The robot MARIA stands apart as one of the only female robotic images of early science fiction. She appears in Metropolis, a science fiction film produced in Germany in 1927. The entire film is dominated by technology, with a mixture of images from the 1920s and futuristic devices.
Directed by Fritz Lang, the black and while silent movie is set in the year 2026, in the city of Metropolis, a vision of massive industry based on the back-breaking labor of the underclass. The masses of workers live a grim existence, toiling to sustain the lives of the privileged.
The children are cared for and inspired by the beautiful heroine Maria. When she brings them to a forbidden garden of the ruling class, Maria’s power, passion and beauty overwhelm the son of the ruler of Metropolis. He falls for her, thereby casting his lot with the workers.
The memorable art-deco image of Maria as a robot is based on a robot created in the laboratory of the city’s mad scientist, to resemble the dead wife of the city’s ruler.
The image of this female robot is one of the most powerful iconic images in the history of film. Although at least a quarter of the original film has been lost, and the plot is more didactic than compelling, the robot Maria remains the singular most powerful image of early science fiction films.
The renaming of the robot as Maria is no doubt the result of the stunning transformation scene in Metropolis. The heroine Maria’s face is transferred to the robot, as part of a plot by the ruling class to create a workers’ revolt that would be brutally subdued. The laboratory transformation of human to robot has been repeated often in science fiction, but never with more power and impact!
MARIA, for the enduring power of your image as one of film’s first female robots, and for your continuing inspiration in the creation of female robotic imagery in both science and science fiction … we welcome you, MARIA, to the Robot Hall of Fame!