History of Cinema II
My analysis of M (Fritz Lang, Nero Film, 1931) is extremely interesting because of the unique story about a child murderer who walks the streets of Germany preying on his next potential victims in this film. Fritz Lang’s masterpiece shows how one man can affect so many people that do not have a direct relation to him. Lang shows all the different angles like the true terror a parent goes through when their child goes missing, the law enforcement agents that are assigned to crack the case and find the perpetrator so it will be safe for children to walk the streets again, the killer and his compulsive whistling and deranged change in mannerism once he sees a child, and the street criminals that are being harassed by the police and whose businesses are being affected because this killer still roams the street. Fritz Lang made a brilliant film and uses the perfect components of film editing sound and camera angles to make this thriller into an influential film that includes the affect an event can have on the people it involves.
The scene I chose starts with a medium shot of the blind man on the street by his stand of balloons. The man is wearing the same outfit he wears throughout the movie a raggedy long coat and a worn hat with a sign around his neck that says blind. He holds his cane under his arm and balloons in his hand, he is waiting for people to buy his balloons and he seems content until he hears whistling the man realizes that he’s heard that same whistle before and once he hears that sound he stops and it triggers something in him. Lang uses Diegetic sound in this scene because not once do we see Hans Beckert the child murderer in this scene but he’s off the screen somewhere because we hear his infamous whistle that triggers the old blind man.
Once the old man realizes that the whistling he heard was the same that he heard on the day Elsie Beckman was murdered and a man came by his stand to buy balloons with a little girl. The man takes the cane from underneath his arm and as the whistling continues he starts walking towards where the noise is coming from, and as he does this the camera pans out into a long shot of the old man walking towards a bridge where he then calls out for a man he knows from working in the streets and as the man approaches him the whistling continues while the cameras move back to a medium shot. The old man asks the young man if he can see who is whistling and then he tells him to follow him because he believes that it may be Elsie Beckman’s murderer, and the man saw him talking to another young girl.
The camera cuts to the young man turning a corner and looking for the man they believe to be the killer as he sees Hans and a girl walk out of a candy store he hides behind a barrel and in a close up shot of his hand the viewer sees him mark his hand with the letter M in chalk and he walks by Hans putting his hand on his back leaving the mark of the M which stands for murderer. This scene when the man marks his hand with the letter M is on the movie poster it is in my opinion the single most important part of the film because it shows the identification of the child murderer who was being hunted by both law enforcement and the criminal underground whose businesses his crimes were affecting, there is no longer a mystery about who the man committing these crimes are and by marking him he makes it known to everyone who sees that M on his back.