Rotwang's Stars
August 11, 2005 7:17 AM   Subscribe

In Metropolis, what is the significance of the five-pointed stars on all of the doors of Rotwang's house? The door-stars point upwards, while the wall behind the machine-man's dais has a gigantic downward-pointing star. Why?
posted by COBRA! to Media & Arts (5 answers total)
I've never seen Lang's classic, (only the anime remake) so this might not be apt, but here's what J.C. Cooper's encyclopedia of traditional symbols has to say on stars:
Star: the presence of a divinity; supremacy; the eternal; the undying; the highest attainment; an angelic messenger of god; hope (as shining in darkness); the eyes of the night. Stars are attributes of all Queens of Heaven, who are often star-crowned. The star is pre-eminently the symbol of Ishtar, or Venus, as morning and evening star. The pole star marks the pivotal point in the sky, and is thus the Gate of Heaven at night.

[....] The five-pointed star, upwards, is aspiration; light; the spiritual; education. Downwards, it is evil; witchcraft; black magic.
And a related entry from Cooper:
Pentacle/Pentangle/Pentagram: Symbolizes the figure of man with outstretched arms and legs; the integral personality; the human microcosm. Being endless, the pentacle takes on the significance, power, and perfection of the circle. Its five points are spirit, air, fire, water, earth. With SALVS at its points it represents health and the five senses. Like the circle, it has the power of binding evil powers and elementals, hence it denotes good luck. In Christianity it stands for the five wounds of Christ and was the emblem of Sir Gawain, painted on his shield. In witchcraft the inverted pentacle depicts the Devil's Goat and the witch's foot. Inverted, it is also a sign of the reversal of man's true nature.
posted by jbrjake at 7:59 AM on August 11, 2005

It's a very good question. Here's a few useful references - you'll note that there's 4 different occurrences among those links. It's either magickal or a Star of David depending on the point of view of the observer. From audiencemag...
"It’s been said the Nazis noted that the Rotwang character was Jewish, but there is nothing in the surviving footage to indicate such a designation; the idea probably sprang from some inattentive viewer’s assumption that the symbol on Rotwang’s door is a Star of David. It isn’t. It’s a pentagram, the magician’s shingle."
I'm thinking that although it's likely to remain debatable, it's something for which reading up on all available references is indicated to get a balance. These links are obviously just a scratch on the surface. I'm sure there are more scholarly type essays or books out there - and some background on Fritz Lang would no doubt be relevant.
posted by peacay at 8:10 AM on August 11, 2005

Oh hang's one of those pictures -

posted by peacay at 8:13 AM on August 11, 2005

In Pynchon's Mason & Dixon, much is made of the inverted star they keep finding on rifle butts and elsewhere; as this site says: "Though M&D will in the pages to come be haunted by the Inverted Star as a sign of the Devil, here they explain, calmly, why the stars appear upside down in their scopes…."
posted by languagehat at 10:39 AM on August 11, 2005

I've never seen Lang's classic, (only the anime remake)

Note: the anime is not actually an adaptation of Lang's film. It's very loosely based on a manga by Tezuka, who had never actually seen the live action Metropolis.
posted by PinkStainlessTail at 6:56 PM on August 11, 2005

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