Starring: Peter Lorre, Otto Wernicke, Gustaf Gründgens
Reviewed by: William McAbee
Fritz Lang will forever stand as one of the greatest directors of all time. His work spans from Metropolis to The Big Heat and his imprint on cinema can be seen everywhere. M though stands as one of his finest masterpieces and is one of my all time favorite movies. The story follows a serial killer who kills children and follows the town’s reaction. The film’s story is incredibly well done and the direction and cinematography behind it are perfect. It’s every thing you want in a movie takes it to a masterful level.
The camera work is very fluid and I love the shots in this film. Some of my favorite shots that stand up are the close up of the “M” hand, Hans seeing the child in the mirror, and the shot of Hans Beckert seeing the “M” on his back. There are plenty more shots but those were some of my favorites. As expected with Fritz Lang, there are some great tracking and zoom shots. The whistling motif
Though what made M so fantastic in my opinion was that the story focused more on the reaction to the serial killings of the public rather than the serial killer himself. The opening scene says it all as we follow the kids singing songs of the child killer to the mother looking for her daughter. Lang lets the visuals tell everything as we cut to the empty seat at the table where the daughter should sit. As the film continues we see how the public’s paranoia reaches dangerous heights even attacking an innocent old man just for talking to a child. At the same time as we see the public’s reaction, Lang also focuses on the police’s actions and how they react to stop the murderer. The comparisons between the two groups adds a whole different layer to an already deep film but it works.
The best part of the whole film comes at its climax. As the public has captured Hans we see the combination of exploring the mind behind the killer and the anger mob mentality that the towns people take on. Peter Lorre deserves some major credit for giving a wonderful performance as Hans and really pulls sympathy from the audience.