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SZPT

Fritz Lang's "M"

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...for the first time, at a midnight showing. (On a side note I got to see Rear Window the same way).

Wow.

I really enjoyed it even though I was squeezed next to a 300 lb. man who kept falling asleep and snoring during the film.

The soundtrack was amazing for what it chose to keep in and what it chose to leave out. The acting was great all around. The story was fascinating in how it was told.

And the issues it raises are universal. You can be on any side of the death penalty and still feel like your opinion is reflected in the film.

Not that I'm trying to start anything political. There are other threads that deal with that.

So please keep this thread to a discussion of the film. Thanks.

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I finally saw M last week. My brother bought the new Criterion re-master and I finally got around to watching it.

Wow. So good. My first thought after watching the film was "This film was years ahead of its time."

Every serial killer film owes a lot to this film, wether they know it or not. The subject matter is far more edgy and disturbing than I thought it would be, for the era. It's a film that is remarkable complex in the moral issues it choose to deal with.

Is anyone surprised that the Nazis thought the film was a horrible bit of "anti-death penalty" propaganda? There's a documentary that I want to watch on the disc that deals with the work of German artists under the Nazi regime. My brother urges me to check it out.

I'm going to echoe SZPT's comment about the sound editing in the film. Excellent and understated. Effective in it's simplicity that really stands out an era today where every serial killer film utilizes a heavy low bass rumble to bring out the tension. This film played with silence in a way few films do, and few directors have the courage to do so.

Also, anyone surprised at Peter Lorre's peformance? Excellent. Comes as a huge contrast to his role in Roger Corman's The Raven years later (which was a film I watched at a Halloween party this past year).

Having now seen this and Metropolis any suggestions on the next Fritz Lang film I track down? Stef, you're the expert right?

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I also recently saw this for the first time. Very impressed. Captivated throughout the entire film.

The social commentary struck especially close to home. The movie isn't really interested so much in the killer- it's really about a society of people who are all guilty of commiting their own sins, but choose to demonize one man (albeit a very bad one) rather than look a little closer at their own behavior. That seems sadly similar to our own society, where we seem to have this need to parade around "freaks" and "psychos" nonstop in the media (Michael Jackson, or Scot Peterson, to use two overused examples), because it allows the rest of us the satisfaction of being able to say "Phew! Well at least I'm not as bad as that."

Anders, you're right. This film was way ahead of its time.

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I heartily concur with the praise for this movie. The scene which sticks with me is the one at the start where the child murder is signalled by the floating away of a balloon which gets stuck in the telephone wires. Somehow it's more horrible than any graphic depiction could be. You get a very real sense as well of the sickness underlying that society in the early thirties, the sickness which gave the Nazis a chance to come to power. Lorre is marvellous as well, the scene where he pleads that he just can't help what he's doing is both moving and disturbing. The fact that you end up having some sympathy for such a horrible character indicates what a great artist Lang was. A Lang movie with some similarities is Fury, his first American pic as far as I remember, and a masterpiece. Also The Big Heat with Glenn Ford, Gloria Grahame and Lee Marvin is tremendous.

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Am about a quarter through this and am bumping this thread so its easier to find when I'm finished. Agree on the soundtrack--and some excellent editing choices, too. The soundtrack had to be influenced by the fact this was Lang's first "talkie", and I wonder if technical issues played a role in some of it.

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I started watching this last summer, but had some crappy version where you couldn't read 25% of the subtitles, and in the end gave up. Boo. Hope you enjoy it.

Matt

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"M" for "mensch", "marke", "mann", "morder" or "masterpiece"?

::spoilers::

A child killing pedophile is the most sympathetic character in Lang's first talkie, and his production is at times compelling, suspenseful, enigmatic, and, yes, confusing. The commentors on the Criterion Collections presentation, Anton Kaes,and Eric Rentschler, point out in the final minutes of this film that Beckert is the only human who shows sorrow or mourning for the murdered girls (save the mothers). Lorre's performance had me guessing throughout--I assumed that he would be held responsible for crimes he didn't commit, even though he was happy to commit other heinous ones. But at the end, in his kangaroo court trial, he basically nails it, like a gymnast sticking the landing, as he confesses his compulsion, full of self-loathing and self-confusion. I can see why, as Kaes and Rentschler mention, he was type cast in these roles of weird and conflicted characters.

