Starring: Peter Lorre, Ellen Widmann, Inge Landgut
Director: Fritz Lang
Running Time: 108 mins
M is a German film about the investigation to catch a psychotic child-murderer in, where not only the whole town attempts to bring the man to justice, but also other notorious criminals.
From Fritz Lang, director of artistic and cinematic classic Metropolis, comes this much grittier and darker story about a brutal child-catcher and the impact of his presence on an entire community, which is on the one hand very intriguing, but on the other, occasionally slow-moving and heavy-going.
Let’s start, however, with the opening stages of this film, by far the most attention-grabbing and thrilling. The first lines involve a little girl singing a playground song about ‘the man in black’ coming to get you, immediately setting a hugely uneasy tone for the entire film.
Following that, we see the first on-screen instances of the murderer’s actions, which are extremely creepy and unsettling to watch, as it’s all done in a rather mysterious and hidden way to heighten the fear and intrigue.
What’s more is that this film, throughout, in fact, doesn’t really have anything in the way of a score, which is by far one of the most ingeniously eerie techniques of the whole thing, and particularly in those opening stages, where everything is desperate at the hands of the seemingly infallible child-catcher, it’s really quite scary.
The only music in this at all is the song ‘In The Hall Of The Mountain King’, whistled by the child-murderer when capturing his victims, and that is definitely one of the most frightening parts of the entire film, as the tune immediately lets you know that all hope is lost in that instant, leading to a much more desperate and harrowing situation.
Another impressive part of this film is Lang’s cinematography. Whilst Metropolis really blew minds with some of its special effects, this is a very cleverly-shot film, with a lot of high-angle and side-on shots that really increase the thrills and suspense of a lot of the film.
The only problem that I have with this film is that, in its latter stages, it does lose the really exciting elements of the opening stages. Initially, everything was scary and mysterious, but as the story goes on, too much is revealed about the murderer, killing the intrigue in that respect, and too much time is spent on criminals deliberating on whether to go after the man.
However, the final scene is a legendary one, and one that is truly captivating, thanks to the incredible acting of Peter Lorre, and amazing writing that turns the film into more of an ethical study than a simple thriller.
Overall, this gets a 7.5, because of its brilliant opening stages, unsettling lack of score, acting and cinematography, however the middle part of the film is just a bit too slow and sluggish to really keep your attention as the beginning did.