Friday, March 26, 2010

M, 1931 - Fritz Lang

I've been in a mood lately to revisit some classics from my filmgoing past. One of them is this wonderfully crafted tale of a pedophile who encounters a strange form of justice. This time around, I took further notice of Lang's use of the surroundings to support and move the story forward. A deft user of art direction, Lang, here displays the inner workings of the murderer's mind through the sets and background action. Any Film class will cover the obvious, like when Lorre is stalking his next prey, in front of a book store where there's an arrow moving in a downward stabbing motion and of course the spinning spiral wheel connoting madness. There's the obvious and then the not so. The film goes to lengths to incorporate subtle visual cues throughout. It's influences are in German Expressionist film yet never leaving the realm of reality. The play of shadows on walls, the use of a stairwell's spindles to suggest prison bars as in the prison of the mind, not the physical kind. All these things help expand this film into nightmarish territory that blends reality and dreamlike visions of madness. This is all now very textbook for filmmakers, although this film serves as a great starting point for anyone wishing to dig deep into the early language of film. Lorre's portrayal is not to be missed, and still elicits chills from his realistic depiction of a child murderer.
This film was viewed at home, on Criterion DVD

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