That all said, I don't know that "M" will make it to the top of my favorites list--it, like Bresson's "Au Hasard Balthasar", is a film I more respect and appreciate than I enjoy. Lang's editing choices, his use of composition, reactions to off screen stimuli, his use of sound and silence all seem to have tremendous influence even today. The impact of the film on its contemporary audiences is almost completely lost to me--I assume the Nazi's used it to claim that Jews were pedophiles and guilty of blood libel, and so ithe film has a historic importance as well. But I have a hard time wanting to spend anymore time with Herr Beckert.

Edited by Buckeye Jones

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Lou Lumenick:

Numerous sources, both in print and on the interwebs, say that Peter Lorre's English-language film debut was in Alfred Hitchcock's "The Man Who Knew Too Much'' (1934). But the Criterion Collection's upcoming Blu-release of Fritz Lang's "M'' shows rare footage of him speaking English on screen three years earlier. This occurs in the long-lost English language version of the German film that shot Lorre to international fame as a child murderer, which is included as an extra. . . . The bulk of the film is indeed dubbed into English, "but they have a couple of minor characters replaced by new actors and when there's a sign in German they dissolve into an English-language version,'' Clubb says. Most interestingly, Peter Lorre re-filmed his final monlogue in English. . . .

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I started watching this last summer, but had some crappy version where you couldn't read 25% of the subtitles, and in the end gave up. Boo. Hope you enjoy it.

Matt

Can you access Netflix? They stream the Criterion version.

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Thanks to the prompting of this year's Top 100, this is now the 6th film that I've watched for the first time.

Wow. I think I'll be processing this one for quite a while. A few initial thoughts:

- What brilliant framing of shots, with a couple of examples immediately leaping to mind: Beckert as well as his intended next victim framed by the shop window's lights, and the deep shot of the stairwell that of course brings 'Vertigo' to mind

- I concur with the early comments about Lang's courageous willingness to use silence, as opposed to the current tendency to manipulate us via ominous music. The story and the characters are powerful enough here.

- Funny (not ha ha) that this is the most human role that I can recall seeing Peter Lorre in. The films I remember him from (e.g., 'Arsenic and Old Lace'), he's such a caricatured creepy villain. This man had serious acting chops.

- Brilliant editing - the crossover of the scenes of the criminals and cops each plotting their own means to capture Beckert, for instance. Is Lang placing these two groups on an equivalent moral plane, I wonder?

Edward Allie's writeup for the Top 100 is fantastic, by the way.

Again I say, wow.

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Who is Edward Allie? He seems to have written up quite a few in the t100, and I've never seen him around here before. Was he allowed to vote? How many posts does he have?

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That would be me.

And Andrew, thanks. That was the hardest of the four I wrote.

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They freaking allowed you to VOTE?!?!?

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hahahaha

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Alongside Imamura's Vengeance is Mine, this is the serial killer film I regard highest, largely due to its disinterest in psychoanalytically pegging down the killer*, and how the cinematic energy most of its successors expend on that is redirected into an approach that treats Beckert as a sort of sociological stimulus.

* IMO, the most potent and most honest serial killer film is the one that acknowledges that, even if the atrocities of the killer can be given some cogent interpretation through taxidermy or mommy issues or Blake paintings or gender dysphoria or the seven deadly sins, there will always be an incongruous element, simply because the killer is a human being and not a geometric construct. And that is where the horror lies. A common tendency in these films is to analogize the killer's actions to the brushstrokes of a painter, but to do this one must, in a sense, make the killer a canvas in and of themselves upon which one projects their psychobabble. (Deconstructing this killer-as-artist theme brings Against Interpretation to mind, in fact.

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