Sep 5, 2011

11th Sept 2011; Fritz Lang's M

A Film by Fritz Lang
Year : 1931
Country : Germany
Runtime:110 minutes
German with English sub titles
11 Sept 2011; 5.45 pm
Perks Mini Theater

A 15 minutes documentary on M will follow the main screening.

M, filmed in only six weeks, is far and away Fritz Lang’s most popular film and his own personal favourite. It tells the story of a pathological child-killer, superbly played by Peter Lorre. It’s hard to believe that M was made in 1931. If we allow for the fact that it’s in black and white, it is more engaging to the eye, more incisive in its irony, more firm in its grasp of social complications than most of the films that come along today.
The film's story was inspired by the career of a serial killer in Dusseldorf. In "M,'' Franz Becker preys on children -- offering them candy and friendship, and then killing them. The murders are all offscreen, and Lang suggests the first one with a classic montage including the little victim's empty dinner plate, her mother calling frantically down an empty spiral staircase, and her balloon--bought for her by the killer--caught in electric wires.
Certainly "M'' is a portrait of a diseased society, one that seems even more decadent than the other portraits of Berlin in the 1930s; its characters have no virtues and lack even attractive vices. In other stories of the time we see nightclubs, champagne, sex and perversion. When "M'' visits a bar, it is to show closeups of greasy sausages, spilled beer, rotten cheese and stale cigar butts.
The letter M with which he is tagged—for Mörder, German for “murderer”—guarantees that, under the wit and satire, a dark current flows. The killer, Hans Beckert, is presented in the film with a certain amount of sympathy for the way in which he is the helpless victim of his own pathology.
Because of Lang’s sensitive treatment of the killer, his characteristic fatalistic development of events gains a rare tragic intensity.

Fritz Lang

Fritz Lang (December 5, 1890 – August 2, 1976) was an Austrian-American filmmaker, screenwriter, and occasional film producer and actor. One of the best known émigrés from Germany's school of Expressionism, he was dubbed the "Master of Darkness" by the British Film Institute. His most famous films are the groundbreaking Metropolis (the world's most expensive silent film at the time of its release) and M, made before he moved to the United States, his iconic precursor to the film noir genre.

Lang was born in Vienna.After finishing school, Lang briefly attended the Technical University of Vienna, where he studied civil engineering and eventually switched to art. In 1910 he left Vienna to see the world, At the outbreak of World War I, Lang returned to Vienna and volunteered for military service in the Austrian army and fought in Russia and Romania, where he was wounded three times.

Lang soon started to work as a director at the German film studio Ufa, and later Nero-Film, just as the Expressionist movement was building. Lang's wife co-wrote all of his movies from 1921 through 1933., including 1922's Dr. Dr. Mabuse the Gambler, he first in the Dr. Mabuse trilogy, 1924's Die Nibelungen, the famed 1927 masterpiece Metropolis, and the 1931 classic, M, his first "talking" picture.

Whereas Lang was worried about the advent of the Nazi regime, partly because of his Jewish heritage, his wife and screen writer Thea von Harbou had started to sympathize with the Nazis in the early 1930s and joined the NSDAP in 1932. They soon divorced. Lang's fears would be realized following his departure from Austria,Upon his arrival in Hollywood in 1936.

Lang made twenty-one features in the next twenty-one years, working in a variety of genres at every major studio in Hollywood, occasionally producing his films as an independent. Lang found it harder to find congenial production conditions in Hollywood and his advancing age left him less inclined to grapple with American backers. While his career had ended without fanfare, his American and later German works were championed by the critics of the Cahiers du cinéma. Lang died in 1976.

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