Reformacja w Polsce, Reformation in Poland

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No. 17 Copyright (c) 1993 Biblical Horizons September, 1993


Returning to The Village

by James B. Jordan

Matthew White & Ja_er Ali, The O_cial Prisoner Companion (Warner Books, 1988).

Dean Motter, The Prisoner (Graphic Novel) (DC Comics, 1989).

First shown in the United States on CBS television in 1968, The Prisoner has remained one of the most celebrated and remarkable television programs ever produced. The Prisoner was originally conceived as a seven-episode series, each an hour long, dealing allegorically with the free man versus modern mass society. The series was then expanded to the seventeen episodes that now exist. From time to time it is shown by local PBS and independent television stations, and some video stores carry videocassettes for rental.

Actor Patrick McGoohan had complete artistic control over the entire series. He wrote and directed the _nal two episodes, which "reveal" what the series was about. According to those who know him, McGoohan is a devout Roman Catholic Christian (White & Ali, p. 171). He twice rejected o_ers to play James Bond, once before the role was o_ered to Sean Connery and then again when Connery retired, evidently because of his contempt for Bond’s immoral personal character (White & Ali, pp. 123, 181).

In the _rst episode of The Prisoner we see an unnamed British agent resigning from the secret service. He returns home only to be gassed and spirited away to The Village. Where this Village is and who actually runs it we never know. It may be the Soviets; it may be the British; it may be a secret world-ruling conspiracy. It doesn’t matter: The point is that The Village exists to force this ex-agent into conformity with the "world."

The prisoner is given the name "No. 6." In each episode a new No. 2 is brought in to break No. 6, _nd out why he resigned (the answer is simply that he freely chose to do so), and bring him into conformity. We don’t _nd out for certain who No. 1 is until the last episode, though this is hinted at every week. The home of No. 6, from which he is abducted, is shown each week as 1 Buckingham Place (Place). Also note the opening dialogue:

No. 6: Where am I?

No. 2: In The Village.

No. 6: What do you want?

No. 2: In formation. We want in formation. (That is, we want information, but we want you to get "in formation" with society. No individuality allowed.)

No. 6: You won’t get it.

No. 2: By hook or by crook, we will.

No. 6: Who are you?

No. 2: I am the new No. 2.

No. 6: Who is No. 1.

No. 2: You are No. 6. (Or: You are, No. 6!)

No. 6: I am not a number! I am a free man!

No. 2: (uproarious laughter)

White & Ali identify the seven core episodes of the series. A look at these brings out some of the Christian themes that become more explicit in the last episode. In "Dance of the Dead," No. 6 _nds a dead body on the beach, and takes from it a transistor radio. Climbing to the top of the tower, he tunes in just long enough to get the message, "Only through pain can tomorrow be ensured." (Compare Acts 14:22, "Through many tribulations we must enter the Kingdom of God.") The Village overseers sentence him to death for possession of this radio, but he manages to avoid execution.

In "Free for All," we _nd that the pub in The Village serves no alcohol, but in "Checkmate" we _nd that No. 6, before his capture, used to drink at a pub called "Hope and Anchor." There is enough here to see that the radio represents the Bible, alcohol the sacraments, and the "Hope and Anchor" pub the Church. These are forbidden in The Village.

No. 6 has an inner strength that enables him to avoid being pressed into the world’s mold. From time to time, as he says goodbye to someone, No. 6 says "Be seeing you," and shoots the sign of the _sh with his thumb and fore_nger. McGoohan explained this as an ancient Christian greeting (White & Ali, p. 132). Paradoxically, other (bad) characters also use this sign of greeting, showing that things are not always what they seem.

It is in the last episode that we see clearly that the entire series has been allegorical. The issue of who really runs The Village is unimportant, because The Village is the world. At the end, free at last, No. 6 is still "The Prisoner" — these words _ash under him while he drives away "free." Moveover, the last episode, by showing that No. 1 is really the dark side of No. 6, shows that true freedom comes not from wrestling with society but from mastering one’s sinful, ape-like nature. No. 6 is truly free within because he is a moral person, even if he is, like all of us, held captive by The World.

The last temptation put before No. 6 was also put before Jesus Christ: take over and be our ruler. No. 6 almost falls before this temptation, but he successfully resists it. The last episode also symbolically points to love and faith, balancing "hope and anchor" which have already been mentioned. The Beatles’ song "All You Need Is Love" is played throughout much of the last episode, as is the song "Dem Bones, Dem Dry Bones." McGoohan was particularly insistent on "Dem Bones," doubtless because it is only the man resurrected from the dead who can be a true individual and resist The World.

