Thea von Harbou
Few, if any films made
during the first hundred years of the medium's history have been
thematically more ahead of its time than Fritz Lang's mesmerizing M.
Many silent classics and early talkies are hailed for their
revolutionary film techniques or inventive storytelling. M,
however, is different. Its style is almost invisible - showing just how
versatile a director Fritz Lang was. Compare this to the visually
and you will see two of the greatest films from the early days of cinema
– albeit with completely different methods.
Peter Lorre is a
child murderer and sexual psychopath who is tormenting Berlin and ends
up being hunted by both the police and the underworld mafia, whose
business is being hampered by the attention the murderer is drawing.
Sure, there are rather trivial chase sequences here, but there is
nothing trivial about the payoff in which Lang finishes off with a long,
gripping "court" scene. Peter Lorre's performance in that
scene alone makes for one of the best performances in the history of
cinema, and certainly one of the most harrowing confessions put to film.
But what may be most impressive is the insight and attentiveness it all
is executed with. There are timeless, powerful human emotions explored
here, and the film is as relevant today as it was over seventy years ago.