“… presented a very intense situation with no apparent solution and let the population of Germany suffer through it for two hours. It was brilliant.”
M is a 1931 film by Fritz Lang that is considered by many to be a masterpiece. The film follows Hans Beckert, a serial killer whose main focus is children and whose actions cause the community is which he lives to turn on one another. M is based on a series of actual murders that were occurring in Germany before the film’s release, and thus offers a lot of interesting viewpoints into actual reactions to such heinous crimes.
The main thing that stuck out to me about M was the lack of score. There is no music in the film whatsoever, unless it is directly created by one of the characters on screen, and this accomplishes two things. First of all it makes the story feel real. Of course this feeling might be skewed due to M being based on true events, but the lack of score really made M feel more like a documentary at times. There is nothing for the audience to hide behind or be influenced by. We are given the story in a very cut-and-dry fashion which removes the possibility of our viewpoints being altered by any one aspect of the film.
The lack of score also makes sure that the story isn’t sensationalized. Once again the film is presented in a very straightforward manner with very little sway in either direction. It remains as objective as possible throughout the telling of this story which allows for the story itself to take centre stage. The film gives you nothing but the story to experience during the movie which means that you have to give it your full attention. The scenes where there is literally no sound are the most impactful in my opinion because they give you absolutely nothing to grasp on to. They force you to read into the scene and every single movement of every single character to not only appreciate the story but also save yourself from going mad.
This brings me to my next point because although I loved M, I would completely understand if someone didn’t. I recognize that this movie is boring, especially by modern standards. Like I said earlier, M doesn’t sensationalize the story. That doesn’t just apply to the lack of music either, but parts of the story were presented in such a meandering fashion that I can completely understand if someone were to check-out. Hell, I almost lost interest a few times during the movie, but I guess my fascination with the characters and the story presented were enough to let M string me along for two hours.
The best part about M in my opinion was that the movie wasn’t about the brutal child murders that were taking place, but rather about the communities reaction to the brutal child murders that were taking place. Seeing these civilians on the street turn on each other in what almost escalates to a bloodbath depicted just how desperate they were for it all to end. And the police taking to raiding random blocks showed the flip-side to that, but also demonstrated how the people were turning on the police as well. M presented a very intense situation with no apparent solution and let the population of Germany suffer through it for two hours. It was brilliant.
Of course this experience wouldn’t have been as impactful if not for the brilliant performances that punctuate M during the most important moments. By and large M was populated with actors who mimicked real life. Their interactions with each other and the environment made the world in which M takes place feel real. But there are also a few standout moments throughout the film that showcase exactly what these actors are capable of. For example the monologue at the end of the movie delivered by Peter Lorre as Hans Beckert was nothing short of brilliant. The anguish and hopelessness that shone through, allowing us to see just how desperate and broken this character is was a marvel to behold. This scene is also filled with other brilliant performances offering us different viewpoints of the situation, but Lorre’s monologue stands out as quite possible he best moment in the film.
Overall M is a movie that I loved, but I would understand if you didn’t. It is a very slow, very cut-and-dry look at the impact of a series of heinous crimes on a community, and those crimes change the behaviour of everyone who is around. M is filled with brilliant performances, immersive filmmaking techniques, and a story that kept me on the edge of my seat.
I give M an A