ANAND BHAT FILM 101 Response to the film “M” The word that comes to mind when one

thinks of the German language is “guttural”. With the harsh enunciations and often hyperbolic expressions. The same word comes to mind when describing Fritz Lang’s magnum opus film “M”. The film is a fine example of a thinking man’s noir thriller, albeit technically lacking compared to modern noir suspense. One must however keep in mind the genius of Fritz Lang for his ability to narrate a story with at best mediocre resources. The first aspect of the movie one notices is the dark lighting and fade effects employed in scene transitions. As seemingly insignificant as this may appear to the lay man, one sees the true value of these techniques in the absence of certain critical elements in a suspense filled thriller such as a background score. Despite lacking these modern elements, “M” manages to retain a measure of tension with its dark imagery and use of shadows. One particular scene that comes to mind is that of the nefarious shadow of the child killer, portrayed by Peter Lorre, obscuring the public notice about the murderer at large. This technique has been repeated countless times in a variety of places but one gets the impression that it was pioneered by Lang. It is quite interesting to note. A slightly more amusing aspect of the cinematography is the extensive panning of the camera on letters written by the murderer and intense focus on “modern forensic analysis”. The sequences in question were obviously intended to showcase erstwhile cutting edge technology but viewed in a space age perspective they amuse the onlooker. An impressive concept was the seamless

incorporation of the police officer narrating to visuals of onscreen investigation. The transitory sequences too were well planned with no abrupt cut. However most impressive of all was the utilization of the first person perspective in the scene featuring the beggar’s union. The use of fade to indicate the end of a ‘chapter’ if you will have Lang stamped all over. As noted earlier there is a jarring absence of sound, in that, the entire movie is devoid of any semblance of score, yet brash and powerful dialogues somewhat redeem this notable absence. Other instances of effective use of sound is the characteristic demented whistling of the protagonist, which as juvenile as it may seem is quite effective in creating a taut atmosphere. Peter Lorre with a stellar performance in the climax was an example of sheer acting prowess compensating for lack of technological resources. One might perhaps notice the occasional exaggerated, arguably comic facial expressionism, but this can be understood as a necessity to convey emotion to an audience not raised on modern films. The several side characters convincingly fit into their characters like a glove. From the heated accusations to the ecumenical arguing; from the terrified pleading to the bitter finger pointing, the overall acting caliber was seemingly unparalleled at the time. The large number of extras used and the enormity of the set would indicate a big budget production that was perhaps the equivalent of today’s Hollywood blockbuster. In conclusion, “M” delivers on several counts. When all is done with the moral implications of the film continue to play on the mind. “M” will continue to be hailed despite the many innovations since, in filmmaking purely for its pioneering production value. Fritz Lang and

his grand experiment at making the first quintessential modern Noir film prove to be a case study in classic unadulterated filmmaking. Peter Lorre’s haunting performance and a fast paced narrative coupled with a timeless premise, make for a captivating film experience.

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