Monday, 27 December 2010


The M stands for Mörder don't you know. You can
 probably guess what that means... image filmjournal
The German master director Fritz Lang made a lot of noteworthy films during his long career, including Metropolis in 1927 and the Dr. Mabuse movies. However, the film that he regarded as his finest work was 1931's M. M told the story of a child-killer in Berlin and the measures taken by the police and fellow criminals to stop him. A biting critique of the fascist methods of justice, the film was banned by Hitler's Nazi government shortly after it came into power. The following reviewers, however, most definitely disagree with the esteem in which it is held:
I know my comments will provoke the ire of movie fans who hold this movie in high regard (Well, at least you're prepared I suppose...), but I can't remain silent about a movie that fails to deliver in the end, especially after all the exaggerated reviews I've read concerning its place in film history (Like the film or not, it is an important piece of work in the history of cinema). What's more, from what I could see, most of "M" is bogged down by excessive talk that doesn't propel the story forward (I must disagree here. The vast majority of the dialogue does move the story along. Without much of the talking the viewer would be unsure as to what is going on.). In fact, it does the opposite and holds the movie back (It really doesn't you know.). Case in point, in one scene, you have the chief of police on the phone talking to his superior about what's being done to capture the killer (That was required so that the audience would be aware that  the police were doing everything they could, making the criminals' methods seem the more attractive). I think 10 minutes or more elapsed before the next scene even appeared (I don't remember it being that long to be honest...). Why Lang decided to cover the minutiae of the investigation is beyond me (He doesn't discuss everything. Just enough so that it is clear how much the police are trying to catch him). It just wasn't necessary, especially when a superficial account would have sufficed (It really wouldn't have. The whole film is a comparison between the fascist and traditional justice systems. It would have been biased in favour of the fascist methods without these scenes). But to be fair, this is 1931 and tight scrip writing wasn't part of the writing craft. (Timeist...)

Also, Lang took so much away from Lorre's character just to focus the film on the volk, in terms of their fears, helplessness, and anger over the situation they'd been thrown into
(Well that wasn't the point of the film, now was it. It would have failed as a criticism of fascism if it didn't bother covering fascist methods, don't you think). Instead, he should have redirected his efforts on Lorre so we, the viewer, could understand what twisted forces compelled "Hans Beckert" to kill little girls. (First of all, you do find out at the end. And second of all, you're a moron who has failed to grasp the central concept of this film.)

I'm sorry but the accolades are undeserved
(They really aren't. I've studied this film at Uni, and it is a beautifully directed, well thought out picture, with a timely warning about fascism), except for Lorre's acting which was top notch in my opinion (At least we agree on something.). And another thing I'd like to point out, just because Criterion releases a film they deem is deserving of their rolls-royce treatment doesn't necessarily mean it's going to be a winner. (No. I suppose not, but that being said, this one is a winner. By almost any definition.)
Here's another:

"M" is an example of a good idea that is poorly executed (In what way? I do hope you are going to expand on this point, but I doubt it). Peter Lorre plays a child murderer who is terrorizing a city in Germany to the point where both the police and members of the local underworld are hunting him down. With more action involved, this could have been the "intense psychological thriller" that many critics claim it to be, but it is very hard to become emotionally involved in a film when 80% of the film comprises non-descript characters (police and gangsters) sitting around and discussing the need to capture the murderer (If 'action' is what you like from a film then perhaps you had better stick to Die Hard, or The Terminator. Or if they're too good for you, Transformers). It is repetitive to the point of being sleep-inducing (I don't remember it repeating itself much. Are you sure the disc wasn't skipping?) and with the exception of Lorre's murderer (who barely even appears in the first hour of the film), all of the characters feel like the same "person" (How? They all look different, sound different and say different things. The police and the criminals have very different motives for wanting to catch the killer. I really can't see where you got this from). They have no real distinguishing characteristics (Well, Lohmann is fat for a start, whereas Der Schränker isn't and wears a leather jacket. That is surely incredibly easy to spot, even if you fail to see the more subtle differences). Even by the standards of the time when this was made (1931), "M" is a slow-moving and uneventful film (Another timeist I see. Not all old films are slow, just as not all modern films zip along. It depends on what the story in question calls for), which is surprising, since director Fritz Lang himself had already demonstrated that he was capable of making better films with 1927's "Metropolis", a film which is just as engrossing as any modern film (Whilst Metropolis is also an exceedingly good film, I remain unsure as to which I prefer, such is the brilliance of both.). If you want to see one of Fritz Lang's "masterpieces", then "Metropolis" is the way to go, not "M". (Or, perhaps [and I realise I'm putting forward a radical, even dangerous idea here] they could watch both and make up their own mind?)
And another:
Maybe this shocked in its day, but it's terribly dated, with long dialogue scenes that could have been condensed way down (Yes. Lang should have realised that morons in the future would dislike films with talking and put some robots fighting in the corner for them instead while everyone else is given important plot details...). Interesting to see Peter Lorre so young and speaking German. But I thought I'd be caught up in the actual movie, but was forced to watch it as a piece of film history, like a college film class (I did it at uni, and was expecting it to be something of a chore to be honest. I was very pleasantly surprised to find an interesting [on many levels], absorbing piece of cinema that was eminently watchable). The one thing that prevents film from being the greatest art form is movies date so quickly (How? Because it's in black & white? Because its set in the past? This is the most ridiculous statement I've seen for a while. Of course film is art. How can you see films such as this, or Bergman films, or The Godfather movies or Luis Bunuel films and say that they are not art? Either you are pretentious and feel only works by famous painters or sculptors can be art, or you are an idiot. Which is it?). This is a perfect example (Of a really good film).
That's your lot for today folks, hope you had a merry Christmas and such like. 

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