The O_cial Prisoner Companion is chock-full of information about the original television series. White and Ali show that Christian allegorical elements are important in The Prisoner, though they don’t provide a full Christian analysis. All the same, if you are a Prisoner fan, or if the series is going to be broadcast where you are, you will enjoy having this book alongside.

In late 1988 and early 1989, DC Comics issued a set of illustrated stories that present a new Prisoner tale in four chapters (Books A-D), set in the present. These were collected and issued as a graphic novel in late 1989. Written and illustrated by Dean Motter, these were prepared with the advice of the Six of One society, which is a Prisoner appreciation society. Unlike the original television series, where allegory governs all events, here it is the espionage and secret service elements that predominate.

In order for this new Prisoner tale to work, the last television episode had to be ignored. In that last episode, the _nal No. 2 is raised from the dead. He breathes deeply and says, "I feel a new man!" This is clearly symbolic of a new birth. Yet in the DC Comics tale, this No. 2 is haunting The Village seeking revenge.

All the same, the basic themes appear. A young woman resigns from the British secret service. She attempts to circumnavigate the globe in a yacht, but is shipwrecked at The Village, which is in ruins (Prisoner, Book A). There she encounters the old No. 6, who engages in typically cryptic Prisoneresque conversation with her. "There is no love without freedom, and no freedom without love," he tells her. "I am a gardener, concerned about the condition of the garden," he says. As he departs, he gives her the sign of the _sh, "Be seeing you" (Prisoner, Book B).

The new Prisoner tale abounds with references to the television series, and is fun for that reason. The story is so cryptically presented, however, that a good deal of it does not make sense. At the end, we don’t know very much about what’s been going on, or why. Of course, the television series was equally "confusing," viewed simply as a spy story, but in terms of sermon and allegory it made sense.

The Prisoner graphic novel is enjoyable and clever. I enjoyed it, and if you are a Prisoner fan, you will too. Ultimately, however, I think it fails as a sequel, and this is simply because allegories don’t lend themselves to sequels.

The _nal episode of the television series ("Fall Out") has a contradictory ending. Toward the end of the episode, a rocket blasts out of The Village to start a world war and destroy the world. This event had been threatened by the lines from the song: "the monkey chased the weasel; the monkey thought t’was all in fun. Pop goes the weasel!" The monkey face of No. 1, unveiled in the _nal episode, represents the sinful side of humanity. If victorious, the monkey may destroy the world.

Yet, right after the rocket blasts o_ and destroys The Village, No. 6 and his companions arrive in England in a cage, and No. 6 returns to his home, though still a prisoner. (Address: 1 Buckingham Place; he is both prisoner and king.) In this way, the last episode sets before the viewer three alternatives: either destroy the world, continue to live in slavery, or learn to love one another and live in freedom.





reviewed by James B. Jordan

When Fritz Lang’s Metropolis came from Europe to America in the later 1920s, large portions of the _lm were edited out, and some have been lost forever. As much as possible, however, the _lm has now been restored. I’ve seen Metropolis several times, but the new restored version puts a completely di_erent complexion on the _lm, and a more Christian one.

The restored version has been given a "rock-disco" soundtrack. The monotonous mechanical beat of disco music goes rather well with many of the super-science and mechanical scenes in the _lm, but the songs (thankfully there are only a few) really interfere with it. The lyrics manage to miss the point of the scene every time, and of course, rock-disco music is totally incapable of expressing any kind of profound human emotion. The e_ect is to trivialize the profundity of the _lm. This is the price we pay, though, since the man who put up the money to restore Metropolis is the rock musician who wrote the music! (By the way, there are several inferior versions of Metropolis _oating around; you will want to check out and view the Moroder version, which is here reviewed.)

Metropolis is a vast city of the future. Deep underground live the workers, who labor at the machines that keep the city running, while on the tops of the skyscrapers lives the aristocratic (capitalist) elite. Freder, the son of Johann Frederson the Master of Metropolis, visits the underground city, where he is horri_ed at the working conditions of the proletariat. Young Freder takes the place of one of the workers, so that he can learn more about them. He joins the workers in a worship service in the catacombs. Here he meets the prophetess Maria, symbol of the Church. She preaches a sermon about the Tower of Babel, reinterpreting its destruction as a revolution by the workers against the elite. In a vision, above the ruined Tower appear the sarcastic words, "These are the Works of Man, Great and Glorious." Maria counsels the workers to avoid revolution, and await a mediator, because "between the Head and the Hand must come the Heart."

