mythic is that which is symbolic, that which proceeds by the hermetic meaning behind the story. The filmic is associative, meaning arises from the juxtaposition of media. It is also somatic, our brain (bodies) spontaneously react to the juxtaposition of media and our minds epiphenomenolgically come up with (perhaps arbitrary) reasons or narratives.
Perhaps there is no reason or meaning for a film behind the somatic triggers that it pulls. In this way it is similar to poetry or music. But when the filmmaker makes a film, she has a script she is following. The script is a story, it is not an equation. I can take a mythological story of say Prometheus giving humans fire, and turn this into a film. Is the film mythological since the story is mythological? Is the opera Orpheus and Eurydice mythological? What is the relationship between the material of the thing to the intention behind the arrangement or the organizing principle.
But is the script a story, or is it a model? When I create a film am I creating a narrative or a simulation? The story is just the organizing principle, if we look at it via the interpretation of the Dialectic of Enlightenment, is what the enlightenment gave us. That is -rules. How to order things.