Wednesday, January 27, 2010

Review: "M"

Wow! Really wow!
This film is amazing! Written by Fritz Lang and his wife, and made in 1931 - this movie is Lang's first sound film and a classic work. It's german, so you'll have to watch it in subtitles, but that doesn't bother me in the least bit.
The story revolves around a series of murders of local children - mostly girls. The town is in an uproar because of these unsolved crimes. The police are doing their best, but they can't find him. So what happens? The criminals of the streets step in. Mostly because this is bad for thier business, but also because they too condemn this monster and his deeds. It's kind of interesting to see how the "low lifes" have their standards. Children are off limits. Wish more people thought that way.
Peter Lorre is the criminal who is marked by a young man when he is first discovered - this the title of the film. Lorre is fantastic! He's downright creepy, but also has an interesting suffering side to him. There are moments when you see him being tormented by himself mostly. Although you still hate the man, he is not just a monster, but a monstrous man. What more can I say? The man is brilliant in this film!
This film is really interesting in its use (and non-use) of sound. There is no underscoring here at all, so many of the moments are quite silent - you notice it. It's all for the better though, because the moments where there is music - mostly the whistling of the tune "In the Hall of the Mountain King" from Peer Gynt is so powerful. The tune as a mark of a character is a move taken from opera, and Lang uses it superbly in this film.
Artistically, it isn't beautiful, but there are some very powerful moments, and some striking shots.
The thing that really gets me about this film (aside from Lorre's acting) is the question of it all. It has a little bit of sociology in it. You see people going crazy, turning against each other in thier search for this murder. A man could not be nice to a child on the street without being suspected. And of course, when everyone is a suspect, people get nervous no matter how innocent they are. Then you come to the killer himself. They hint at him being a pedofile, but never outright say it. You are disgusted, but also intrigued by this man. There is a need to know that never gets satisfied. Who is he really? Why does he do this? What is he haunted by? What does that song mean to him? And most of all, the question of justice. Do you kill the man and rid the world of his vice? He is a self-admitted compulsive killer - he HAS to kill, and he can't control himself. So, wouldn't it be better to just stop him once and for all? BUT, he is also remorseful. He does not like or want to do what he does. You can see he is tortured by it, and disgusted by it. So do you kill a man who can not help what he is doing? Or really the question comes down to this as well: does he mean this remorse, or is he acting out of terror?
There is also the question at the end of the film. Will revenge be enough? Even if he is killed, that won't bring back the children. Is this a case of an eye for an eye? What would be a just punishment? What is a just punishment for something like this? I certainly don't have an answer, but it really makes you think.
Great film! Great moral!
5 out of 5 stars

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