suspenseful watch backed by a great story, M asks heavy moral
questions about the open door policy of the legal system, and the
rights of victims who deserve justice when the law is forced to
defend the rights of a murderer who is driven not by freewill, but
by an overwhelming insanity.
Despite it being 77 years old, M is a film which still packs
quite a punch. Set in Berlin, it focuses on a series of grizzly
child murders which has flipped the city upon its head, as mass
hysteria takes over and everyone is deemed a suspect. Fed up with
the police's inability to catch the killer (played by Peter Lorre),
a large group of criminals attempt to find the child murderer themselves,
as the hunter becomes the hunted and the law is discarded as an
is a highly influential German film directed by acclaimed filmmaker
Fritz Lang. It was his first "talkie" after years of lauded
silent features, including the ground breaking and avant-garde Metropolis.
Here is a key example where daring and innovation far surpasses
its faults, and to be fair, said faults - in particular its grainy
black and white photography - are simply a product of its vintage
standing, and actually adds to the films dark atmosphere.
Lang takes full advantage of the tools at his disposal while pressing
the fact that film is foremost a visual medium; overhead shots are
a favourite, and his use of shadow is breath taking, especially
when he introduces his killer in the form of a sinister silhouette.
The films editing - courtesy of Paul Falkenberg - is equally impressive.
Two key sequences benefit from Falkenberg's touch: the first is
a montage which highlights the difficulties of the police investigation;
and the second sees Falkenberg cutting back and forth between two
group meetings from opposite sides of the law, as both cop and criminal
flesh out their strategies on how to find the killer. Lang incorporated
the ground breaking use of narration in both sequences which gave
it an extra flavour; while in other scenes chilling periods of silence
contribute to the films off putting vibe.
Also playing a big part is a superbly cast, pre-Hollywood Peter
Lorre, whose cubby face, bug eyes and slightly crooked teeth perfectly
matches his character. His confession near the films end on how
finds the sight of a child intoxicating is both disgusting yet annoyingly
sympathetic. In previous scenes the viewer witnesses how he lures
his unsuspected victims with sweets and toys to their fatal end,
all the while whistling Evard Grieg's "In the Hall of the Mountain
King". It is a magnificent performance.