The edited version of Metropolis, which we have always seen before, pretty much leaves the theme here. The answer to the divorce between capitalist and worker is the sentimentality of emotion, represented by Maria and Freder. This, however, was not the message of Lang’s original _lm, as the restored version shows. Because of the clarity of the restored _lm, we are able to see that Maria’s catacomb church is surrounded by basic Christian symbols: cross, _ame, _sh, cherub. The fact that the later trysts between Freder and Maria take place in the Cathedral takes on considerably more importance.

Even more, however, is the restoration of Yoshiwara’s House of Pleasure to the _lm. I don’t recall this whorehouse even showing up at all in the edited version. Now, however, we can see it is as the antithesis of the Church. The evil robot Maria hangs out in the whorehouse, and she is portrayed in a vision as the whore of Babylon riding on the back of the Beast. When Freder takes the place of the worker in the factory, he sends him to his house in the upper city. The worker, however, is seduced to visiting the whorehouse. As a result, he is killed. Thus, there is a picture of the moral choice placed before men: Will Metropolis be New Jerusalem (Church) or Old Babel (Whorehouse)?

Returning to the plot, Johann Frederson, the Master of Metropolis, is concerned about a possible worker’s revolt. He and the evil scientist Rotwang visit the catacombs and see Maria preaching to the workers. Frederson persuades Rotwang to make a robot duplicate of Maria, which he will then use to manipulate the workers to his will.

Rotwang’s laboratory features as a prominent symbol the pentagram, the sign of witchcraft. The pentagram is on each of his doors, and a large one is mounted on the wall right above the robot Maria as she is being made. It is clear that the counterfeit of the Church entails witchcraft and evil science. What Rotwang creates is a "golem," a human being arti_cially created by magic. The golem is a traditional part of Germanic (speci_cally Jewish) folklore: the man-made man who has no soul, and who is thus possessed by the devil. This becomes an important theme in Metropolis. It is now modern science that presumes to take the place of God and create new men, but the result is the creation of monsters. Lang thus deliberately associates the evil side of modern science with the presumptions of Babel and the monstrosities of traditional witchcraft.

The robot or golem Maria takes the true Maria’s place in the catacomb church, but she preaches hate and revolution (which was not Johann Frederson’s intention!). Incited by her, the workers storm the power plant and destroy the machines. The machines they wreck, however, are those that pump the water out of the underground city; and the result is that waters _ood in and destroy their homes. When they realize that their children are all dead, they seize the golem Maria and burn her for witchcraft in front of the cathedral.

Unknown to the mob, however, the true Maria has escaped from Rotwang, and she and Freder have rescued all the children. In the _nal scenes, Rotwang and Freder _ght on the roof of the cathedral, and Rotwang is cast down to his death. At the end, on the steps of the cathedral Maria persuades Freder to be a mediator between the Master of Metropolis and a spokesman for the workers, because "between the Head and the Hands must come the Heart."

Metropolis assumes that there is a real and dire con_ict between the working classes and the rulers and governors of a civilization. The _lm sets up two ways of "resolving" this con_ict, and of dealing with the horrors and su_erings of the proletariat. One way is through the Church, and the other way is through revolution. By the skillful use of antithetical symbolism, Lang directs us to the Church as the proper solution. The love of Freder for Maria is set against Rotwang’s lust for her. Freder’s respect for Maria (the Church) is set against Rotwang’s mere use of her as a means to power (witchcraft). The true Maria (Church) is set against the golem Maria (Whorehouse of Babylon). The self-destructiveness of violent revolution (destroying the children, the future) is set against the redemptive work of the Church (saving the children, and thus the future).

Metropolis also works at the level of allegory. Maria preaches hope in a coming mediator. In a sense, she raises up Freder to be that mediator. Freder shows Christ-like love for su_ering humanity by taking the place of one of the workers, descending to become one of them. Freder’s love for Maria, and his desire to protect her, is Christ’s love for the Church. At the end of the _lm, the battle between Freder and Rotwang on the top of the cathedral (on the heights) reminds us of Christ’s confrontation with Satan, and of Michael’s casting Satan out of heaven. Having been through all these experiences, Freder is ready to act as mediator between worker and aristocrat. 

We have to say, of course, that the fundamental problem of history is not the class struggle, nor is it the main function of the Church to be a "heart" mediating between the "heads" and "hands" of society. Given, however, that class warfare, fear, and hatred are very real problems, the message of Metropolis can certainly be appreciated. It is the Church, and not science, witchcraft, and harlotry, which has the true answer.

Metropolis contains only one scene that may concern parents: The golem Maria dances an incomplete strip tease at Yoshiwara’s House of Pleasure. At the fast speed of a silent _lm, this is more ridiculous than sensuous, and was not designed to be o_ensive.